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2002 News

Yemeni Town Mourns U.S. Missionaries

.c The Associated Press

JIBLA, Yemen (AP) - For many here, the American missionaries at a Baptist hospital here were not seen as Christian intruders in a Muslim land, but as friends to the residents of this poor town in the rugged hills of southern Yemen.

Townspeople gathered to mourn at the gates of the hospital on Tuesday, a day after the director, a popular doctor and a third employee at Jibla Baptist Hospital were gunned down by a suspected Muslim militant.

On the other side of the gates - shut since the shooting - two of the dead were buried in a missionary cemetery in the hospital compound. Dr. Martha C. Myers, 57, of Montgomery, Ala., had worked in Yemen for 24 years; hospital director William E. Koehn, 60, of Arlington, Texas, had planned to retire next October after 28 years at the hospital.

The body of the third victim - Kathleen A. Gariety, 53, of Wauwatosa, Wis., who had worked in Yemen for 10 years - was to be flown to the United States.

``Today was very sad for all of us, and what made it even more sad was that we couldn't participate in the burial,'' said Malka al-Hadhrami, a Jibla resident who said she worked as a clerk for Myers for 18 years.

``All Jibla weeps for them,'' al-Hadhrami said, choking back tears.

Samira Abdullah, wearing a black veil that cloaked everything but her eyes, said Myers treated her during her first pregnancy, when she was confined to her bed for months for fear she would lose the baby.

``Every day she looked after me, she used to come to my house, until I was able to stand and walk without endangering my pregnancy,'' Abdullah said, cradling her 2-year-old son in her arms.

``Without her, I wouldn't have Ali,'' Abdullah said. ``She was a friend more than a doctor.''

In Monday's attack, the gunman slipped past the hospital's weapons check, hiding his rifle. He then shot Myers, Koehn and Gariety in the head and wounded pharmacist Donald W. Caswell, 49, of Levelland, Texas, who had been in Yemen for 18 months.

Yemeni investigators suspect that the gunman, who was arrested, has ties to the Islamic militant terror network al-Qaida.

Jibla residents stressed that the accused gunman was an outsider, from San'a, the capital.

The hospital, a compound of several low, white bungalows surrounded by eucalyptus trees, is perched on one of the myriad hills of Jibla, 125 miles south of San'a.

Through the gates Tuesday, a sign could be glimpsed laying down the rules for visitors: ``No smoking, no khat, no weapons.''

Khat leaves - which give an amphetamine-like high when chewed - and weapons are both ubiquitous in Yemen, where the government has little control over many areas outside the capital.

In Jibla, unpaved streets wind up the hills past small houses without running water. Water is hauled on donkey back from a dam to fill tanks at homes. The residents make their living as farmers, growing wheat, corn, oranges and vegetables in the rocky soil.

Founded in 1967 by James and June Young, a Southern Baptist couple from Louisiana, the hospital treats more than 40,000 patients annually, providing free care to the poor, according to the Southern Baptists' International Missions Board.

Mourners at the gates Tuesday said even when fees where charged, they were minimal. A visit with a doctor was about 6 cents, they said - about a fourth the rate at the private clinic in the nearest large town, Ibb. The average Yemeni makes about $350 a year, according to the World Bank.

Hospital staff reached beyond their compound, teaching English and clinical skills at a nearby nursing school, providing medical care for inmates at a prison in the next town and helping out with U.N. vaccination drives.

Abdullah Ali al-Saqqaf, 28, said Myers used to visit Jibla residents in their homes, socializing and sharing meals.

Al-Saqqaf said he saw Myers twice this year with a stomachache. ``Both times I went, after the medicine she gave me, I was as fit as a horse,'' he said.

Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, said the organization would continue to operate in Yemen. It was not clear when the hospital would reopen to patients.

Because of funding problems, the Baptist missionary board was preparing to transfer control of the hospital to a local charity.

The State Department, in annual reviews of the status of freedom of religion around the world, had noted occasional threats against the hospital by local Islamic extremists, who feared it might be a source of Christian evangelism. But the State Department said there had been no threats for several years and ``the hospital enjoys widespread community support.''

The conservative Southern Baptists - the United States' largest Protestant group, with 15.9-million members - have run into controversy in the United States on the question of Islam.

Earlier this year, a Southern Baptist minister called the Muslim Prophet Muhammad a ``demon-possessed pedophile'' - comments that U.S. Muslim leaders denounced as bigoted. However, the Southern Baptist Convention's president, Rev. Jack Graham, defended the comments as ``accurate.''

Graham said Monday that aside from providing humanitarian aid, the missionaries in Yemen were ``there because they're Christians and they have no doubt been sharing their faith.''

But the Baptists in Jibla appeared to have sought to avoid controversy over preaching Christianity. In Yemen, non-Muslims are prohibited from proselytizing and the few Christians are for the most part foreign.

``They never raised any religious issue or talked about religion,'' Issam al-Alasi said of the hospital staff.

Hani al-Hayoun, another resident, added: ``There's not even a cross on the hospital building.''

12/31/02 16:13 EST


Cleric Detained in Pakistan Church Attack

.c The Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) - Mourners buried three girls killed in a Christmas Day grenade attack on a tiny church in eastern Pakistan, and police detained an Islamic cleric who allegedly called on followers to kill Christians days before the bombing.

Police also detained five other people Thursday for questioning in the attack, which injured 13 people in Chianwala, about 40 miles northwest of Lahore.

Two assailants covered in burqas - the all-encompassing garment worn by women in some Islamic countries - tossed a grenade into a crowd of about 40 worshippers at a Christmas Day service Wednesday.

``I saw people running in panic. I too ran toward the church and there ... I saw children, girls and men bleeding, and crying in pain,'' said Iris Aslam, who lives near the church.

Aslam also saw her husband lying wounded on the ground, writhing in pain. ``He said that two youngsters had thrown a grenade into the church.''

On Thursday, about 2,500 people, several times the number of the church's normal congregation, gathered for a memorial service for the girls killed in the attack.

The coffins of the victims - aged 6, 10 and 15 - were carried on the shoulders of mourners to a cemetery for burial.

Pakistani leaders denounced the latest in a series of attacks on Christians that have left more than two dozen people dead and at least 100 injured since Pakistan lent its support to the U.S.-led military campaign to oust Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban last year.

In a statement, newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali described the attack as ``dastardly'' and designed to ``foment religious and sectarian strife'' in Pakistan.

The detained cleric - who uses only the one name, Afzar - allegedly made anti-Christian remarks three days before the attack in a sermon at a mosque in Daska district, not far from the attack site. But there was no evidence to link him directly to the blast.

Afzar reportedly told his congregation that ``it is the duty of every good Muslim to kill Christians,'' according to Nazir Yaqub, a police officer in Daska.

``Afzar told people 'you should attack Christians and not even have food until you have seen their dead bodies,''' Yaqub told The Associated Press by telephone.

Afzar's son, Attaullah, was also detained for questioning. The two are open supporters of the banned group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a violent anti-India organization with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network, said a police officer in Chianwala, Mohammed Riaz.

The group, outlawed by Pakistan in January, told The Associated Press it did not carry out the attack. ``We did not assign anyone to do this,'' said the group's spokesman, Mufti Abdul Raouf.

Riaz said the cleric and his sons were suspected of being trained at a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.

Four other people have been detained, including two suspected Islamic militants and a man ``who was accused by the local Christian leaders of carrying out the attack,'' said Chianwala police official Mohammed Ashraf.

The attack brought condemnations from many sectors in the country.

``Those who kill Christians serve the cause of enemies of Islam,'' said a spokesman for the militant Islamic Jamaat al-Dawat organization - known as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba before it was outlawed. ``Christians are our brothers and they are living here in a peaceful manner,'' Aftab Ahmad said.

Members of Pakistan's 3.8-million Christian community expressed outrage.

``Now we will not keep silent,'' said Shehbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian who leads the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which includes Sikh, Hindu, Parsi and other minorities. ``We will protest at all levels against the brutal killings of our Christians.''

Around 200 demonstrators, mainly Christians and a handful of their Muslim supporters, gathered in front of the Catholic Cathedral Church in the central Pakistani city of Multan.

``We want protection but the present government has failed in this,'' Andrew Francis, the bishop of Multan, told protesters - who chanted slogans demanding swift police action.

``This government has failed to curb the menace of extremism,'' Afrasiab Khattak, head of the independently run Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said. ``Communal hatred and violence has persisted despite the government's tall claims of reform.''

There have been four other attacks on Christians in Pakistan this year, which have killed more than two dozen people.

12/26/02 11:39 EST


Poll: Muslims Say Terror War Targets Islam

.c The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - More than two-thirds of British Muslims surveyed consider the war on terrorism a war against Islam, a poll conducted for the British Broadcasting Corp. showed Monday.

The ICM survey of 500 people also revealed that more than half of British Muslims believe Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network should not have been blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

However, 11 percent said they believed further attacks against the United States by al-Qaida or similar groups would be justified, and 8 percent said such attacks would be justified against Britain.

In the survey, people were asked: ``President Bush and Tony Blair say that the war against terrorism is not a war against Islam. Do you agree or disagree?''

Seventy percent said they disagreed, 20 percent said they agreed and 10 percent said they did not know.

When asked whether they believed the United States and its allies were justified in blaming the Sept. 11 attacks on al-Qaida, 17 percent answered 'yes' while 56 percent replied 'no.'

Also, 64 percent said al-Qaida should not have been blamed for the October bombings on Bali that killed 192 people and similar terrorist attacks.

Yet 44 percent said attacks by al-Qaida or similar groups are justified because Muslims are being killed by the United States or allies using American weapons. Forty-six percent said such attacks were not justified. The survey question did not say where Muslims were being killed.

Although 67 percent of respondents said they felt somewhat or very patriotic toward Britain, 8 percent said attacks by al-Qaida or associated organizations against Britain would be justified.

There are about 1.5 million Muslims living in Britain. In the survey for the BBC, 37 percent said there was an increase in hostility toward them or their family by non-Muslims as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Also, 84 percent said the British government should get United Nations approval before committing British forces to any attack on Iraq.

No margin of error was given for the poll, conducted by telephone this month by the ICM market research agency. Most respondents were identified through past phone surveys that included questions on religion.

The British Council of Muslims, an umbrella group representing mainstream Muslim groups, said it agreed with some of the poll opinions, particularly concerning the war against terrorism.

``Many of our affiliates are now complaining that this is turning into a war on Islam,'' council spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said.

But Bunglawala said the council disagreed with those who believed the Sept. 11 attacks were justified.

``The vast majority of Muslims (believe) you can never justify the killing of innocent people on Sept. 11,'' he said.

On the Net:

BBC poll: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/politics/islam-poll.shtml

Muslim Council of Britain: http://www.mcb.org.uk/

12/23/02 10:08 EST


Convert to Islam! PBS says with your tax dollars

By Daniel Pipes

What would be the best way to convert lots of Americans to Islam?

Forget print, go to film. Put together a handsome documentary with an original musical score that presents Islam's prophet Muhammad in the most glowing manner, indeed, as a model of perfection. Round up Muslim and non-Muslim enthusiasts to endorse the nobility and truth of his message. Splice in vignettes of winsome American Muslims testifying to the justice and beauty of their Islamic faith. Then get the U.S. taxpayer to help pay for it.

Show it at prime time on the most high-minded TV network. Oh, and screen it at least once during the holidays, when anyone out of synch with Christmas might be especially susceptible to another religion's appeal.

This is precisely what the producers of "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" have done. In a documentary The Washington Post calls "absorbing, . . . enjoyable and informative," exotic images of the desert and medieval miniatures mix with scenes of New York City and the American flag. Born - and convert-American Muslims speak affectingly about their personal bond to their prophet.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will premiere this two-hour documentary across the nation tomorrow night, then repeat it in most areas. The film's largest tranche of funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress that in fiscal 2002 received $350 million in taxpayers' funds.

The heart of the film consists of nine talking heads competing with each other to praise Muhammad the most extravagantly. Not one of them criticizes him.

Some of their efforts are laughable, as when one commentator denies allegations about Muhammad contracting a marriage of convenience with a rich, older woman named Khadija: "He deeply, deeply loved Khadija." Oh, and his many marriages were "an act of faith, not of lust." How could anyone know this?

Other apologetics are more consequential. What Muhammad did for women, viewers learn, was "amazing" - his condemning female infanticide, giving legal rights to wives, permitting divorce and protecting their inheritance rights. But no commentator is so impolite as to note that however admirable this was in the 7th century, Muslim women today suffer widely from genital mutilation, forced marriages, purdah, illiteracy, sexual apartheid, polygamy and honor killings.

The film treats religious beliefs - such as Muhammad's "Night Journey," when the Quran says he went to heaven and entered the divine presence - as historical fact. It presents Muslim wars as only defensive and reluctant, which is simply false. All this smacks of a film shown by missionaries.

Move to the present and the political correctness is stifling. Hostility is said to be "hurled" at American Muslims since 9/11 - but there's no mention about the prior and vastly greater (foreign) Muslim hostility "hurled" at Americans, killing several thousand. The narrator exaggerates the number of American Muslims, overestimates their rate of growth and wrongly terms them the country's "most diverse" religious community.

But these are details. "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" is an outrage on two main counts. PBS has betrayed its viewers by presenting an airbrushed and uncritical documentary of a topic that has both world historical and contemporary significance. Its patronizing film might be fine for an Islamic Sunday school class, but not for a national audience.

For example, PBS ignores an ongoing scholarly reassessment of Muhammad's life that disputes every detail - down to the century and region Muhammad lived in - of its film. This is especially odd when contrasted with the 1998 PBS documentary, "From Jesus to Christ," which focuses almost exclusively on the work of cutting-edge scholars and presents the latest in critical thinking on Jesus.

The U.S. government should never fund a documentary whose obvious intent is to glorify a religion and proselytize for it. Doing so flies in the face of American tradition and law. On behalf of taxpayers, a public-interest law firm should bring suit against the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, both to address this week's travesty and to win an injunction against any possible repetitions.


Egypt Court Nixes Sociologist's Sentence

.c The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Egypt's highest appeal court ordered a retrial for an Egyptian-American sociologist Tuesday, overturning his conviction for tarnishing Egypt's image with his writings on democracy and human rights.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim's conviction and sentencing to seven years in prison last year had been condemned by human rights groups around the world as politically motivated. The case had also strained ties between Egypt and the United States.

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court said at least five of its judges will preside over the retrial set to start on Jan. 7. It will be Ibrahim's third trial on the same charges.

The court did not say whether the ailing Ibrahim - who was in prison on Tuesday - would be freed pending his new trial. But his lawyer told The Associated Press that under the law Ibrahim should be released immediately.

Ibrahim, who turned 64 on Tuesday and is in poor health, was convicted May 21, 2001 and sentenced to seven years for tarnishing Egypt's image, accepting foreign money without government approval and embezzling funds.

He was granted a retrial after an earlier appeal. The second trial ended July 29 with a conviction and the same seven-year sentence and he appealed again.

Onlookers in the small courtroom in downtown Cairo on Tuesday clapped and exchanged kisses when the ruling was read.

Ibrahim founded and directed the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, which campaigned for political and economic reform in the Arab world.

He was first arrested with 27 others, mostly center staff, in July 2000 after announcing they would monitor Egypt's 2000 parliamentary elections. The center's report on the previous elections, in 1995, claimed voting was rigged.

Following Ibrahim's second conviction, President Bush announced that to protest the Ibrahim case the United States would oppose aid to Egypt beyond the $2 billion that it receives from Washington each year.

Egypt responded that Ibrahim's conviction was a judicial, not a political, matter and that it would accept no attempt to interfere in its internal affairs.

London-based Amnesty International called the charges against Ibrahim and his co-defendants ``a pretext to punish them for criticizing government policies.''

In the most recent appeal, Ibrahim's lawyers argued their defense had not been thoroughly considered by the trial judges.

Among other things, defense lawyers said, the trial court ignored evidence presented by Awad El-Mor, former leading judge of the Supreme Court, who had appeared in Ibrahim's defense to challenge the constitutionality of a 1992 military decree barring Egyptians from accepting foreign money without government permission.

The appeal also noted that Khaled Fayad, one of the main defendants, had testified during the retrial that he was pressured by security police to falsely accuse Ibrahim of embezzling funds his center received from the European Union.

Ibrahim lawyers also noted that the European Union has said in an affidavit it did not believe its grants, which totaled about $250,000, were misused.

Witnesses - including prominent intellectuals, a former general in the Egyptian army and a lawmaker from Egypt's ruling party - were introduced during the second trial to try to establish the defense's contention that Ibrahim was being prosecuted for opinions that many Egyptians expressed.

The State Security Court that handed down the July conviction had said Ibrahim ``intentionally propagated false statements and biased rumors concerning some internal affairs in the country that could weaken the standing of the state.''

The court said he falsely claimed that Egypt persecutes its Christian Coptic minority and mistreats human rights groups.

Ibrahim has been jailed since the July conviction and also spent eight months in prison after the first conviction.

The sociology professor at the American University in Cairo holds both U.S. and Egyptian citizenship. His American wife, a native of Palatine, Illinois has been among the most vocal campaigners for his release.

On the Net:

Ibrahim's Web site: http://www.democracy-egypt.org

Egyptian government statements on the case:

12/03/02 07:14 EST


Fatwa on Cyber Terrorism

"(WASHINGTON DC) December 2, 2002.. The Saudi Information Agency has obtained a fatwa approving cyber terrorism issued by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al-Alshaikh, the highest official cleric in the country.

The mufti, who enjoys a position of a minister, published the fatwa in the government financed religious magazine Al-Dawa, headquartered in Riyadh. Al-Alshaikh also heads of the official Council of Senior Religious Scholars.

Following the fatwa numerous Saudi hackers started to attack many websites that included the FBI and Pentagon websites, according to a hacker interviewed by Al-Riyadh newspaper September 5, 2001. The hacker told the paper he attacked over 1000 websites in the USA. Attacked websites included: www.ifccfbi.gov, www.mms.gov, and www.kiss.com.

The Fatwa

Question: If there were websites on the internet that are hostile to Islam, and broadcast immoral materials. Is it permissible for me to send it viruses to disable these websites and destroy it?

Abdul Aziz Saleh Al-Morashid - Erqa

Answer: If these websites are hostile to Islam and you could encounter its evilness with goodness; And to respond to it, refute its falsehood, and show its void content; that would be the best option. But if you are unable to respond to it, and you wanted to destroy it and you have the ability to do so, its ok to destroy it because it is an evil website. Source: AlDaawa Magazin, issue 1741, May 11, 2000."


