Voorhees mosque founder Zia Rahman & wife Rahida "Terror plotters claim they are Muslim" "you don't feel comfortable when this happens"
May 15, 2007
http://www.thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070511/NEWS03/705110460/1001/NEWS Arrests stunned mosque members
Worshippers seek distance from 6 suspects
Home News Tribune Online 05/11/07By JASON LAUGHLIN
GANNETT NEW JERSEY
PALMYRA — The Duka brothers just didn't get it.
"It's troubling to me that Muslims anywhere are distorting this religion," Naseem Badat, a social worker and member of the mosque, said. "They are not just tarnishing the reputation of one particular mosque, but they are tarnishing the reputation of a religion."
Shain, Elvjir and Dritan Duka, all of Cherry Hill, were regulars at The Islamic Center of South Jersey's Friday prayer sessions, members said.
"I never imagined in my wildest dreams these guys were capable of what they're alleged to be doing," said Ismail Badat, Naseem's husband and a trustee at the mosque. "The way they behaved, the way they talked, the way they greeted people, very calm, very friendly and very courteous, too."
Conversations with the three brothers were superficial, Ismail Badat said. They often came with a group of people and talked about the construction industry and their roofing business. They liked to play basketball and discussed soccer, members said. The men gave no indication of homicidal intentions, Badat said.
The terror plot foiled Monday night succeeded in scaring mosque members.
"You don't feel comfortable when it happens," said Zahida Rahman.
Others worried non-Muslims would believe the mosque had promoted the plot.
"I am very fearful," Naseem Badat said. "Sooner or later people will put a blanket accusation on everybody who ever comes to this mosque."
The mosque has operated for 16 years out of a stone building that was once a church. Members are predominantly Sunni but the mosque welcomes all Muslims, the Badats said. It's open to non-Muslims as well and is involved in interfaith outreach, members said. Mosques typically host prayer sessions five times daily, but the Islamic Center's imam, or prayer leader, left a year ago and since then organized prayer has been sporadic. Every Friday about 20 or 30 people gather in the large prayer room to hear a short sermon and spend about a half-hour kneeling in silent prayer.
Sermons focus on interpreting the Koran and leading a godly life, members said. They don't touch upon politics or world events.
The mosque is one of four operating in the region, according to the Web site internetmuslim.com. There are 56 mosques listed on the Web site in New Jersey.
One of the Dukas' accused accomplices, Mohamad Shnewer, said in statements released in a U.S. Attorney's Office affidavit they were planning to attack the Army base with two others "in service to Allah."
Mosque members wish the men charged in the plot had left Allah out of it.
"They claim they are Mus 00003lim," Rahman said, "but if they were real Muslims, they would not do like that."
IF YOU GO
Alleged plotters mosque hold emergency meetingTuesday, May 15, 2007
A Muslim group plans to hold an "emergency town hall meeting" Friday to address public concerns after the arrests of six area men on terror charges.
Three of the suspects worshipped at the local mosque, the Islamic Center of South Jersey.
The session is intended to answer questions about Islam and South Jersey's Muslim community, said Naseem Badat, a spokeswoman for the center.
It's also intended "to make it clear that Muslims here, who are also Americans, do not in any way sanction . . . violent and offensive behavior," said a statement released by the center.
Those invited to the session include elected officials, law enforcement personnel and neighbors of the Garfield Avenue center.
The session will include a question-and-answer session for guests, as well as a speech by a mosque representative, said Badat.
Authorities last week arrested six South Jersey men, described as "radical Islamists," who are accused of plotting to kill military personnel at Fort Dix.
Three suspects -- Dritan Duka, 28, and his brothers, Shain, 26, and Eljvir, 23, all of Cherry Hill -- prayed at the Palmyra mosque, said members, who have expressed shock at the allegations.
Also charged were Mohamad Shnewer, 22, of Cherry Hill, Serdar Tatar, 23, of Philadelphia, and Agron Abdullahu, 24, of Buena Vista.