Imam's peers sympathize

Good old Newday, keeping this story alive. Freedom of speech is mentioned in this article, about time.

Some local Muslims say chaplain had right to share 9/11 opinion, but should have been careful not to offend

Though Imam Intikab Habib expressed anguish and regret for comments he made about 9/11 that resulted in his stepping down Friday before being sworn in as chaplain of the Fire Department, some members of the local Muslim community reacted with slightly less dismal emotions.

"Fifty years from now, we will think this is all a step forward," said Dr. Abdul Jamil Khan, of Muttontown.

The semi-retired chairman of pediatrics at Brooklyn's Interfaith Medical Center said Habib should have been more diplomatic. "He is backing off because he made a boo-boo," Khan said. "You can make many theories, but as a person who was going to be sworn into that sensitive position, he should have been very careful not to hurt others' feelings."

Habib, 30, a Guyana native who teaches junior high students in Ozone Park, was in line to be the second Muslim chaplain in fire department history. He studied Islam in Saudi Arabia and immigrated to New York in July 2000.

In a Thursday interview with Newsday, Habib stated doubts about who was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying conflicting reports left him wondering if it was 19 hijackers or some larger conspiracy that brought the towers down.

On Friday, after his views appeared in the newspaper, he stepped down a few hours before he was to be installed as chaplain. Habib and fire department officials agreed it was the right thing to do, as did some in the Muslim community.

"I think the resolution was appropriate," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil rights group. "People are people and they sometimes say things they shouldn't," he said, citing famous foot-in-mouth examples such as William Bennett and Pat Robertson.

Habib's comments, unseemly as they may have been to some, should not be completely dismissed, said Ghazi Khankan, an Islamic affairs consultant from Westbury. "What happened to freedom of speech?" said Khankan, adding that Habib's comments should not have rendered him jobless. "If he has a political opinion, it should not effect his work or his position. Before we condemn, we must investigate ... question the Imam further as to why does he believe this to be so."

Khankan said there are many other people, in the Middle East and in America, who question the conclusions of 9/11.

"I hope this will create a movement to call for further investigation into the tragedy of 9/11 ... people can fume," Khankan said, "but opinions are good because they can bring solutions if they are aired and discussed."

Nice to see this article,

Nice to see this article, but one possible impression is that it is only Islamic people who are talking about these issues.