- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

A panel of Islamic leaders held a town meeting yesterday, denouncing the U.S. war in Afghanistan and clarifying differences between traditional Muslims and followers of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"We want to educate people that Islam is a religion of God and all prophets from the beginning," said Imam Abdel Razzag of the Ivy City Masjid in Northeast.
Mr. Razzag, a native of Jordan, along with other Islamic clerics from the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, sought to inform the public and reassure a region terrified by the September 11terrorist attacks and the spread of anthrax.
"The best amongst us are the most righteous, pious and merciful, and it is by these traits that Allah judges us," said Mr. Razzag, who explained that Muslims are also patriotic and mourn the loss of Americans as well as Afghans.
Mr. Razzag and several others affirmed their beliefs that radicals such as Osama bin Laden and others who use terrorism for political reasons in the name of Islam do so out of ignorance or personal bad intentions.
As Muslims, many in the audience of nearly 100 believe the war in Afghanistan is too high a price to pay to capture one man. Others with more radical views attempted to sway the crowd, pointing to rumors of Israeli involvement in the terrorist attacks.
"There are reports that as many as 3,000 to 5,000 so-called Jews did not go to work [at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon] that day, and we need to take a serious look at that," said opening speaker Amir Muhammad of the District, who is national assistant of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
"We will address the issues that President George Bush and his Cabinet members will not."
D.C. community activist Malik Farrakhan (not related to Louis Farrakhan) spoke to the troubled past history of America, proclaiming "the U.S. has no right to call others terrorists."
"There is nowhere in the world you can continue to be a bully in your neighborhood and not expect someone to rise up against you," Mr. Farrakhan said.
"Yet, I am proud and honored to be a Muslim in America and an American," he added.
While many in the crowd clapped and cheered for those who spoke against the United States, others stood and proclaimed their pride in being Americans, but also shared their disdain about innocent women and children being killed by the "so-called smart bomb."
"As a Muslim, I don't like to see my Muslim brothers and sisters killed. I understand [Americas] need for revenge, but religion should be our guide, not politics," said Akubar Jones, 52, of the District.
The meeting of nearly 100 guests filled the Holeman Lounge at the National Press Club, opening with chants of "Power to the people" and "Black power." Among them was Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, which sponsored the meeting.
"You must put yourselves in the shoes of those innocent [Afghans] who have been oppressed and try to see life through their eyes," said Mr. Razzag. "Would you bomb and destroy all of America to get bin Laden if he were here?"

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