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Richmond Muslim community reacts to President Obama's comments

Published: Dec. 7, 2015 at 10:44 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2015 at 11:15 PM EST
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BON AIR, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond-area Muslim community is reacting to the president's recent comments on terror. President Obama is calling on Muslims to be our "strongest allies" and to fight radicalization.

Imam Ammar Amonette with the Islamic Center of Virginia called the president's speech positive. He says the relationship with the local community is strong and there is a recent example that portrays that.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris, a sign was posted in front of the Isalmic Center of Virginia. It read, "Muslims are not our enemy. Hate is the enemy. We love the people who worship here. Your Bon Air Neighbors."

"I was pleasantly surprised," Imam Amonette says.  He says the relationship with his Bon Air neighbors has developed over three decades. "When you know that your neighbors welcome you and value you, that goes a long way to make you feel at home. That's an important tool actually in preventing radicalization, to reduce the alienation that people feel."

Imam Ammar closely watched President Obama's speech on Sunday and listened to to the president's comments towards the Muslim community.  "If we're to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate," President Obama says.

Imam Ammar agrees. "We consider it our duty to help in every way that we can to identify any extremists or any suspicious activity and we don't hesitate," he says.

He says there are ongoing conversations within the Muslim community about the internet being used as a tool to recruit people for Isis.  "Our youth say we are not radicalized, we're the opposite of radicalized," he said.  "But it's important to educate people."  Imam Amonette says that leads to conversations about mental illness as well. "Thank God that hasn't happened in our community and I doubt seriously that would happen but we have to be proactive," he says.

Imam Amonette also talked about Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.'s comments on Friday. Falwell urged students to arm themselves.  However, Falwell also said, "I've always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and kill."

"It's fear mongering," Amonette says. "Muslims are your doctors and your neighbors. Your kids go to school with them. We have Muslims in our community and active duty military, and directing that kind of talk towards a whole community is just ignorance."

On Monday Liberty university issued this statement:

In news articles over the weekend, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell publicly clarified that "those Muslims" he referred to in Friday's Convocation were the Muslim terrorists who attacked innocents in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, France. He also clarified that he was in no way referring to the many good and honorable Muslims who do not come into public spaces armed to kill innocents. When hearing the remarks in their full context, the public can see that there was no attempt to incite hate against anyone, much less all Muslims. President Falwell's subsequent clarifications emphasized what was clear to those who were present. His remarks were a call to arms for self-defense and a criticism of political leaders who see the answer to such tragedies as more gun control. More gun control leads to more places and circumstances where innocents are unarmed and unable to defend themselves.

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