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Local man sucked into Boston bombing saga

A Zimbabwean Muslim cleric has become the centre of international media scrutiny, after one of the Boston Marathon bombers re-tweeted his comment on micro-blogging site, twitter.


International news agencies tried to draw links between 19-year-old Boston bombing accused, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Zimbabwean Mufti Ismael Menk, a link the cleric has denied.

Tsarnaev’s last tweet was a retweet of Menk’s, where the cleric spoke about attitude, advising that it could enhance or reduce one’s beauty.

But Menk, who does not follow anyone on twitter, has taken to the micro-blogging site to dissociate himself from the brothers who bombed Boston last Monday.

“The shock of finding out about a retweet by a person totally unknown to me is one thing, but I’m disgusted by the hate speech,” Menk said on his twitter account, which experienced a surge in followers in the last week.

Menk said he was particularly displeased at broadcaster CNN, which described him a “radical cleric” without contacting him.

“I need to set an example for those who look up to me too. So I will seize this opportunity to promote peace and harmony,” he said, in written responses to The Standard. “I must add that I am disgusted at CNN in particular which did not bother contacting me but were quick to say I was a radical cleric.”

Menk said he was considering taking legal action in an effort to clear his name, saying he was not radical and had always tried to stay away from politics.

“Knowing with certainty that I have a very clear track record for any investigators to figure out, I have not been worried at all besides the shock of what actually happened and what was being said by the speculative media,” he added.

The cleric said what was noteworthy was that Tsarnaev was not one of his 111 000 followers on twitter, clearly indicating that there was no link between him and the Boston bombing accused.

Menk went on to condemn the bombings, saying the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

“I would like to very strongly condemn the bombings in the US and express condolences to the families,” he wrote on Friday. “The perpetrators must face justice.”

Menk is the head of the Fatwa Department of The Council of Islamic Scholars of Zimbabwe known as Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe.

Muhammad Ali, an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of California Riverside, is quoted as saying after going through Menk’s tweets and online sermons, he saw nothing that could be interpreted as inciting violence of any kind.

“I would say that people would use his tweets, his opinions, his fatwa in quite different ways, but they might see him as someone who has authority,” Ali is quoted as saying. “He has charisma, he has knowledge, he speaks English fluently.”

Ali explained that Mufti was a title indicating that Menk had reached a high level of religious knowledge, higher than “the simple, ordinary scholars or priests or teachers or imam”.

Mufti Menk is a social media enthusiast, with more than 111 000 followers on twitter, more than 200 000 fans on Facebook and has more than 19 000 subscribers on video sharing site, YouTube, with his videos being viewed more than three million times.

Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan allegedly detonated two bombs last Monday during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring scores of others.

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