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Sterling Muslim community speaks out against ISIS

In the face of persecution, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling has put itself on the front lines in speaking out against the acts of violence and in raising a call for religious freedom as the targeting of minority groups by the militant extremist group ISIS in Iraq continues.

As the largest mosque in the D.C. metro area, and one of the three largest in the nation, representing 20,000 people, ADAMS has high visibility as a model for Islamic response.

“We want to speak out as much as we can and explain Islam's true position for religious freedom, as we've articulated that ISIS is not acting in accordance with Islam,” said Rizwan Jaka, ADAMS board chairperson and ISNA president. “They're hijacking our faith, and it's not appropriate.”

ADAMS spoke out against the acts of violence at an Interfaith Prayer Service held Aug. 15.

The service was hosted by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in D.C.

“We condemn all of this un-Islamic behavior, and their actions are to be denounced," said Imam Mohamed Magid, ADAMS executive religious director and ISNA president, in a statement. "These actions are in no way representative of mainstream teachings of Islam. These acts of terrorism and murder cannot be justified according to the faith practiced by over 1.6 billion people."

Since it began its takeover of the region, ISIS has targeted Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims and U.S. journalists.

Jaka spoke at the prayer service. He and other religious leaders read excerpts from their holy books, focusing on passages about tolerance and “loving thy neighbor.”

“From a Christian tradition, we know that 'from their fruits we shall know them,'” said Father Avelino Gonzalez, priest and director of Ecumenism and Interfaith Affairs at the Archdiocese of Washington. “The fruits of extremism is always death, which has nothing to do with what authentic faith is all about, whatever faith that is.”

ADAMS has held prayer and given sermons and readings within its own congregation hoping to raise awareness in the surrounding community as well as show support for the minority groups in Iraq. They're also encouraging people to donate to relief funds.

“People can speak out, they can pray, and we're doing all that,” Jaka said. “We're speaking out, we're praying for all the minorities, and for all people … These extremist, these violent terrorist extremists, they're going after everyone.”

The prayer service held in D.C. was another opportunity for the prominent mosque to speak out.

“It's extremely important for Muslim faith leaders to come out and communicate to the general public that what ISIS is doing has nothing to do with the tenants of Islam and that to make that distinction and that separation,” said Gonzalez. “I think what ADAMS is doing in particular is exceptional and should be copied or mirrored by other Muslim groups.”

One of the ADAMS community's prayers is that groups in Iraq who desire peace and freedom will find a voice.

“We hope that there will be political reconciliation in Iraq … and that they [the Iraqi government] can stand up against these extremists,” said Jaka. “The military in Iraq and the communities of Iraq need to stand up against them as well … ISIS is an evil people that know no religion, and they have to be stopped.”
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