Terrorism and its ripple effect on Muslim young people was one the main topics discussed Saturday night at the Islamic Center of Southern California, which brought together several speakers to condemn the terrorist attacks in Paris.
"There is absolutely no tolerance or room for this type of behavior, these types of actions in the faith of Islam,” said Center Chairman Omar Ricci, who called on Muslim youth to show pride in their faith and to resist those who might want to recruit them into radical groups. Many Muslims, he said, actually choose careers in law enforcement and the armed forces because they feel a special responsibility to protect the United States.
Ricci added that the attacks are are difficult enough for grownups to comprehend, but Muslim parents have an added difficulty of figuring out what's right to tell their children, as Muslim children could be confused by what they hear on the news or on the playground.
Edina Lekovic said her 4-year-old son was puzzled to see his mother turn serious as she made dozens of calls about the violence in Paris.
"He loves superheroes, and I had to explain to him that there were bad people who happen to also be Muslim - I couldn't hide that from him - who did something awful and hurt other people and I had to work to do everything I could to help people who were hurting."
Muslim kids could also face bullying, Ricci said, suggesting that parents confront anti-Muslim comments when they come across them in person or on social media.
Ali Jakvani, the 24-year-old chairman of the Young Muslim American Leadership Advisory Council, also spoke at the center. He said some Muslims can feel a backlash when people wrongly associate them with the actions of violent extremist groups like ISIS or the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for last week's terrorism in Paris.
He said terrorists like those in ISIS want Americans to turn against young Muslims, making them easier to recruit to their violent cause.
"They want us to feel disenfranchised, marginalized from what they call the Western population, and we need to stay away from that rhetoric,” he said.