San Diego Muslims Condemn Hebdo Attack–and Question Free Speech

Valentina Calà/Flickr
Valentina Calà/Flickr
San Diego, CA

Leaders in San Diego’s Muslim community have issued strong words of condemnation against Wednesday’s attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris that left 12 dead, but have also questioned the unrestrained exercise of free speech concerning religious figures, suggesting it may cross into “hate speech.”

“Here we go, the same cycle that some of the people from my faith committing such crimes in the name of their faith. It’s horrible,” Imam Taha Hassane from the Islamic Center of San Diego told ABC 10 News reporter Bob Lawrence.

Lawrence reported that some of those he spoke with at the center suggested that they might consider speech critical of the Prophet Mohammed to be “hate speech.”

Imam Hassane told Team 10, “People who respect the figure, it’s always offending, it’s not acceptable. We have to learn how to respect one another.”

A U.S. Census report released in 2012 listed San Diego as home to 21,994 Muslims. That made Islam San Diego’s fastest growing religion between 2000 and 2010, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Union-Tribune added that local Imam AbdelJalil Mezgouri of the Islamic Center of San Diego “attributed the growth of the county’s Muslim population to immigration, especially among Somalian, Iraqi, Afghani and Bosnian refugees, and to an increase in births and Muslim conversions. He said the growth, which mirrors a national trend, has brought new challenges to the county’s Muslim community, but has also brought more understanding of Islam to the county as a whole.”

London-based Muslim Cleric Anjem Choudary penned an op-ed in USA Today about the Paris attacks in which he endorsed the restriction of free speech. He stated, “Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone” and “the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.'” Choudary also ignited an explosion of Twitter debate with posts such as:

Infamous 9/11-associated terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki taught as an imam at a San Diego mosque after moving to the area in 1996. Breitbart News previously reported on the high number of known or suspected terrorists identified in San Diego, according to leaked government documents.

Al-Awlaki also reportedly met with terrorists while residing in southern California, including the first two 9/11 hijackers to enter the United States. Al-Awlaki outwardly promoted Islam as “a religion of peace” while residing in the States. After moving to his family’s home in Yemen he changed his tune, recording videos “preaching jihad against the United States.”

Team 10 reporter Lawrence closed his report: “All those we spoke with condemn the attack in the strongest of terms, but as you heard also, wondered about the consequences when or if free speech crosses that line.”

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana