- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

Several Muslim social scientists from U.S. universities urged their fellow believers at a weekend conference in Washington to reform Islam's record on human rights, violence and treatment of women before Muslims demand full acceptance by Americans.
"We have to develop a culture of human rights and civil rights," Muqtedar Khan, chairman of international relations at Adrian College in Michigan, told the 31st annual conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. "Which means we have to speak out on violations of human rights in the Muslim world."
Mr. Khan, who also criticized the USA Patriot Act for its assumption of extraordinary police powers and the "rewriting of the Constitution" to discriminate against Muslims, is considered a moderate in the inter-Muslim debate here.
Another social scientist regarded as a moderate in Muslim circles, Zahid Bukhari of Georgetown University, agreed. "We should address our own issues honestly and frankly," said Mr. Bukhari, who cited "extreme tendencies" in mosques. "Muslims in this part of the world are best positioned to check these situations."
Mr. Bukhari, who is conducting a demographic study called "Muslims in the American Public Square," said the goal of American Muslims should not be to change U.S. foreign policy, the goal of most Islamic organizations, but to promote fairness in America. "Our goal should be for social justice in society for every group," Mr. Bukhari told a gathering of more than 30 professors and students Friday.
Many of his colleagues, however, remain less apologetic and decry not Muslim insensitivity to mainstream American culture, but the loss of Muslim civil rights in America after September 11 and what they call the injustices of the West.
The Washington conference, which ended yesterday, was co-sponsored by the School of International Service at American University. The conference for a second year focused on American Islam after September 11 and featured 44 presentations. These ranged from an analysis of domestic politics and media coverage to Muslim pluralism, Western colonialism, war on Iraq and reform movements within Islam.
Many attending described the fiercest critics of Muslims as members of "the Israeli lobby" and conservative evangelical churches. Ahmad Dallal of Stanford University said American Muslims should not forfeit their role in the U.S. foreign policy debate.
"The hate campaigns against Muslims are not accidental," he said, arguing that they are designed to support Israeli interests, war on Iraq and to bolster Christian proselytizers. "More troubling [was that] President Bush did not respond, nor did anyone in his administration," he said.
Muslim activists have noted that, except for immediately after September 11, the administration has avoided contact with U.S. Muslim groups.
"The American media has grabbed onto the clash of civilizations, a 'them against us,'" said M. Nazif Shahrani of Indiana University. "We have the obligation as social scientists to criticize the way things are being conceptualized." Mr. Shahrani noted that Islamic radicals killed 60,000 fellow Muslims in Afghanistan as well as more than 3,000 Americans. "[Muslims] are so afraid of being self-critical because everyone else is criticizing us," he said.
Before September 11, Muslims in U.S. society were taken as simply a domestic religious group, not an international Islamic civilization, as Europe has viewed Muslims, said Jocelyne Cesari, a French Muslim scholar at Harvard University.
"You Muslims in America are converging on the European experience," she said. "This is the first time that a religion has been considered dangerous on American soil. Religion has always been seen as dangerous in Europe."
The social scientists generally accept the low estimates of the number of Muslims in the United States, or about 2 million; some Muslim activists insist the number is closer to 6 million. After September 11, many social scientists say, the flow of Muslim immigration, mostly from the Middle East, has diminished sharply.
Several participants argued that despite the difficulties after September 11, there is a "civil society" of different social groups and local politics where Muslims can find allies.

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