50 Killed Over Miss World Article

.c The Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - Angry mobs stabbed and set fire to bystanders Thursday in rioting that erupted after a newspaper suggested Islam's founding prophet would have approved of the Miss World beauty pageant. At least 50 people were killed and 200 injured.

The violent demonstrators in the northern city of Kaduna burned churches and rampaged through the streets until hundreds of soldiers were deployed to restore calm and enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

``A lot of people died. We don't know yet exactly how many ... more than 50,'' said Emmanuel Ijewere, the president of the Nigerian Red Cross.

Street demonstrations began Wednesday with the burning of an office of ThisDay newspaper in Kaduna after it published an article questioning Muslim groups that have condemned the Miss World pageant, to be held Dec. 7 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Muslim groups say the pageant promotes sexual promiscuity and indecency.

``What would (the prophet) Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants),'' Isioma Daniel wrote in Saturday's article.

The newspaper ran a brief front-page apology on Monday, followed by a more lengthy retraction on Thursday, saying the offending passage had run by mistake.

In Thursday's rioting, more than 50 people were stabbed, bludgeoned or burned to death and 200 were seriously injured, Ijewere told The Associated Press.

At least four churches were destroyed, he said.

Many of the bodies were taken by Red Cross workers and other volunteers to local mortuaries. Many people remained inside homes that were set afire by the demonstrators, Ijewere said.

Shehu Sani of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress said he watched a crowd stab one young man, then force a tire filled with gasoline around his neck and burn him alive. Sani said he saw three other bodies elsewhere in the city.

Alsa Hassan, founder of another human rights group, Alsa Care, said he saw a commuter being dragged out of his car and beaten to death by protesters.

Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting ``Allahu Akhbar,'' or ``God is great,'' ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, ``Down with beauty'' and ``Miss World is sin.''

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed to restore calm. Riding in pickup trucks, they fired tear gas at protesters marching through otherwise abandoned streets waving tree branches and palm fronds.

State government officials declared a curfew of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Previous riots in Kaduna, a largely Muslim city with a sizable Christian minority, have escalated into religious battles that killed hundreds since civilian government replaced military rule in 1999.

Islamic fundamentalist groups have for several months warned of protests against the Miss World pageant, prompting organizers to postpone the finale until after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The pageant has also drawn protests from other parts of the world.

Contestants from five countries - Costa Rica, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and Panama - are boycotting the event because Islamic courts in Nigeria have sentenced several unmarried women to death by stoning for conceiving babies outside wedlock. Nigeria's government insists none of the judgments will be carried out, although it has refused to intervene directly.

Miss World publicist Stella Din said pageant organizers hoped calm would quickly return to Kaduna.

``We are very, very sad that it has come to this - even if there is a loss of one life, it makes us sad. We are appealing to all to please exercise restraint,'' Din said.

11/21/02 17:54 EST


'It's OK to kill non-Muslims': radical cleric
Segments of taped messages have been posted on Web site

Michael Petrou
The Ottawa Citizen

LONDON -- A radical London-based Muslim cleric has been caught on film urging his followers to kill non-Muslims and commit acts of terrorism.

Tapes of Sheik Abu Hamza, a cleric affiliated with London's Finsbury Park mosque, telling an audience that non-believers should be killed or sold into slavery have been smuggled onto the Internet.

The tapes, which appear to have been made for propaganda purposes, were allegedly given by Mr. Hamza to a researcher who posed as a supporter and infiltrated his inner circle.

"If a kafir person (non-believer) goes in a Muslim country, he is like a cow. Anybody can take him. That is the Islamic law," Mr. Hamza says on one tape.

"If a kafir is walking by and you catch him, he's booty. You can sell him in the market. Most of them are spies. And even if they don't do anything, if Muslims cannot take them and sell them in the market, you just kill them. It's OK."

Mr. Hamza also praises the al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

"If Muslims are having a war against these people, than yes, it is legitimate," he says.

He then praised attacks against ships from non-Muslim countries: "If a ship which loses its way and comes to a Muslim land, they'll take it as booty."

A terrorist attack in 2000 on the USS Cole killed 17 American sailors. The attack has been linked to Muslim militants in Britain, but Mr. Hamza has never been charged.

Despite accusations he recruits for al-Qaeda, Mr. Hamza's only punishment in Britain has been a High Court order banning him from preaching at the Finsbury Park mosque. However, when the Citizen visited the mosque several weeks ago, worshippers had his phone number handy.

"It's all fabrication. He's just taking clips and taking it out of context, as usual," Mr. Hamza said last night when asked about the videos.

He scoffed at suggestions the tapes may lead to his arrest.

He said he can't be accused of inciting people to commit violent acts because he's a cleric who only preaches Muslim law. "I say the reality that's in the Muslim books anyway. Whether I say it or not, it's in the books."

The sheik, who was born in Egypt and grew up in England, then alluded to more violence -- using language similar to that used by Osama bin Laden.

"Just as non-Muslim blood is hot, Muslim blood is hot, too," he said. "It's for them to worry about. When they kill, they will be killed."

Other videos show British Muslims fighting in what appears to be Bosnia, bragging about killing Serbs and carrying out a holy war with other Muslims from all over the world, including Canada.

In one tape, a British medical student, who says his name is Abu Ibrahim, is shown holding a Kalashnikov machine-gun and mocking Muslims whose only contribution to jihad is to donate money to an Islamic charity.

"What we lack are Muslims that are prepared to suffer and sacrifice," he says.

Somewhat bizarrely, Mr. Ibrahim then says fighting a holy war isn't too tough.

"People think that when you come to Bosnia, you sit and there are shells falling around you," he says. "They don't know that we have kebabs. They don't know that we have ice cream and cakes here. ... They don't know that this is a nice holiday for us."

Mr. Ibrahim's speech then becomes gruesome.

"You see the Serbs, the same people that raped our brothers and sisters. You see their dead bodies lying around in the hundreds. You feel that you've achieved something."

Segments of the videos are posted on the Internet at www.johnathangaltfilms.com .

Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen


Convert to Islam or else Statement Attributed to Al-Qaida Wa

.c The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - A statement attributed to al-Qaida threatened more attacks in New York and Washington unless America stops supporting Israel and converts to Islam, an Arab TV reporter who received the unsigned document said Saturday.

Yosri Fouda, correspondent for the satellite station Al-Jazeera, told The Associated Press he received the six-page document on Wednesday. That was a day after the TV station broadcast an audiotape purportedly made by Osama bin Laden.

Fouda, who is known for good contacts within al-Qaida, would only say that the statement came from his sources with the group. But he insisted he was certain it came from the terrorist movement's leadership.

Fouda, speaking by telephone from London, said the statement called on Americans to stop supporting Israel and other governments that ``oppress'' Muslims or face more attacks. The statement also called on Americans to convert to Islam, he said.

Fouda quoted the statement as saying: ``Stop your support for Israel against the Palestinians, for Russians against the Chechens ... for corrupt leaders in our countries ... (and) leave us alone or expect us in Washington and New York.''

He added the statement demanded U.S. troops leave the Arabian Peninsula, and justified the killings of American civilians because they pay taxes that finance military operations.

There was no immediate reaction from Washington. No officials were available for comment at the Pentagon or the National Security Council Saturday afternoon. A report on the statement as described by Fouda was carried in The Sunday Times of London.

Fouda is a prominent Arab television journalist who has broken several important stories about al-Qaida. In September, Al-Jazeera broadcast Fouda's interviews with two top al-Qaida operatives hiding in Pakistan, Ramzi Binalshibh and Khaled Sheik Mohammed.

Binalshibh was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, shortly after the broadcast and was transferred to U.S. custody.

Fouda said the statement also referred to the crisis between the United States and Iraq as one more reason to attack Americans.

``You are placing Muslims under siege in Iraq, where children die every day. Oh, how weird that you don't care for 1.5 million Iraqi children who died under siege, but when 3,000 of your compatriots died, the whole world was shaken,'' Fouda quoted the statement as saying.

Meanwhile, a militant Islamic Web site that carries news about al-Qaida has dismissed as lies a report that a senior member of the terror group is in U.S. custody.

U.S. officials in Washington said Friday that one of the leaders of al-Qaida had been detained in a foreign country and handed over to U.S. authorities.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to identify the detainee, but said he was not al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, his chief depity, his son or the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The site scoffed at the U.S. officials' refusal to name the detainee. ``Maybe they fear to announce a certain name, and al-Qaida would issue a denial so their (the U.S.) situation would become worse,'' it said.

11/16/02 18:22 EST


Leader of 'Muslim Brotherhood' Dies

.c The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Mustafa Mashhour, the leader of Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood who spent more than 20 years in jail, died Thursday. He was 81.

Mashhour, who joined the Brotherhood as a teenager and was its leader since 1996, helped the group gain influence by forging alliances with legal parties. In the 2000 legislative elections, Brotherhood-backed candidates won 17 out of 454 seats, becoming the largest opposition bloc in a parliament dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.

The Brotherhood advocates turning Egypt into a strict Islamic state, and while once known for violence, it says it now seeks change only through peaceful means within the political process.

Mashhour suffered a stroke and went into a coma Oct. 29. He never recovered, his deputy Mamoun el-Hodeiby said.

El-Hodeiby, 82, has been running party affairs since Mashhour's hospitalization, and will succeed to the leadership post.

Founded in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has grown into a vast movement with tens of thousands of supporters and branches in many other Arab nations.

Mashhour joined the Brotherhood in 1938 when he was 17. He received a bachelor's degree in science in 1943 and worked for the Egyptian government's Meteorological Department.

He was sentenced to three years in jail in 1948 after police seized firearms allegedly belonging to the Brotherhood.

The group had a short honeymoon with the government after the July 1952 revolution that ousted Egypt's monarchy. But it was blamed for a failed attempt on the life of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1954. Egypt outlawed the group that same year, and Nasser's regime executed and jailed scores of Brotherhood leaders. Mashhour was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was arrested again in 1965 and held without charges until the late President Anwar Sadat, Nasser's successor, pardoned political prisoners in 1971.

He became the Brotherhood's deputy leader in the 1980s and was the force behind its alliances with other political parties.

Some of Mashhour's views had raised anger, such as his calling for re-instituting the traditional Islamic tax on Christians, a practice dropped in the Muslim world centuries ago.

In 1997, Mashhour caused an uproar when he was quoted in an interview as saying that Egypt's minority Christian Copts should not serve in the armed forces, and that their loyalty could be questioned if Egypt were attacked ``by a Christian country.''

He also said Copts should pay the ``jizyah'' - the tax imposed in the early stage of Islam on non-Muslims living in Islamic countries. After a public outcry, Mashhour denied making the comments.

In the last few years, the government has renewed its crackdown on the group, arresting hundreds of supporters and putting others on trial in military courts.

Mashhour is survived by three daughters and a son. His funeral was scheduled for Friday.

11/14/02 17:31 EST


Powell Criticizes Falwell, Robertson

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Colin Powell, responding to anti-Muslim remarks by conservative Christian leaders, said Thursday, ``This kind of hatred must be rejected.''

Powell, speaking to a gathering of businessmen at the State Department, echoed remarks on Wednesday by President Bush, who took issue with comments by Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Powell said, ``We will reject the kinds of comments you have seen recently where people in this country say that Muslims are responsible for the killing of all Jews.''

He added that this kind of language ``must be spoken out against. We cannot allow this image to go forth of America, because it is an inaccurate image of America.

In a similar vein Bush said on Wednesday that some recent comments about Islam ``do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans.''

Robertson, on his Christian Broadcasting Network, said Jews in the United States should ``wake up, open their eyes and read what is being said about them.''

``This is worse than the Nazis,'' Robertson said Monday. ``Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse.''

Falwell, in a recent interview with CBS' ``60 Minutes,'' said he had concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that the Prophet Muhammad ``was a violent man, a man of war.'' ``I think Muhammad was a terrorist,'' the conservative Baptist minister said.

11/14/02 11:53 EST


Bush Says Islam Is Peaceful Faith

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush characterized Islam as a peaceful faith Wednesday, seeking to distance himself from controversial remarks by conservative Christian leaders Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

``Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans,'' Bush told reporters as he met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. ``Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others.''

