- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 1999

Don't blame Islam

Only days ago, American Muslims were celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with a lavish dinner at the State Department hosted by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.
Now they are worried that the State Department's repeated warnings of terrorist threats over the Christmas holidays have tainted their religion.
Even though many threats are linked to Arab terrorists, Aly R. Abuzaakouk told the State Department not to blame Islam.
Mr. Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim Council, wrote the State Department last week, criticizing a Dec. 11 advisory that warned that terrorist attacks could occur during Ramadan.
Mr. Abuzaakouk, who dined with Mrs. Albright at the State Department Dec. 21, agreed on the necessity of warning the public when a threat is suspected, but he complained that associating "terrorism with Ramadan only reinforces popular stereotypes without improving the security of Americans."
"For American Muslims, as for Muslims the world over, Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal, the most sacred month of the year," Mr. Abuzaakouk wrote.
"Terrorism has no place in Islam or any religion and anyone, of any faith, who seeks to justify attacks on civilians in the name of religion should be universally condemned.
"American Muslims walk the same streets and work in the same buildings as any other group of Americans. The safety of our citizens is our safety, and we share concerns over threats to our society.
"But unfortunately, based on recent history, we bear the additional burden of worrying that in this climate of anxiety, some of our fellow citizens may victimize us for incidents that we have nothing to do with."

Arab-American merger

In another Arab-American development, two prominent groups are planning to merge this week to form a larger organization to promote civil rights and influence foreign policy.
The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) will hold a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club to announce their merger.
"The merger will undoubtedly increase the political empowerment of the community and enhance its influence and visibility in Washington," said NAAA President Khalil E. Jahshan.
The NAAA describes itself as the "oldest and premier" Arab-American "foreign-policy lobbying" group.
The ADC is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization.

Kudos to Kazakhstan

At least one election observation group thinks Kazakhstan deserves praise for making progress toward democracy.
The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) congratulated Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev during his visit to Washington last week.
The foundation in a statement cited Mr. Nazarbayev's support for IFES programs in Kazakhstan designed to promote democracy.
IFES praised his "outstanding contribution … in democratic development and civic education through his support for IFES activities."
"Democracy does not happen overnight," said IFES President Richard Soudriette, noting the former Soviet republic gained independence only eight years ago.
The State Department and other election observation groups have criticized Mr. Nazarbayev as an authoritarian leader who suppresses political opposition.

Ambassador honored

Cameroon Ambassador Jerome Mendouga has received a top honor for his devotion to human rights.
The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area selected Mr. Mendouga earlier this month to receive the award as part of the annual commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"Ambassador Mendouga's life has been one of service to the peoples of his country and Africa," said a citation accompanying the award.
Mr. Mendouga was nominated for the award by the International Eye Foundation, a charity dedicated to the prevention of blindness. The ambassador was also recently elected president of the foundation.

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