Muslim-American groups reacted favorably to Thursday’s formal sentencing of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, some seeing it as an example of impartial American justice, an opportunity for closure and the end of an unhappy chapter in Muslim-American relations in the post-9/11 world.
Following the jury's recommendation, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced Moussaoui to six life terms without the chance of parole.
“Honestly, we haven't been commenting on the case because we don’t see him as representing Muslims,” said Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group.
“Moussaoui’s actions were clearly against the teaching of Islam,” she said. “We can say that we’re hoping the end of this trial will bring closure for the families; it’s been a very difficult time for them. We’ve always advocated that anyone involved in terrorism should be punished to the law’s full extent. If the jury decided that life in prison is a fair verdict, then we respect that.”
For some, Moussaoui’s sentence of life in prison was justified despite his relatively marginal role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The people in the community in the greater Detroit area feel it was a fair trial, that the American judicial system has worked,” said Eide al-Awan, interfaith outreach director of the Islamic Center of America, the Detroit-based Islamic resource center housing the largest mosque in the United States.
‘Suffer the consequences’
“Whether it was a matter of life in prison or the death penalty would have been fine with the community,” he said. “They realize the impact of what this man was a part of. Although the jury felt he wasn’t privy to all the information of the attacks, he should have to suffer the consequences, whatever the consequences may be.”
Al-Awan said the life sentence showed other nations the basic fairness of the American judicial system, and undercut any bid on Moussaoui’s part to be executed and perceived as a martyr for Islamic or terrorist causes.
“They’ve taken the air out of that balloon,” al-Awan said.
"This sends a message all over the world that America is a just country and doesn’t have to put a person to death in order to impart the consequences for terrorism.”