NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. - The suspect in the terror attack in New York City proclaimed he did it in the name of the Islamic State.
This week, the Muslim community across Palm Beach County is speaking out against the violence and says the suspect does not represent them.
“Very disappointed. We feel the sympathy for the victims of this very violent act," said Mohamed Ismail, the imam for the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County. "We condemn all forms of violence. And as citizens of this country, regardless of race or religion, we’re very adamant that we condemn this kind of atrocity.”
New York City investigators say Sayfullo Saipov proclaimed “God is Great” in Arabic while carrying out the attack. He also professed his support for ISIS.
“We feel that rather than religious, it’s more political and power driven," said Ismail. "In the Islamic faith, we condemn all violence, all forms of oppression."
This violence is something that Ismail said the Muslim community does not stand for.
“It’s a cycle of violence that will not end and blaming religion doesn’t really help the matter," he said. "Obviously the narrative is that it's in the name of religion but as scholars who understand the religion -- and know the text -- there is no place for it in the Islamic faith, or any faith.”
Saeed Rhana, imam for the Islamic Center of Palm Beach, hopes incidents like this will not incite more prejudice against the peaceful Muslim community.
"The reality is that this individuals have nothing to do with Islam. ISIS, ISIL, Al Quaeda -- all of them they all work together against Islam," he said. "We actually refute them in our classes, in our sermons."
The center knows what it's like to be a target of hate. A vandal struck the mosque two years ago, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
“If the American public can come to our mosque, to learn more about us and we learn more about them, and they learn about these extremists -- I think that will resolve the problem," said Rhana.
Rhana said prejudices against the Muslim faith are inevitable but education can help bridge the link between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“I know there’s going to be some ignorant people out there, they’re not going to make a difference between a Muslim and another Muslim who is an extremist," he said. “Not every Muslim is bad. Just like not every Christian is bad. So we have to know how to make the difference, and that’s not going to happen until we seek knowledge of this affair."
For Ismail, one of his mosque's biggest missions is building up his interfaith program and educating the community.
“Any group, church, individual is invited to come at any time. Observe the prayers, sit with myself, have a dialogue or a discussion," he said. "It’s the best way to understand the unknown as to what’s going on in Muslims who are carrying out these atrocities."
The Muslim Community of Palm Beach County is planning an open house coming up later this month or early December, where the public is invited to observe and gain a better understanding of the Muslim faith. Visit www.mcpbc.org for more information.
The Islamic Center also hands out educational pamphlets to the public, denouncing ISIS and other extremist groups. They hold free, education classes to the general public every Monday evening after the sunset prayer. For more information, call (561) 623-7647 or visit www.palmbeachmuslims.com.