Islamic leaders in the Valley urged their followers to be prepared to be intimidated and provoked after authorities revealed the Boston bombing suspects were Muslims.
Officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations-Arizona said they are aware of several threats against Muslims across the nation since the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday.
“There’s a high likelihood that there could be some type of retribution,” said Imraan Siddiqi, a CAIR board member.
Anas Hlayhel, CAIR chairman and imam at the Islamic Center of the North East Valley in Scottsdale, said he’s had a sense of dread since he heard during his morning commute that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, were members of his faith.
The nation awoke Friday to news that authorities had killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in an early-morning gunbattle. His brother escaped but was later taken into custody. The two are suspected of planting the bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
Hlayhel said the public tends to blame all of Islam for the acts of individuals who happen to be Muslim.
“I do feel sometimes maybe there is a bit of racism because we tend to be singled out,” he said. “There are crazy people in every religion, every ethnicity, every background.”
Despite his concerns, Hlayhel did not cancel the traditional Friday prayer service his mosque hosts or tell worshipers to keep a low profile. Instead, Hlayhel said he is telling people to be careful and exercise restraint if provoked because of their ethnic or religious identity.
Sumaya Abdul-Auadier, a member of the Islamic Center of Laveen in Phoenix, said other spiritual leaders are giving followers similar advice: Don’t shy away from non-Muslims, but be smart.
Abdul-Auadier said Muslims should reach out to neighbors and show that Muslims are like everyone else.
“Everywhere you go, you’ll hear the community leaders tell them to be safe, be smart,” she said. “But at the same time … I personally haven’t heard any calls for anyone to stay home, don’t go out, nothing like that.”
“Nowhere in (the Quran) does it say, ‘Go kill innocent civilians,’ ” she said. “That was not the way of the prophet Mohammed. It’s just not Islamic.”
Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, said Muslims in the Valley will go about their usual lives; however, he said, there is a lot of sadness over the bomb attack in Boston.
“(This) week was a shocking week,” he said. “Everybody’s just in a somber mood.”