The leader of a large local community of Muslims said today his followers are loyal American citizens and urged against any anti-Muslim backlash as the Persian Gulf war intensifies.
However, Ronald Shakir, imam of the Masjid Walter Omar at 4905 Liberty Heights Ave., added, "We don't advocate aggression, but if our children or anyone in our community is attacked, we would fight back with whatever means we could find. War begins when diplomacy ends."
Shakir, at a news conference this morning at the mosque, said he knows of no incidents of harassment against local Muslims. Other local Muslim leaders say they have not heard of such incidents.
Shakir also said he "openly and unequivocally" condemns Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and demands the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein's troops from that nation. Saddam is not fighting a "holy war," the imam said, but is adhering to a "wrong" reading of Islam.
Yet, he added, his loyalties are torn between Saddam and the U.S.-led coalition. "My emotions say, yes, go with Saddam, but we believe he is wrong," Shakir said.