- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

A day after President Bush vowed to bring to justice those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Imam Shamshad A. Nasir of the Bait-Ur-Rahman Mosque in Silver Spring yesterday praised the president during a prayer service.

"When anybody if they belong to Islam, Christianity or Judaism when they say good, we will say it is good. The president said good," he said yesterday.

Mr. Nasir, 50, a native of Pakistan, turned the pages of a transcript of the president's speech he printed yesterday morning. He read aloud a portion highlighted in yellow marker:

"We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah."

"Very good and moving," Mr. Nasir said, folding the transcript and setting it aside.

Mr. Nasir expressed the sentiment of many Muslim community, business and religious leaders, who agreed with the president's call for justice.

Outside the mosque, eight American flags hung on the complex gates. Another solitary flag was hanging at half-staff between two other bare poles in the driveway.

Insistent that he is a religious leader and not a political leader, Mr. Nasir condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and said there was no conflict between his faith and his patriotism.

"If I am a Muslim, it is part of my faith that I should love my country," he said. "This is a reality that terrorism is going on and we have to stop it. If there is a threat to democracy and freedom, we should stop it."

Mr. Nasir said 250 community members attended an interfaith outreach at the mosque last Sunday. Tomorrow at 2 p.m. he will lead a seminar discussing the life, teaching and moral character of the Prophet of Islam. All are welcome.

He denounced Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, and the religious fervor that leads some to take innocent lives in the name of Islam.

"Most Muslims are faithful. They accept the peaceful teachings of Islam and they try their level best to follow it," he said.

"All true Muslim people, they do not support these acts of terrorism. They hate it. They hate the taking of innocent lives," he said.

Suileman Wali, 25, who was born in Afghanistan and came to America in 1979 after the Soviet invasion, said, "It's not Islam what [bin Laden] is doing."

"He wants it to be Islam versus the West. He won't succeed. He can't succeed. True believers of Islam know better," he said.

Tomorrow night, Mr. Wali expects several hundred people to attend a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to show that the Afghan community and Muslims, in general, stand in solidarity against terrorism.

"We're speaking out that we're Afghans living in the United States and we can't let this lead to a divide," he said. "This is exactly what bin Laden wants. He wants to say, 'They can never accept you like we do.' He knew there was a huge Muslim population in the U.S. that would be blamed for this."

When Mr. Wali, who also heard Mr. Bush's words Thursday night, was asked if the president's speech roused him, he said: "He did and I didn't think he would."

"I think he gave the chance for people to understand that our people are not involved in the awful thing that happened," said Nrazy Assad, an Afghan immigrant who also came to America in 1979. "For us, this [speech] couldn't have come any sooner."

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