- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Muslim collegians are quickly moving into the leadership of U.S. anti-war protests, such as today's One-Day National Student Strike on 300 high school and college campuses.
Although the "strike" which ranges from class walkouts to lunchtime lectures is organized by the secular left-wing National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, many Muslim student groups across the country are providing support and manpower.
"They are very active," coalition spokesman Andy Burns said of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) of the U.S. and Canada, the only religious group in the 15-member National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.
"The way the student peace movement has worked since September 11 is we've formed coalitions on most campuses. The [Muslim Student Association] is usually, if not most of the time, active because [Muslims] are a target population," Mr. Burns said.
The MSA, which began in 1963 with 75 students on 10 campuses, has branched out to tens of thousands of students in more than 150 college chapters. Based in Northern Virginia, it released a statement on September 11 condemning the terrorist attacks but questioning whether Osama bin Laden was responsible. The following month, it condemned U.S.-led attacks in Afghanistan. On Dec. 14, 2001, it blamed bin Laden for the September 11 attacks and for creating a "great disservice to Islam and Muslims by hijacking our religion to justify falsely the devastating loss of life and property in New York."
Unlike in Vietnam-era protests, Muslim students are a major influence in today's anti-war movement. Muslim students are steering committee members of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, a radical leftist group that organized the Oct. 26 and Jan. 18 anti-war demonstrations on the Mall.
The MSA chapter at the University of Pennsylvania has formed its own political action committee, Penn Muslims for Justice, which will make its campus debut today during a Books Not Bombs demonstration.
The University of Michigan's 250-member MSA has joined forces with the student group Antiwar Action to sponsor today's all-day "teach-in," which includes a speaker on civil liberties furnished by the MSA. In January, the two groups co-hosted a "Stop the War" conference about Iraq.
"We work a lot with members of their political committee," said Max Sussman, an organizer with Antiwar Action who expects at least 500 people to attend today's rally.
But during an organizing meeting for Antiwar Action in November, some students with the MSA and the American Anti-Discrimination Committee were criticized by the Michigan Daily, a college newspaper, for "injecting anti-Israel sentiment" into the gathering. In October, a conference co-sponsored by the University of Michigan's MSA called for the United States to end its government aid to Israel.
On other campuses, Jewish and Muslim students work together. Raef Haggag, a junior at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, represents the campus MSA and leads the outreach committee for today's student strike. He said Jewish and Arab Christian students are helping to organize today's demonstration at noon at McKeldin Mall.
"If you care anything about humanity, you should oppose this war," he said. "The least we can do is protest." The University of Maryland's MSA chapter as well as a related student group, Muslim Women of Maryland, is one of 10 student organizations endorsing the strike and providing speakers.
Sarah Ahmed, an outreach coordinator for the MSA as well as an organizer for the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, said Muslim students have been demonstrating against a war in Iraq "for years."
"No one listened before now," she said, "but now the mainstream public is starting to get involved."

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