Syrian politics spill over into Oklahoma City mosque

The Egyptian crisis and the possibility of a U.S. air strike on Syria have caused political divisions at mosques across the country to intensify — and the mosque at 3815 N St. Clair in Oklahoma City is no different, Imad Enchassi, imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said Tuesday.
by Carla Hinton Published: September 10, 2013
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An Oklahoma City Muslim leader said some local Muslims have been in turmoil over the Syrian conflict for the past three years.

But the Egyptian crisis and the imminent possibility of a U.S. air strike on Syria have caused political divisions at mosques across the country to intensify — and the mosque at 3815 N St. Clair is no different, said Imad Enchassi, imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.

Enchassi, 48, said the mosque draws about 800 people every week to its most popular prayer gathering, the Friday Jummah prayers. He said people from 76 ethnic backgrounds come to the mosque and that diversity has placed him in the center of political disagreements.

“I am in the hot seat,” he said.

Enchassi, whose father is a Palestinian of Egyptian descent and whose mother is Syrian, said he and other imams have been discussing the issue over the past several years.

He said the imams talked about their main objectives during a recent teleconference hosted by the North American Imams Federation.

Their first goal, Enchassi said, is to maintain peace at the mosques amid the growing uproar over the situation in Syria. He said the Syrian conflict has caused more division than other overseas conflicts because there are Muslims on both sides of the clash.

“The imams' dilemma is trying to keep everyone united,” he said.

He said the political division has caused the severing of some long-standing relationships in mosques.

“It's sad for imams to see some friends who have been friends for 30 years are now rivals,” Enchassi said.

He said he noticed that some members of his mosque congregation began to scrutinize the words he used in his sermons several years ago but that scrutiny has intensified. Other imams have said they have been subjected to abuse, accusations, harassment and even threats.

He said he and other imams have tried to speak in general terms about overseas conflicts and tried to make their prayers general in nature. Many, Enchassi said, stick to humanitarian issues — taking no sides but speaking out against the killing of innocent people.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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