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Terror war strategies

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

We have watched terrorism grow with increasing malevolence over the past decade. Today, no country is secure. No individual is beyond its bounds.

A virulent, radical ideology has spread throughout the globe that says terror is acceptable, that targeting innocents is not just allowed but a "duty" of its followers.

Let me quote from Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against the United States and the West:

"The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim."

This is what we face and fight against. The threat has not diminished in the nearly four years since September 11, 2001.

I believe it is even more important the United States and our allies redouble our efforts in the war against terrorism. This means continuing to seek out and kill or capture key members of al Qaeda. This means remaining vigilant in our efforts to prevent and interdict terrorist operations. And it means improving our gathering and sharing of intelligence.

I also believe the United States must develop strong relationships with moderate Muslims at the highest levels. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should invest the time and energy to develop close ties with those in the Muslim world who are a force for peace and reconciliation, not of fanaticism and violence.

This could take many forms:

• Developing a Muslim council with which the president confers monthly.

• High-level meetings with leading moderate Muslim figures during administration travel to the Middle East.

• Financial investment in Muslim programs and schools that encourage tolerance and diversity.

• Revamping Radio Sawa to include more sophisticated news programming on issues that appeal to young people.

• Sponsoring forums and trips to the U.S. for elected centrist Muslim individuals to spend time with U.S. legislators.

• Relying on intelligence community operatives to undercut the message and political activities of radical clerics who preach hatred of the West.

But the United States and our allies cannot win this battle alone. A key part of the solution lies within the Islamic community as well. Muslim religious leaders must join the battle against terror. They have to fight this virulent ideology.

Too often terrorists are nurtured and protected. This begins in religious schools (madrassas), where this violent ideology is frequently taught. It continues when terrorists find shelter and camaraderie in mosques, bookstores and meeting places.

What else can explain that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Abu Musab Zarqawi, Hamza Rabi'a, and dozens of other terrorist leaders are still at large?

To be sure, there are a few who are speaking out:

• In the wake of the London bombings, for instance, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, said operations "targeting peaceful people are not condoned by Islam and are indeed prohibited by our religion."

• The Muslim Council of Britain, said it "utterly condemns the perpetrators of what appears to be a series of coordinated attacks."

• The Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa this week in Washington denouncing those who commit terror in the name of Islam.

• Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's incoming ambassador to the United States, has said, "Muslim scholars must come out loudly and strongly against suicidal bombing regardless of where, when and why they have happened."

• And a group of 170 Muslim religious leaders has agreed decrees by bin Laden and other Islamacists are not legitimate, because they are not trained within the traditional eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

But as Prince al-Faisal has said, these messages have not "resonated enough in the world media." What's clear to me is there needs to be a clarion call from those clerics who are in fact trained in Islamic jurisprudence to denounce terror and issue religious decrees (fatwas) against the targeting of innocents -- over and over again.

This needs to go out on radio, on TV, in newspapers, on the street and in the mosques.

The United States cannot relent in the war against terror, and I don't suggest we do so. But I strongly believe the carnage ultimately can be stopped from within the Islamic world.

Without strong, intense and constant denunciation within the Muslim community, I am afraid this terror will only metastasize and spread.

So I hope our government, our allies and all governments who deplore terror would urge the leaders of the Muslim faith to step forward and ostracize those who kill and maim innocents in the name of Islam.

Dianne Feinstein is a Democratic member of the United States Senate from California.