Charleston Daily Mail
September 19, 2001 | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON – American Muslim groups said U.S. retaliation for last week’s terrorist attacks should target only those proven to be directly responsible.
Any other course “may lead to the increase of anti-American sentiments and extremism, which are the salient factors in terrorism,” said Shaker Elsayed, secretary general of the Muslim American Society.
“We join all other Americans in our unequivocal condemnation of the attacks as un-Islamic, barbaric and inhumane,” he said Tuesday.
Elsayed said there must be retaliation for the attacks, but he and the leaders of several other groups representing Muslim Americans warned that the United States should first present to the world internationally accepted evidence of the terrorists’ identity.
Any nation suspected of harboring the suspected terrorists should then be given a deadline for surrendering them before becoming the target of a U.S. attack, Elsayed said. And any U.S. military action should be limited to those directly involved in the attacks, their accomplices and their network of associates, he said.
“Justice should be done,” said Naim Baig, secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America. “We do not want killing of civilians and innocent people.”
“There is no provision in Islam for attacking innocent civilians, period,” Elsayed said.
Abdul wahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Islamic Institute in Washington, said the United States risks losing an international coalition supporting its anti-terrorist campaign if it does not take such precautions.
Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has been identified as the prime suspect behind the attacks, in which four jetliners were hijacked last Tuesday and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania.
Between 100 and 700 of the more than 5,000 people believed to have died are Muslims and Arabs, said Raeed Tayeh with the United Association for Studies and Research. He said many Muslims and Arabs gave blood and volunteered after the attack.
The Muslim leaders repeated their fears that Americans of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims – as well as those who just appear to be Arab or Muslim – are being singled out for threats and beatings in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened at least 40 hate crime investigations into such reported attacks, including two killings possibly motivated by anti-Arab sentiment.
Several of the leaders said the FBI’s investigation has violated Muslims’ civil rights. Agents have gone to mosques around the country demanding access to congregations during worship services and coerced cooperation by threatening the involvement of immigration officials, said Stanley Cohen, a civil rights attorney from New York.
“I accuse the FBI of systematically violating the rights of people of color, of Muslims, and undocumented, as they say, aliens,” Cohen said.
Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters Tuesday that the government is “going to do everything we can to harmonize the constitutional rights of individuals … to also protect the safety and security of individuals.”
FBI Director Robert Mueller said Monday the agency only questions people “based on predications that the individual may have information relating to the acts that took place last week.”
Charleston Daily Mail