- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Muslims in America

Some Christian and Jewish leaders are objecting to a State Department Web site that extols the "extraordinary range and richness" of the American Islamic community.

"Muslim Life in America" (www.state.gov/products/pubs/muslim life) appears to violate the constitutional principle of the separation of religion and government, according to David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee; Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.

In a letter last week to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, they said they understand the Web site is an attempt portray the positive side of Islam and Muslim contributions to the United States.

"It is important to emphasize that we are not at war with the Muslim world," they said.

However, they said the site creates the impression that the State Department is favoring one religion over another.

"Insofar as we are aware, no similar Web site has been established by the department with respect to any other religious group," they said.

They also complained about a list of American Muslim groups included on the site because it "creates the impression of endorsing particular interpretations of Islam."

The State Department, they said, "places our government in the position of appearing to endorse a particular faith group as making uniquely noteworthy contributions to American life."

A State Department spokesman yesterday said there was no attempt to promote one religion over another.

The Web site discusses the American tradition of religious tolerance and notes that Muslims "make up only one segment in the complex mosaic of American religious life today."

Roush not forgotten

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, the Virginia Republican who is endorsing a demonstration outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy today, did not mean to snub an American woman whose two daughters have been held in Saudi Arabia for 16 years, a spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Wolf's summer interns organized the protest after learning of the fate of a 19-year-old American woman held under similar circumstances in Saudi Arabia and probably were not aware of the specifics of the cases involving 45 other U.S. citizens in the desert kingdom, said Dan Scandling, an aide to the congressman.

The interns are focused on the case of Amjad Radwan but intend their protest to represent all American citizens held against their will in Saudi Arabia, he said.

Pat Roush, whose estranged husband took her children to Saudi Arabia in 1986, said she felt her daughters were forgotten when she read an item about the protest in yesterday's Embassy Row column.

Mr. Scandling said Mr. Wolf is aware of her plight and "we'll make sure we mention it" at the 10 a.m. demonstration.

"Her case is no less important," he said.

Mrs. Roush said her daughters, now 20 and 23, have "languished inside the Saudi dungeon" for nearly 17 years. They have been the subject of articles in The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications.

"My daughters should not be forgotten," she said.

Nathan the Wise

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan continues to try to present the better side of Islam with his latest mailing to reporters.

The ambassador sent videotapes of a recent production of the 18th-century play "Nathan the Wise," which promotes religious tolerance among Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The play is set during a truce in the Third Crusade in 1192 and involves a fictional debate among Templar, a Christian knight; Nathan, a Jew; and Saladin, a Muslim leader over which is the greatest religion. They conclude it is impossible to decide.

Originally written by the German playwright, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the production is a recent adaptation by dramatist Paul D'Andrea.

"In his play, Lessing brilliantly depicted the ridiculousness of religious bigotry," Prince Bandar said in a letter accompanying the videotape. "Two hundred years later, his message is still very relevant."

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