An Irving-based Muslim cleric who has tried to build bridges between Muslims and Christians in North Texas and beyond has received death threats from a terrorist organization and is being portrayed by that organization as a betrayer of Islam.
Imam Omar Suleiman has been the subject of at least two threats from the Islamic State, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“It shows clearly what we’ve been saying all along,” Hooper said. “The terror group ISIS is anti-Islamic. They have made similar threats against CAIR and other American Muslim leaders.”
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Suleiman helped lead protests in January at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport after President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Suleiman, a scholar at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, has condemned ISIS and is the founder of the Irving-based Yaqeen Institute, whose mission is to combat extremists and deepen understanding of the religion, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“Any respected scholar will incur the wrath of ISIS because of their extreme views,” Hooper said.
Mohamed Elibiary, who advises officials with the Homeland Security Department and other prominent faith leaders on security concerns, said Suleiman, with whom he has spoken, is taking the threats from ISIS seriously.
Elibiary said he is convinced that the threats originated from ISIS leadership and are also meant to dissuade others from trying to build bridges between the religions. The Arabic headline in one video reads, “Kill the imams of the disbelief,” Elibiary said.
“ISIS wants to resurrect the Crusade,” Elibiary said. “ISIS calls the area where Suleiman is working the gray zone. ISIS is trying to eliminate the gray zone. They are saying that you cannot be a good Muslim and a good American. Omar Suleiman is wearing both jerseys and ISIS says you can only wear one.”
Suleiman is being attacked from both sides, Elibiary said. Suleiman is challenging the ISIS narrative and at the same time fighting off jabs from right-wing extremists in the West, Elibiary said.
“What Islamaphobes are trying to do is make Muslim leaders seem as though they are not leaders in the community,” Elibiary said. “Islamaphobes want to keep the American identity stuck in the 1950s — only white, only Christian, where minorities are not visible.
“And because Suleiman is influential and popular on social media in both worlds, he really gets under the skin of those in ISIS.”