Howard University Student Accused Of Terrorism In Pakistan

Five young men from the Northern Virginia area, including a man identified as a Howard University student, were arrested in Pakistan at the home of a man suspected to be linked to a radical jihadist group. They are currently being questioned by Pakistani authorities about any possible links to terrorism. Host Michel Martin gets an update on the situation from Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Director of Outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, President Barack Obama receives the Nobel Peace Prize today, against the backdrop of ongoing skepticism from some in his own country that he didn't deserve it. Did he answer the critics? We'll talk more about the prize and hear excerpts from the president's speech in a few minutes.

But first, a developing story we are following. Five men who have been described as Muslim men from northern Virginia were detained in Pakistan. They are being questioned about possible ties to militant groups. The families of those arrested reported them missing last week. And after seeing a video left behind by one of the men, the relatives contacted the Council On American Islamic Relations, and the council then placed the families in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

We are joined now to talk more about this by Imam Johari Abdul-Malik. He is the director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. Thank you so much for joining us.

Imam JOHARI ABDUL-MALIK (Director of Outreach, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center): Will do, Michel. I want to remind you that I'm also the former Muslim chaplain at Howard, which is kind of how myself and the Council of Muslim Organizations got involved.

MARTIN: I was going to mention that and I wanted to ask if you know - do you know any of these young men and their families? One of the men identified has been identified as a dental student at Howard.

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Senior at Howard Dental School. I don't know him personally. I have been at events on the campus as recently as this Ramadan. He is active in the MSA. He was clearly there. From the photos that I've seen�

MARTIN: The MSA being the Muslim Students Association

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Muslim Students Association, yeah. I'm actively involved. It is a real shock to his classmates. I mean, the university was besieged by media, asking students questions. It's exam time, and all of them were saying, how could this happen?

MARTIN: What is it, do you know, that caused the families such concern that they felt that they had to reach out to the authorities and to groups like CAIR?

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Well, you know, first, Michel, I think in this tragedy we've got something that I think is a victory. As family in a post-9/11 reality, concerned about their children, families that know each other beyond ethnic lines, they are from different ethnic backgrounds. They have college aged kids that they know where they are. When I was 22 years old as a student at Howard, my mother didn't know where I was over the weekend. These parents say, wait a minute, Sunday, we haven't heard from our children. They started calling one another, they put two and two together that something is not right, we just feel it's not right.

They reached out to the mosque leadership. The mosque leadership said, you're right, there was no activity going on for students in Maryland that weekend. They said something is not right. They in turn said, let's call CAIR because we're just getting a bad feeling. And I think sometimes you got to go with your feeling and immediately found some of the personal effects, shared with the FBI that we found as USB, with the lawyer, with the FBI, with the leadership saw a video that looks - I didn't see it, that looks like the typical jihadist posting to promote fighting against America, fighting against foreign invaders, freeing the Muslim lands.

MARTIN: So, the families didn't know they were in Pakistan?

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: No, they didn't know where they were.

MARTIN: So, I think what you're trying to point out is that the relationships are working.

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: They are working.

MARTIN: Relationships that people have enough confidence in the authorities to wanna call attention to some behavior that is worrisome, even if it involves their own families. But I have to press you, Imam, what do we think these young men were doing in Pakistan, do we know?

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: First, we don't know. But I want to put us back into the Nidal Hasan framework that we have been engaged as a community since the Nidal Hasan event in northern Virginia. So, the fact that things are going on that if you see something that's unusual, that the next steps seem to come more logically now. From the indications of the video that for someone that I know, Nihad Awad, was a fairly balanced guy who would say, I saw something on this video that was disturbing to me. It's sufficient to justify saying it was bad.

MARTIN: Nihad Awad being one of the�

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Executive director of CAIR.

MARTIN: �executive director of CAIR, the Council On American Islamic Relations. So, finally, I think, so I guess the question that many people would have is that it's important to note that the relationships are working. That parents are concerned enough to go to the authorities if they feel something is amiss but the other question that arises is, do you feel sort of an ideology of Jihadism is taking root among some young people in this country? Do you think that's true as a religious leader, as a leader of students?

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: I have to say that I think you are right. As much as we might like to think not, it is probably not pervasive but it only takes five people to get it wrong out of millions of American Muslims. We have to do better and obviously we are going to have to do different.

MARTIN: We should talk more about that when we can.

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Indeed.

MARTIN: Imam Johari, I'm sorry, Imam, we have to leave it there for now - for now. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, and as he reminds us, a former Muslim chaplain at Howard University. Imam was here with us in the Washington, D.C. studios. We thank you again.

Imam ABDUL-MALIK: Thank you.

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