- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Ten major U.S. Muslim organizations issued statements yesterday condemning the sneak air attacks against the Pentagon and New York's twin World Trade Center towers that injured and killed perhaps thousands of Americans.
"There is no cause that justifies this type of immoral and inhumane act," said officials of the American Muslim Council (AMC). They called for "swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators."
Leaders of the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council said the attacks were "vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism."
"No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts," they said.
"This is not 10 or 20 years ago, when Americans were surprised by the Iranian revolution," said Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America. "People are very familiar with their Muslim neighbors."
He said Muslims were immediately blamed for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, when the culprit was actually Timothy McVeigh. "This is not turning out to be like 1995, because the press has matured," he said.
Yet such gigantic acts of terrorism as those in New York and Washington can't help but revive images or stereotypes from the past, said John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.
"Things have gotten better for American Muslims, but this will have an unfortunate fallout," he said. "They are in a tough spot."
The nation's 5 million Muslims are mostly immigrants or children of immigrants. Consequently, they frequently are associated with political turmoil or struggles for human rights abroad, Mr. Syeed said. "As Americans, we support the rights of our people, but it does not mean we endorse" one political solution or another.
Muslim leaders also said they repeatedly condemn terrorism and often distance themselves specifically from the more extreme political groups — though not all the time.
Members of the AMC have endorsed Hamas, a political wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They protested the criminal proceedings against the Egyptian cleric, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahma, when he was given a life sentence for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Mr. Esposito said that if Muslims now distance themselves from any particular radical group, they will make Islam look complicit when nobody yet knows who masterminded the terrorism.
"That would be premature and play into the idea" of Muslim guilt, he said.
If a terrorist who espouses Islam is identified, he said, "I expect major Muslim leaders will jump out front" to condemn that group.
Mr. Esposito said Americans must distinguish "legitimate resistance" movements that involve Muslims abroad from terrorist organizations.
The AMC, meanwhile, said yesterday it "supports all efforts of the investigation in order to track down the people responsible."


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