``Ours is a country based upon tolerance, Mr. Secretary General,'' Bush said. ``And we respect the faith and we welcome people of all faiths in America, and we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.''

Though Bush never mentioned their names, his remarks came in response to recent comments by Robertson and Falwell, the administration said.

Robertson, on his Christian Broadcasting Network, said Jews in the United States should ``wake up, open their eyes and read what is being said about them.''

``This is worse than the Nazis,'' Robertson said Monday. ``Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse.''

Falwell, in a recent interview with CBS' ``60 Minutes,'' said he had concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that the Prophet Muhammad ``was a violent man, a man of war.'' ``I think Muhammad was a terrorist,'' the conservative Baptist minister said.

Muslims were outraged. An Iranian cleric called for his death while a general strike called to protest his comments in Bombay, India, turned into a riot, and five people were killed. Falwell later apologized.

A senior official said the administration recognized that such comments had angered Muslims abroad and caused them to question whether they represent the opinions of the White House and of the American people.

The issue is particularly delicate for the Bush administration, because such Christian leaders are seen as Bush allies, and the remarks come at a time when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is trying to fan anti-American sentiment by charging Bush hates Islam. A recent tape apparently made by Osama bin Laden also called on Muslims to take up arms against the United States.

Bush has often said he believes Islam is a peaceful religion and has reached out to Muslims repeatedly since Sept. 11.

But given the remarks by Falwell and Robertson, Bush felt he needed to go a step further and repudiate the comments, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bush's remarks came on the same day the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged Bush to repudiate anti-Islamic rhetoric, citing comments by Falwell and others.

``It is time for the president to step up to the plate on the issue of Islamophobia in America,'' said the group's board chairman, Omar Ahmad. ``Merely repeating the mantra that Islam is a 'religion of peace' does little to stem the rising tide of anti-Muslim hate or to mitigate the negative impact that hate has on Muslim families.''

11/13/02 19:34 EST


Putin: Non-Muslims Target of Rebels

.c The Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - A French reporter who questioned the Kremlin's war in Chechnya provoked an angry outburst from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who challenged him to convert to Islam and come to Moscow for circumcision.

During a post-European Union summit news conference, Putin also said Chechen rebels want to kill all non-Muslims and establish an Islamic state in Russia.

Putin became agitated Monday after a reporter from the French newspaper Le Monde questioned his troops' use of heavy weapons against civilians in the war in Chechnya. Chechnya is predominantly Muslim.

``If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow,'' Putin said.

``I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back, afterward,'' he added. Circumcision is a tenet of Islam for all males.

As a result of the faulty translations, there was little coverage of Putin's remarks in the European media on Tuesday. Details of what Putin said were revealed Tuesday when The Associated Press translated an audiotape from the news conference.

EU spokesman Jonathan Faull, who was not at the press conference, said that if reports of Putin's remarks were true they were ``entirely inappropriate.''

Gunnar Wiegand, also a EU spokesman, said it was not the job of EU officials to take responsibility for comments by foreign dignitaries. Russia is not a member of the European Union.

Wiegand said Putin used ``decidedly less robust'' language when speaking with EU leaders about the Chechen war and human rights in the breakaway province.

The translation showed Putin issuing a broadside against the Chechen rebels.

``They talk about setting up a worldwide (Islamic state) and the need to kill Americans and their allies,'' Putin said. ``They talk about the need to kill all...non-Muslims, or 'crusaders,' as they put it. If you are a Christian, you are in danger.

``If you decided to abandon your faith and become an atheist, you also are to be liquidated according to their concept. You are in danger if you decide to become a Muslim. It is not going to save you anyway because they believe traditional Islam is hostile to their goals.''

In Moscow, the daily Kommersant said the EU-Russia summit ``ended in a serious scandal'' because of Putin's comments, which Kremlin aides said were made in response to a ``provocative question.''

Gazeta.ru, a leading online publication in Moscow, quoted unidentified Putin aides as saying the president was tired and angry after being peppered with questions about Chechnya.

Putin owes his quick rise in the Russian power structure to his tough handling of the Chechen war, which has been sharply criticized by many in the West.

Putin claims Russia is fighting international terrorism - not an independence movement - in Chechnya. He calls Chechen fighters ``religious extremists and international terrorists'' whose impact has spread far beyond the borders of the republic.

He pointed to last month's hostage-taking in a Moscow theater by Chechen rebels. Russian special forces troops stormed the auditorium after three days, pumping a knockout gas into the theater to disable the rebels, all of whom were killed.

At least 128 of the approximately 750 hostages died, most from the disabling gas.

Putin praised Russian handling of the crisis and said other nations must adopt a similarly tough stand against terrorism to prevent further incidents like it and the recent bombing of tourist nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, where about 200 people were killed.

EU officials said Tuesday they had made ``strenuous efforts'' but failed to win Putin's signature on a joint declaration on Chechnya. The Russian leader refused to sign because the document referred to human rights in the republic.

11/12/02 20:03 EST


Bush Welcomes Muslims to White House

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - As part of a White House effort to reach out to Muslims, President Bush on Thursday celebrated a Ramadan break-the-fast meal to thank Muslim countries helping with war on terrorism.

``America treasures your friendship. America honors your faith,'' Bush told 50 representatives from Muslim nations and 24 American Muslim leaders gathered in the State Dining Room. ``We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror, nations that are often victims of terror themselves.''

During the monthlong Ramadan, which began Wednesday, believers abstain from all food, drink, smoking and other pleasures during daylight. Special dishes are served after prayers in the evening. It is the holiest time of the year for Muslims.

In attendance for the meal marking iftar - the traditional breaking of the daylong fast - were ambassadors and diplomats from throughout the Muslim world, including a number of Middle Eastern nations. Iraq, Iran and Libya did not send representatives.

With the war on terrorism continuing and Bush contemplating military action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Bush went out of his way to make clear that the effort is not directed at Islam, and to seek the support of Muslims at home and abroad.

``Our nation is waging a war on a radical network of terrorists, not on a religion and not on a civilization,'' Bush told the Muslim diplomats.

Relations between Bush and the American Muslim community have been on a roller-coaster ride. Recently, American Muslim leaders complained the president was ignoring them after courting their support in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks. But Bush met with several leaders on Sept. 10 during a visit to the Afghan embassy in Washington.

