Local Muslims, some of whom attend the Islamic Center of Albany on Broad Avenue, condemn the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
ALBANY — As the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center arrives, local Muslims discussed their love of America.
“I love this country and I will do anything to make this country safe and successful,” said Imam Okasha of the Islamic Center of Albany. “I will fight against anyone who wants to hurt my country or its people. I see what we have in this country and I want to make sure we are all safe.”
Roughly 60 Muslim victims — cooks, businessmen, emergency responders and a New York City police officer — were killed in the attack, the New York Times reported.
Muslims in Albany found it repulsive that lives were lost, no matter the religion, national background or occupation of the victims.
“It is not Islam to kill innocent people,” said Qaiser Ahsan, an Albany resident and businessman. “It was a sad, sad day for American Muslims living in the United States. It was a sad day for all humanity.”
The sadness came from the loss of life, Okasha said. It also came because a small, insane group would be thought of as representing the real Islam, he added.
“The terrorists are a small minority, crazy dudes,” Okasha said. “They probably hate us good Muslims as well.”
Imam Salahuddin Hanif, of the Albany Masjid of Al-Islam, on the 800 block of Highland Avenue, agreed.
“Extremism of any sort is bad. It was a sad day,” Hanif said. “In Islam suicide is forbidden. It is like they are going against everything in the Koran that they say they are defending.”
Sunel Merchant, a Muslim who owns the Philly Connection in Albany, said he was working in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and escaped. He also characterized the terrorists as not real Muslims and insane.
“The terrorists are not of Islam,” Merchant said. “They are crazy people.”
Okasha said that as a Muslim in America for 35 years he loves democracy and the freedom of religion afforded everyone here.
“We live here and we love this country,” Okasha said. “When 9/11 happened, we had some nice people call us — Christian people — and ask us if we needed help.”
Okasha’s group at the center on the 1300 block of Broad Avenue makes contributions to groups such as the Red Cross and Christian groups helping those in need. As part of the community, that is what Okasha and his fellow Muslims do, he said.
“It is our way to pray for people in the world and peace,” Okasha said. “It is about humanity. We are obliged to help those less well off. To do good benefits you with God.”
The Muslims in the community reflected the reporting in the September issue of Smithsonian magazine on Islam in the world.
“Today al-Qaida is as significant to the Islamic world as the Ku Klux Klan is to the Americans — not much at all,” said Ghada Shahbender, an Egyptian activist. “They are violent, ugly, operate underground and are unacceptable to the majority of Muslims. They exist, but they are freaks.”
Several phone calls for comment were made to Albany Masjid of Al-Islam, but no return calls were received.