Leaders of the Islamic community in Raleigh today pleaded for calm in the case of the seven Wake and Johnston County suspects charged with plotting "holy war" in the Middle East. At a press conference, Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the local chapter of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation (MAS-Freedom), said her organization condemns all forms of terrorism and has confidence in the judicial system to find out the facts. At the same time, she emphasized, the suspects are innocent until proven guilty -- as a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office also said -- and while justice should be swift, fair and impartial, she warned against "a rush to judgment" by the public or the media.
Sabra was joined by Jihad Shawaa, who said his first name does not mean what most Americans think it means: Violent or holy war. Jihad means struggle, Shawwa said, "and it's a beautiful name, it has a beautiful meaning." The two said the kind of struggle defined by the word jihad can mean the internal struggle to live a just life. MAS-Freedom, Sabra said, teaches Muslim children that there's nothing in Islam, or jihad, that dictates a life of violence, and that they can be "good Muslims and good Americans at the same time."
Sabra said she knows Daniel Boyd, his two sons and two of the others charged. She said that nothing about the younger suspects struck her as out of the ordinary. Asked about the elder Boyd's political views, she didn't answer directly. She noted that when traveled to Afghanistan in 1989 to work with the mujahadeen rebels, as stated in the indictment, it was at a time when the United States was backing the mujahadeen in their struggle against Russian occupation.
If then or later Boyd developed "specific points of view" about America's invasion of Afghanistan, American treatment of the detainees at Guantanemo Bay, or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Sabra said, those viewpoints may not have differed very much from what many others think -- and even if they did, it's not evidence that Boyd or anyone else was plotting violent acts.