Earlier Thursday, Bush said ``the risk of inaction is not a choice'' even if war creates more anger throughout the Muslim world that translates into increased terrorist activity.

``That's like saying we should not go after al-Qaida because we might irritate somebody and that would create a danger to Americans,'' Bush said at a news conference.

The White House also highlighted other efforts to reach out to Muslims, including a newly reissued Eid stamp that commemorates the two most important festivals on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

The president's official Ramadan greeting, released earlier this week, is being broadcast on Voice of America in eight languages.

11/07/02 20:48 EST


Rwanda Turns to Islam After Genocide

.c The Associated Press

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) - After the sliver of the new moon had been sighted, Saleh Habimana joined the growing ranks of Muslims in this central African nation and began the daylight fasting that marks the holy month of Ramadan.

Later, Rwanda's leading Muslim cleric joined men in embroidered caps and boys in school uniforms to pray at the overflowing Al-Fatah mosque - more testimony to the swelling numbers of Muslims in this predominantly Christian country.

Though Muslims remain a small percentage of Rwanda's 8 million people, Islam is on the rise eight years after the 1994 genocide brought 100 days of murder, terror and mayhem. More than 500,000 minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority were killed by Hutu militiamen, soldiers and ordinary citizens in a slaughter orchestrated by the extremist Hutu government then in power.

``For Hutus, conversion to Islam was like purification, a way of getting rid of a stigma,'' Habimana said. ``After the genocide, Hutus felt that the society perceives them as having blood on their hands.''

Arab merchants trading in ivory and slaves introduced Islam to Rwanda in the 18th century. The faith grew after 1908 when waves of Muslims flowed in from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan at the beginning of European colonial rule.

For nearly a century, Muslims remained on the fringes of Rwandan society. The faithful in Kigali were restricted to Biryogo, a dusty neighborhood where the Al-Fatah mosque now stands. They needed permits to leave.

During the genocide, Muslims were among the few Rwandans who protected both neighbors and strangers. Elsewhere, many Hutus hunted down or betrayed their Tutsi neighbors and strangers suspected of belonging to the minority.

But the militiamen and soldiers didn't dare go after Tutsis in Muslim neighborhoods like Biryogo, said Yvette Sarambuye, a 29-year-old convert.

``If a Hutu Muslim tried to kill someone hidden in our neighborhoods, he would first be asked to take the holy Quran and tear it apart to renounce his faith,'' said Sarambuye, a Tutsi widowed mother of three who survived the slaughter by hiding with Muslims. ``No Muslim dared to violate the holy book, and that saved a lot of us.''

For many Hutu extremists, Muslims were regarded as a group apart, not to be targeted in the genocide.

Although the Christian clergy in many communities struggled to protect Tutsis and often died with them, more than 20 Roman Catholic and Protestant priests, nuns and pastors are facing charges related to the killings. Rwandan courts already have convicted two Catholic priests and sentenced them to death.

As Sarambuye hid in Muslim homes during the slaughter, she watched them pray, learned about a faith that previously was alien to her and grew to admire it.

``For these people, Islam was not a label, it was a way of life, and I felt an urge to join them,'' she said.

Tutsis also converted to Islam for practical reasons - seeking protection from renewed killings by Hutus who continued to attack Rwanda from refugee camps in Congo after Tutsi-led rebels ended the genocide and overthrew the Hutu government, Habimana said.

Conversions tapered off after 1997 when the government was able to guarantee security, and Islam was no longer regarded as a vital safe haven, Habimana said.

But the religion still attracts converts. There are no official figures on how many Rwandans are Muslim; estimates vary from 5 to 14 percent.

Most Muslims in Rwanda belong to the majority Sunni branch of Islam, said Jean-Pierre Sagahutu, a 35-year-old Tutsi who converted to the faith.

``After the genocide, a small group of Islamic fundamentalists, funded by Pakistanis who flew to Rwanda frequently, took control of a mosque and started to organize themselves,'' he said. ``But they were kicked out by the official Muslim organization concerned about the spread of radical Islam.''

As Rwandan Christian Tutsis and Hutus try to reconcile, their Muslim countrymen believe they could learn something about tolerance and solidarity from Islam.

``Reconciliation is not necessary for Muslims in Rwanda, because we do not view the world through a racial or ethnic lens,'' Sagahutu said.

11/07/02 14:40 EST


Scholar Sentenced to Death in Iran

.c The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A prominent reformist scholar was sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam's prophet and questioning the hard-line clergy's interpretation of Islam, his lawyer said Thursday.

A court in Hamedan, in western Iran, issued the sentence against university professor Hashem Aghajari, Saleh Nikbakht told The Associated Press.

Nikbakht said Aghajari, a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami and a leading member of the reformist political party Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organization, also was sentenced to 74 lashes, banned from teaching for 10 years and exiled to three remote Iranian cities for eight years.

Iran frequently issues such multiple sentences in cases where it wants to make an example of the accused. In cases where the death penalty is imposed, other long-term punishments are not carried out.

Judiciary officials were not available for comment on Thursday, the beginning of the weekend in Iran.

Aghajari, a history professor at Tabiat-e-Modarres University in Tehran, was detained in August after a closed hearing in Hamedan, where he made a speech in June questioning the hard-line interpretations of the ruling clerics.

Nikbakht insisted his client had not said anything that insulted the Prophet Muhammad, as the charges claimed.

``There has never been a word insulting the prophet in Aghajari's speech. This verdict is nothing but a ruling against Iran's national interests,'' he said.

Nikbakht said that he would appeal the verdict. He also expected the Supreme Court to overrule the death sentence. He said Aghajari was informed of the verdict on Wednesday.

Members of Aghajari's party support President Mohammad Khatami's program of social and political reforms.

In his speech, Aghajari had said clerics' teachings on Islam were considered sacred simply because they were part of history, and he questioned why clerics were the only ones authorized to interpret Islam.

Aghajari's speech provoked organized street rallies by hard-liners in several cities.

After Aghajari's speech, Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, head of the powerful Experts Assembly that elects and supervises Iran's supreme leader, urged the court to issue a death sentence against him for his comments.

Hard-line political parties later called for dissolution of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen.

