The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
October 30, 2001 | Witham, Larry
Byline: Larry Witham
American Muslim groups that have called for an end to U.S. bombing in Afghanistan say their plea is a humanitarian appeal. But their statement of dissent with U.S. military action has caused division among Muslims in the United States.
“We think the civilian deaths and refugees will finally hurt American interests by creating more resentment and political instability,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of two main sponsors of the memo posted last week on the Internet.
“We are against terrorism, but we also have the right to our opinion on the military tactics of fighting against it,” Mr. Hooper said, adding that there was no foreign influence on the call to end military attacks on Taliban strongholds. Last month, CAIR and other major U.S. Muslim groups condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and said a U.S. response was justified.
The seven-point statement, agreed to by CAIR, the Islamic Circle of North America, and several small student and media groups, was debated before adoption at an Oct. 20-21 national meeting of Muslim groups.
“We call on our government to urgently reassess its action in Afghanistan, and to cease the bombing campaign and other military actions,” the statement said. It cited the suffering of refugees in the coming harsh winter, and urged that the “international dispute” be “resolved through U.N. mechanisms.”
Two major policy groups, the American Muslim Council (AMC) and Islamic Society of North America, attended the meeting but did not sign the statement.
The AMC on Oct. 8 stated support for the U.S. military and humanitarian actions in Afghanistan and said it “appreciates” Mr. Bush’s “reaffirming that this is a war against terrorism, and not against the Afghan people, Muslims or Islam.”
Leaders of the AMC could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Muslims familiar with the Oct. 20-21 meeting said the statement points to a split in U.S. Muslim approaches to the war and in conveying the Islamic image in America.
“The [CAIR] memo overlooks the American right to respond militarily,” said M. A. Khan, a Muslim scholar and director of international studies at Adrian College.
He also faulted the statement with not condemning the Taliban and with not proposing a “concrete alternative” to military action.
The statement was not addressed to any U.S. official, but posted on the Islamicity.com Web site. Agence France-Press first reported the posting over the weekend.
Though the statement’s intended audience is not clear, it reveals a split between moderate and hard-line Muslims, said Mr. Khan, who has written widely on Islam adapting to democracy.
“This is not a war between Islam and the West, but between moderates and extremists,” Mr. Khan said. “It’s time for [Muslim] moderates to quarantine the extremists.”
He said some Muslim groups are expected to come out officially against the seven-point statement.
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