Muslim leaders and groups in New Mexico have criticized authorities this week for labeling a string of four killings of Muslim men in the Alberquerque area as religiously-motivated.
Albuquerque police arrested 51-year old Muhammad Syed last Monday in connection with the killings that took place over about a year. Syed has denied any involvement in the killings, even telling authorities he was so scared after the killings that he was considering moving his family to Houston, Texas. However, police say they have evidence that Syed is connected to at least two of the killings.
Since the arrest, some local Muslim groups have spoken out against the national branding of the killings as religiously-based, calling the decision to do so hasty and not necessarily accurate. “The simplicity of saying this is Sunni-Shia hate crime is so reckless,” said human rights activist and local resident Samia Assed to Reuters. “It wasn’t Sunni and Shia, it was extremism,” added another activist identified as Kadhim.
Members of the Muslim community have expressed concern that the widespread and hasty labeling of the killings as sectarian may harm already-fragile Sunni-Shi’ite relations in the Middle East and around the world.
“Like Protestants and Catholics, the Sunni and Shia communities in this country live near each other, work with each other and marry each other in peace.” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The arrest of a member of their own community in relation to the killings shocked and upset local Muslim residents. “I wanted a little closure for the community, as we saw it going out of hand and people were really panicking. But, I’ll be honest with you, I was shocked,” said member of the Islamic Center of New Mexico Samia Assed. She said she did not want the killings “in any way, in any capacity used to divide a community.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: MIDDLEEASTEYE.NET
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