American Muslim Groups Withholding Judgment On Sniper Arrest

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.)

( - John Allen Muhammad, arrested by Maryland authorities in connection with the sniper shootings, was a Muslim convert who changed his name from John Allen Williams last year, according to wire service and other reports.

But some American Muslim groups are withholding judgment about Muhammad until authorities have nailed down the fact that he actually is the sniper who perpetrated the shootings that have plagued the Washington area during the past few weeks.

Authorities have not charged him with the shootings as yet.

Muhammad and 17 year old John Lee Malvo were arrested Thursday in connection with the shootings. Authorities do not believe the two were associated with the al Qaeda terrorist network.

The Muslim American Society said it would issue a statement about Muhammad but not to because of the news organization's "past track record" and "editorial line."

"I think your editorial line would inevitably result in twisting this about anything we have to say," said Ismail Royer, communications director for the Muslim American Society.

"First of all, I know CNSNews very well and your editorial line takes a particular ideological stance. Therefore, I'm just not confident that anything we have to say is going to wind up being fairly portrayed," he said.

A spokesman for the American Muslim Council did tell that the group was hopeful the sniper incidents had ended.

"If he is the man, then of course we are happy and we hope that it will bring an end to the unfortunate wave of fear and terror in the Washington Metropolitan area," said Faiz Rehman, a spokesman for the American Muslim Council.

"But all the facts are not in yet and we just hope that this (incident) is over," he said.

Hodan Hassan, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said American Muslims living in the Washington area are "definitely breathing a sigh of relief" at the arrests.

"Like everybody in this area, we were also frightened and affected by the last three weeks of terror. We hope that the apprehension of these suspects, that is, if they are guilty, will bring an end to this tragic episode," Hassan said.

"Clearly, we are concerned because one of the suspects has the last name of Muhammad. We just hope that people don't make direct connections and assume that Islam and this person's (Muhammad's) apparent faith is somehow connected with these crimes," she added.

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