IRVING – Omar Suleiman discovered a disturbing surprise earlier this month.
ISIS, the self-proclaims Islamic State known for its extreme ideology and terrorist acts, is calling for his death.
Suleiman is a scholar and imam who is extremely active in North Texas, especially so with interfaith activities. He said he learned from a professor friend that he was an ISIS target after a video surfaced online. The next day, the Federal Bureau of Investigation called him.
“I can tell you with a completely straight face that I’m not intimidated at all. I don’t think we can be intimidated,” said Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. “We can’t afford to be afraid of any hate groups whether they’re here or abroad.”
The FBI would not comment specifically but told WFAA the agency remains vigilant in protecting public safety and takes all threats seriously.
Although the video has been taken down, Suleiman showed us a clip, narrated in Arabic, where he is being called an apostate, or a non-believer. He says the video of him was taken from his interfaith project “An Imam, A Pastor, and A Dream” created with Andrew Stoker at First United Methodist Church in Dallas.
The bigger fear, he said, is at home, not thousands of miles away.
“I’m more afraid of my wife walking into Walmart than I am of myself because of an ISIS video, to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s literally at any given moment while any Muslim is walking outside, someone could come up to them and start yelling go back home, and assault them.”
It’s a sentiment shared by activist and journalist Shaun King who circulated the news of the video on social media, and Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“Yes, it's concerning to have people who identify as representatives of ISIS or what have you to make these claims,” said Salem. “But, frankly speaking, we’ve got a much bigger battle here at home for our safety.”
“The overwhelming threats I receive to my own person, and what people in the community receive, are from people who identify as white nationalists, white supremacists,” Salem said. “People who are on the extreme side of the issue, who are established bigots in this community.”
Threats that create fear. Fear that Suleiman said must be stopped.
“Our president has shown up in their propaganda videos quite a bit because he is preaching the message they want to hear, which is you cannot be an American Muslim,” Suleiman said. “Americans of all sorts need to come together and resist this type of bigotry, resist the message from ISIS.”
And a message of peace he will continue to spread.