TOLEDO -- The Toledo Muslim community reacted strongly Tuesday night to the indictments of three Toledo men suspected in terrorism plots against the United States. Members told News 11 between the indictments and the closing and investigation of the Muslim charity KindHearts, it is not an easy time for the upstanding Muslims.
According to a federal indictment that was unsealed Tuesday, government prosecutors say Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum conspired to wage a "holy war" against America and its service people overseas. The three reportedly met to plan attacks, but also to gather equipment, money, supplies, and information needed to carry out those attacks.
All three pleaded not guilty in two separate federal courtrooms on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, federal agents closed down the Toledo-based charity called "KindHearts" on Sunday, and froze its assets. The group's web site says it's focused on humanitarian development, building a specialized hospital in Gaza. The government says it is a front for supporting terror groups like Hamas and Al-Qaeda.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called the two investigations separate, yet coordinated. "What I can say is that they're separate investigations," said Gonzales. "They also happen to be coordinated investigations... [Tuesday's terror] indictment doesn't allege ties to specific groups that these individuals might have had."
Toledo-area Muslim representatives are drawing a clear line separating themselves from Tuesday's situation. Muslim leaders from several organizations said they knew nothing about these men, none of the suspects were a part of their agencies, and none of their members knew them.
Despite all that, leaders told us it's the good members of the Muslim community who will be affected. "In the last 48 hours we find ourselves overwhelmed," said Dr. Zaheer Hasan who is the President of the local Islamic center. He's angry about the negative attention the Muslim community is getting. "These events will put us in the spotlight of the world which we did not ask for and which we are totally innocent of," he said during a news conference.
With that kind of focus, Hasan said it's not a matter of if they will see the ripple effect but when. "These events of [Tuesday] will generate ill will and retribution against our institutions our mosques and our schools," commented Hasan.
He remembers when someone shot a bullet through a window of the Islamic center and times when they've called police when suspicious activity came up. He told News 11 they met with authorities last September and in the past cooperating fully.
"We will do everything for the safety of this country and our property and our fellow citizens," said Dr. M.Y. Ahmed who is the President of the United Muslim Association of Toledo. "We have a moral obligation towards our community and the area we live in to be vigilant," Hasan added.
In addition to the verbal and other attacks the Muslims in our community may face, Hasan told us he's worried donations to the good charities helping Muslims will be affected as well. He said they've already lost donors and members of the Islamic center because of outside controversy and charity is a main component of their religion.
Hasan also told us this Thursday local Muslims will meet with the FBI and area police seeking authorities' advice on how to deal with this situation.