- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Muslim religious and community leaders in the United States concluded a four-day conference here yesterday that was to be topped off with a lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.

The beef that the Islamic leaders wanted to bring up with representatives from their states and respective congressional districts was what they see as governmental and individual discrimination against them, as Muslims, after the September 11 attacks.

Some conference speakers voiced complaints about Attorney General John Ashcroft.

But conference organizers said the purpose was to help the Muslim leaders, many of them immigrants to America, understand the culture and politics of the United States so as to better avoid their sounding like enemies of America and friends of Middle East terrorists.

The conference chairman, for example, was Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council (AMC). Moderate Islamic leaders said his outspoken style has been an embarrassment.

“AMC keeps promising they will get rid of him,” said a Washington activist familiar with the AMC board. “People on the board want him out but can’t seem to get rid of him.”

Mr. Alamoudi once said during a demonstration across from the White House that he and the other protesters were supporters of well-known Islamic terrorist organizations that target Israel.

“I really don’t understand a government that acts on suspicion instead of facts. America is no longer the land of the free,” Mr. Alamoudi said last year. “It seems like Arab-Americans are being targeted by the Bush administration.”

Nor did Mr. Alamoudi endear himself to Republicans and conservatives when he contributed money to the failed re-election campaign of former Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a liberal Democrat and sharp-tongued critic of Israel and supporter of Palestinians.

At the conference, the Muslims’ feelings of “victimhood” at the hands of federal law enforcers and individual citizens in rural areas were challenged by Dr. Yahya Basha, chairman of the AMC, which organized the conference.

One of the featured speakers was FBI Civil Rights Division Chief Tom Reynolds.

“Reynolds gave a very positive speech,” said Dr. Basha, a Detroit radiologist. “He denied that the FBI went after anybody who is innocent. He said the government hasn’t been discriminating against Muslims or Arabs after [September 11].”

Dr. Basha said that, generally, the attendees “liked Reynolds’ sincerity and honesty. Some people will never believe the government isn’t discriminating against Muslims, but most people who expressed their views were very positive on his statements.

“After [September 11], Muslims have to adjust to a new landscape,” he said, adding that they have to understand how to participate in the system, interact with the news media and with the administration.

“We don’t want people to forget their heritage or deny it or change their name, but at the same time they have to show more concern about the security and welfare of America instead of thinking about their cousins overseas,” the AMC chairman said.

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