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Local Muslims saddened by Fort Hood killings

November 06, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Dr. Abdul Waheed said the Koran, Islam's holy book, teaches this: "If you save one life, you save the entire human race. If you take a life, you kill the entire human race."

Thursday's mass shootings at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas -- allegedly by a Muslim U.S. soldier preparing to be deployed to a war zone -- violate the beliefs of Islam, Waheed said.

"Islam does not condone the killing of innocent people," said Dr. Tanvir Pasha, the president of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland, which has a mosque near the eastern edge of Hagerstown.

Pasha and Waheed said Muslims, like the rest of the country, are saddened by the killings and have expressed sympathy.

"We're supposed to share with people what we would want for ourselves," said Kasim Burmi, the society's imam, or spiritual leader.

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The motivation for the shootings still wasn't known Friday and there was no evidence they had anything to do with Islam.

Yet, Muslims prepared for backlash because the alleged shooter is a Muslim, said Louay Safi of the Islamic Society of North America, who spoke at the local mosque Friday.

Safi said Muslims, at times like this, speak up to clarify their religion.

Islam espouses love and peace, Waheed said, and the majority of the local community seems to understand that.

"We are doctors, attorneys, accountants," he said. "Many of our children serve in the armed forces."

Safi said there are at least 15,000 Muslims on active duty in the U.S. military. Some have died fighting violent extremists; some are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Thursday condemned the Fort Hood shootings as a "cowardly attack."

"No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence," CAIR's press release says.

On Friday, MAS Freedom, which is connected to the Muslim American Society, also denounced the shootings and cautioned against making conclusions based on the alleged shooter's ethnicity.

During a phone interview Friday afternoon, the Rev. Ed Poling of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, the coordinator of the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County, said he hopes the fact that the alleged shooter is Muslim "doesn't create more division along religious lines."

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