Authorities' description of six men charged with plotting an attack on Fort Dix as "Islamic militants" is renewing worry among New Jersey's Muslims.
Authorities rounded up and detained hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but none was connected to that plot. Now Muslims fear a resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiment and bias.
"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks. "But when the government says 'Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous. Don't equate actions with religion."
On Sunday, Cherry Hill - home to four of the accused men - broke ground for its first mosque.
The Indian Muslim Dawoodi Bohra sect, which is building the Anjuman-E-Fakhri mosque near Perina Boulevard, was quick to distance itself from the suspects, who do not belong to its local community of 60.
"People who harbor the intentions of hurting other people should be condemned by Islam, at least in our view," Quresh Dahodwala, an official of the Dawoodi Bohra community, said yesterday. "Islam does not support such barbaric acts."
Dahodwala was also co-signer of a statement by the Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue of Southern New Jersey, which said it strongly condemned the alleged plan for attacks.
"We, Christians, Muslims and Jews, believe that anyone who would seek to attack or kill innocents in the name of their faith violates the values and beliefs of that faith," the statement read.
At Sunday's groundbreaking, State Sen. John Adler (D., Camden) called Cherry Hill "a place of peace and tolerance."
Dahodwala defended the township and Islam yesterday, saying the alleged plot was not a reflection on either. "Bad people are everywhere," he said.
Yaser El-Menshawy, chairman of the Majlis Ash-Shura of New Jersey, the state's council of mosques, condemned the alleged plot and said he was glad nothing was carried out. But he said the motivation of people who plotted against the government "cannot be stopped simply by law enforcement or military means alone."