- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Outreach to Islam

A former prime minister of Pakistan yesterday urged President Bush to use his second term to reach out to Muslims who feel that the war on terror is really a war against Islam.

“People in Pakistan felt he was against Muslims when he invaded Iraq,” Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told Embassy Row. “He must reach out to Muslims and reverse this perception.”

Mr. Hussain, now the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, the country’s largest political party, predicted Mr. Bush’s re-election. He said he told Pakistani friends who thought Sen. John Kerry would win that Mr. Bush’s supporters were committed to the president and supporters of the Massachusetts Democrat were less enthusiastic for their candidate.

“People were not voting for Kerry. They were voting against Bush,” he said. “There is no doubt that the majority has given a victory to Mr. Bush, and we should honor that.”

Now Mr. Bush “has an opportunity to heal the wounds of the past,” he added.

“He needs to build bridges of trust and confidence and reunite an extremely divided world. The doctrines of the clash of civilizations are too divisive and dangerous and are not in the best interest of the human civilization,” he said.

Mr. Hussain is in Washington on a private visit and was accompanied by M. Akram Zaki, the party’s senior vice president, and Malik Zahoor Ahmad, a former spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy. Mr. Hussain spoke the day after Mr. Bush hosted a dinner at the White House for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

Mr. Bush, obviously reaching out to Muslims, said, “America is strong and more hopeful because of the generosity and compassion of our Muslim citizens. Our nation is safer and more prosperous because we have a close relationship with our Islamic friends around the world.”

Mr. Hussain also discussed the “common heritage” of Islam, Judaism and Christianity through the Prophet Abraham.

“It is an irony that … the three religions that have a common spiritual heritage … [are in] conflict and confrontation,” he said.

Mr. Hussain called for a dialogue among the three religions.

“We should start a dialogue, not only between Muslims and Christians but also between Muslims and Jews,” he said. “I am ready to start a Muslim-Jewish dialogue.”

On the controversy over Kashmir, he advised the United States to stay in the background diplomatically and allow India and Pakistan to settle their differences about the region. He called for “summit-level” meetings between the two nuclear rivals to promote self-determination for the Muslims of the Indian sector of Kashmir.

Referring to terrorism in Pakistan, Mr. Hussain said the country is experiencing a new wave of suicide bombings.

“We must ask ourselves questions. What is it that drives a young man or woman of 16 to 19 years of age to tie a bomb to their body and accept certain death? What are the causes that drive them to such extreme frustration, anger and despair to destroy their own lives?” he said.

He believes the “root causes lie in extreme injustice.”

“The causes of injustice must be removed as part of the strategy to eliminate terrorism,” he said.

Inviting terrorism

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines is again warning Manila against negotiating with the abductors of a second Filipino in Iraq.

“When you make concessions to the kidnappers, you invite more kidnappings,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told reporters in Manila yesterday. “They will identify your country or state as giving in, and then you get more of the same.”

The Philippine government this week confirmed it is negotiating for the release of a Filipino accountant kidnapped in Baghdad. In July, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo withdrew Philippine forces from Iraq to win the release of a Filipino truck driver.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]om.

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