Several Muslim community leaders gathered Monday to condemn the murder of American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia and to draw a line between their religion and violence committed in its name.
Islamic leaders participated in similar announcements after the beheading of Nicholas Berg in Iraq last month and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Monday some leaders said they continue to confront the public perception that American Muslims have not done enough to repudiate terrorism.
"We want to carry this message, that those that are committing this kind of senseless, merciless act, they do not represent Islam, they do not represent the value of Islam, they do not represent the peace of Islam," said Ahmed Kabani, president of the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce in Miami.
The anti-Muslim backlash that tends to follow terrorism abroad already may have reached Florida. Altaf Ali, Florida director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in recent days his group received reports from two Tampa-area mosques of anti-Muslim graffiti and vandalism. The FBI is investigating two local incidents that followed the Berg beheading. A hateful letter was left at Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines, and an Islamic school's sign was defaced in Kendall.
On Monday, Ali called on all Muslims to sign his group's online petition condemning acts of terror committed in the name of Islam. He said 700,000 have done so already. He also called on the public not to target American Muslims.
"They should not be held accountable for those few individuals who are committing crimes in the name of Islam," Ali said..