- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) — The Pentagon and State Department have begun distributing pamphlets aimed at influencing American Muslims to support action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The glossy 12-page book is entitled "Saddam Hussein: A Nightmare for Muslims." Largely a compendium of previously published human rights reports, it is already being distributed in "outreach meetings" conducted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with religious and community leaders and other State and Defense department officials.

Nowhere on the pamphlet are there indications that it is a U.S. government publication. According to the Pentagon official who provided United Press International with a copy, the booklet was created by the Pentagon Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Office and the State Department.

A poll conducted of 502 American Muslims by the American Muslim Council and Zogby International in March 2000 suggests that the Pentagon has its work cut out for them: 9.8 percent believed normalization of U.S. relations with Muslim countries to be very important and 77.2 percent said the current economic sanctions against Iraq should be lifted.

A poll taken last year by the council indicated that one-third of American Muslims polled saw the war in Afghanistan as a war on Islam, rather than on terrorism. Half of those polled supported the war.

The pamphlet begins with a quote from Abdel Sabour Shaheen, a linguistics professor at the University of Cairo.

"Consider how much Muslim blood was unjustly shed by Saddam and his likes. That is the tragedy," Shaheen is quoted as saying.

The inside cover outlines the basic case against Saddam, as argued by the pamphlet.

"Saddam's Iraq restricts Islam (with a) … ban on the Muslim call to prayer in certain cities; ban on the broadcast of Shi'a programs on government-controlled radio or television; ban on the publication of Shi'a books, including prayer books; ban on funeral processions other than those organized by the government; and prohibition of certain processions and public meetings commemorating Shi'a holy days."

It also shows a picture of a Kuwaiti mosque "ransacked by Iraqi soldiers" in 1990.

The pamphlet lists 16 instances where Saddam's government has "persecuted Muslims" — a litany of arrests, torture and executions as well as the prohibition on preaching and free practice of religion.

One of the episodes listed is the 1983 arrest of 90 and subsequent execution of 16 members of the family of Mohammed Baqir al Hakim, a cleric who then fled to Iran. There he founded the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of six Iraqi opposition groups receiving funding from the United States government.

The booklet quotes liberally from Amnesty International's 1999 report, "Iraq: Victims of Systematic Repression," as well as a 1999 United Nations report on human rights in the country. It talks specifically about al Najaf, a southern city where 106 Shi'a clerics and students were arrested by the government in March 1991 after an ill-fated uprising. Their fate remains unknown, according to Amnesty's report.

The pamphlet carefully avoids editorializing on its own, quoting and footnoting Human Rights Watch, the International Coalition for Religious Freedom and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

It ends with a sprinkling of quotes from Arab academics and the Kuwaiti information minister, Badr Gassem El Ya'quob.

"The Iraqi regime defies all teachings of Islam (with) … all the feeling of Muslims and challenged the international humanitarian endeavors by its exaggerated and disdainful violation of human rights, sanctity and honor, exemplified in the murder, starvation and detention of citizens."

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