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January 09, 2015

Philadelphia's Islamic community weighing response to terrorist attacks in France

Members of Philadelphia’s Islamic community are discussing how and whether to address the terrorist attacks in France, according to Jacob Bender, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“At the moment … there is continual discussion in all facets of the community that we are in touch with,” Bender said.

That dialogue is occurring as news that the suspects linked to a terrorist attack at a French newspaper and hostage-taking in a Paris kosher market have been killed.   

Bender said his organization had already condemned the attacks. 

“Violence done by extremists doesn’t represent the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world,” he said.

The Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League said they had not received any calls concerning discrimination or attacks on area Muslim residents.

“We would get calls from people because of our civil rights work,” said Robin Burstein, ADL associate regional director. “Potentially someone who overheard something or felt they were being mistreated by coworkers … they would contact us about advice on how to respond more than anything.”

A local professor said anti-Muslim sentiments in France are present in parts of the right-wing community. Sean L. Yom, an assistant professor of political science at Temple University, said mainstream French culture, however, recognizes the extremist views of terrorists are not representative of the larger Muslim population even though some groups are calling for muslims to be deported.

“Not everyone in the west is looking at the shootings and thinking about religion first and the shooters second,” Yom said. “In France it’s generally the other way around. They’re looking at the shooters. It’s really about their individual networks, their families (and) who they got support from.”

PhillyVoice Staff Writer John Kopp contributed to this report.