Rachid Khould, the imam of Crescent Community Center in Virginia Beach, said Thursday it was time for him to say something about his religion.
People often ask him why Muslims do not speak out against Islamic terrorists, he told the city’s Human Rights Commission at a meeting held on Virginia Beach’s Tidewater Community College campus. Many Muslims try to keep to themselves and to their families, he said.
But in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, including those in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Khould said he thought it was important for him to speak out against those who “hijack his faith.”
“The religion I love so much does not teach me killing, or violence,” he said.
Khould, a Beach resident since the mid-1990s and the imam, or worship leader, of the Crescent Community Center since 2009, said he wants to educate the public on Islam, which he said is a religion of peace and tolerance.
“The act of killing people has nothing to do with Islam,” he said. “I can swear by it.”
While Khould said Muslims “need to be talking to people” about their faith, he said he and others are also staying vigilant against the threat of radicalization. Khould mentioned a case in which he said he became aware that a fellow Muslim was becoming radicalized.
He said tried to teach that person a different way, but when that didn’t seem to be working, he alerted authorities, including the FBI. He said he could not discuss details of the case.
“We are citizens of Virginia Beach,” Khould said. “We need to protect Virginia Beach.”
Khould and Human Rights Commissioner Rajeeb Islam, who is also Muslim, said they believe their religion and its followers are being hurt by the actions of a few extremists.
Islam recalled the time he said his daughter was told by another classmate that “her religion was wrong.”
Councilwoman Shannon Kane, a liaison to the Human Rights Commission, asked Khould if there was a text or part of the Quran that extremists draw from.
Khould said passages in the Quran describe the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina, where he established a community. Khould said in the context of that time, the passages discuss how the community protected itself from attackers. Some extremists now take those passages out of that time and try to apply them to today.
Khould said he and other members of his community are working to fight ignorance as well as to reject the extremists who claim to follow Islam.
“[ISIS] has nothing to do with Islam,” he said. “I don’t know who they are.”