Another member of Aghajari's party, Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister, was convicted of electoral fraud in the 2000 parliamentary elections. He denied the charges and said he was paying a price for defending people's votes that resulted in humiliating defeat of hard-liners.

Aghajari's sentence is seen as part of an ongoing power struggle between the country's hard-liners and reformists, who back Khatami's program of social and political freedoms.

11/07/02 09:33 EST


Saudi Arabia Warns Non-Muslims

.c The Associated Press

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudi Arabia warned non-Muslim residents Sunday not to eat, drink or smoke in public during the fasting hours of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, starting later this week.

A statement by the Ministry of Interior, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said violators could face ``deterrent measures'' that include loosing their jobs and deportation.

The ministry issues similar warnings every year just before the start of Ramadan, which is expected to begin this year around Nov. 6, depending on the sighting of the new crescent moon.

There are seven million foreigners living in Saudi Arabia, of whom two million are non-Muslims. The kingdom has a population of about 19 million.

Fasting during Ramadan - the holiest month of the Islamic calendar- is one of Islam's five pillars. Muslims believe that it was during Ramadan that the Quran, their holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago. During the month, devout Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset.

Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam's holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina and views itself as the chief protector of the faith.

11/03/02 09:42 EST


U.S. Tries to Sway Muslim Opinion

.c The Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - An American media campaign launched in Indonesia on Wednesday sends a clear message: Muslims in the United States could not be happier.

The advertising blitz portrays the lives of five American Muslims and aims to counter the impression that the United States is intolerant and anti-Islamic, a U.S. official said.

``We hope that by highlighting the positive, common values shared by Muslims and non-Muslims - such as faith, family, community, education, charity, and tolerance - that we can tear down prejudices and build mutual understanding,'' Ambassador Ralph Boyce said in a statement.

The television, radio and print ads, to be shown here and in other Islamic countries, are the latest effort by the United States to sway Muslim opinion and provide support to moderate Islamic leaders in countries where radical, anti-American forces are gaining strength.

It remains to be seen what impact the spots will have on public opinion in Indonesia. Some who saw the ads Wednesday were skeptical.

``I don't think this kind of propaganda will significantly change the image that some Indonesians have of America,'' said Din Syamsuddin, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, a religious authority.

``What needs to happen is a significant change in U.S. policy toward Muslim governments,'' he said. ``The U.S. war on terrorism is one example where Muslims are being blamed for much of the violence.''

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, is considered a moderate Islamic country. But since the 1998 fall of former dictator Suharto, a collection of radical Muslim groups - some with al-Qaida links - have led anti-American demonstrations, rallied in support of Islamic law and been implicated in the killing of thousands of Christians.

The United States has attempted to counter anti-American sentiment here by sponsoring trips for Indonesian journalists to report on Islam in America. Trips have also been sponsored for about 25 religious boarding school leaders to meet with American Muslim leaders.

It also has sponsored positive programs on the United States through Voice of America radio affiliates, among other projects.

Boyce said that promoting better understanding between the two countries was one of his goals when he arrived as ambassador in 2001.

``This is part of a long-term effort in Indonesia ... to break down misconceptions in both our media and ongoing personal dialogues between Americans and Indonesians,'' he said.

The advertisements are snapshots of five American Muslims, offering an upbeat assessment of life in the United States. The people profiled include a graduate student from Indonesia, the Algerian director of the National Institute of Health, a Libyan baker, a Lebanese teacher and a Muslim paramedic from New York whose parents emigrated from India.

``The American students I met have respected my beliefs,'' Devianti Faridz, the Indonesian graduate student, says in her spot. ``It's nice to know that people are willing to open up their hearts and understand what they do not know.''

Farooq Muhammad, the New York paramedic, tells viewers that he works in harmony with Christian, Jewish and Hindu emergency workers.

``We work together without any problems,'' Muhammad said. ``They are very supportive of me and I'm very grateful. I have never been treated disrespectfully as a Muslim.''

10/30/02 11:05 EST


Graham Breaks Ground for Headquarters

.c The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Rev. Billy Graham returned to his hometown to break ground on a new headquarters for his ministry and a museum he hopes will carry his evangelistic legacy far into the future.

Showing the same reserve of strength that helped him preach to 255,000 people at a four-day mission in Dallas this month, Graham handed off the cane he uses for walking Tuesday and turned three shovelfuls of dirt, despite frail health in recent years.

``This move to Charlotte anchors us firmly to our roots,'' said the 83-year-old evangelist, whose ministry is relocating after half a century in Minneapolis.

About 500 guests rode shuttle buses to the museum site and were protected from the rain by a large white tent. Gov. Mike Easley was there to declare the day Billy Graham Appreciation Day. And the setting reminded Mayor Pat McCrory of the kind of revival meeting where Graham committed to his life's work.

``How appropriate that we meet under a big tent,'' he told the audience.

About 20 demonstrators gathered just off the property, protesting comments son Franklin Graham has made about Islam. In a television interview last year after the Sept. 11 attacks, Franklin Graham called Islam ``a very evil and wicked religion'' and has continued to be critical in subsequent remarks.

``I came here to defend my faith,'' said Malek Jandali, a Muslim and native of Syria. ``God came to us in words, and words are very powerful. ... When Franklin Graham says that our prophet Muhammad is a terrorist, that does more harm than good.''

Franklin Graham said he stands by his comments.

``We are to reconcile one another to God through faith in Jesus Christ,'' he said. ``On a day like this, my interest is for the future of this property and not people standing on the fringes with other interests.''

His father, however, was more empathetic.

``I welcome them all and I love them all,'' Billy Graham said. ``I have many friends in that part of religion.''

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's international headquarters is to be constructed on 63 acres off the Billy Graham Parkway near Charlotte's airport. The association also plans a museum and library dedicated to Graham and the history of evangelism.

The move is expected to be complete by mid-2004. Relocating to Charlotte was one of Franklin Graham's first major decisions after he took over the association from his father in 2000.

Last summer, Americans United for Separation of Church and State criticized the deal under which the city sold the land to the Billy Graham organization, saying Charlotte should not have agreed to pay $325,000 for road improvements and utilities.

The city said the subsidy was no different from others that have been used to lure prominent businesses to Charlotte. The museum and library are expected to attract 200,000 visitors annually.

10/30/02 06:06 EST


Arab Mag Says Has bin Laden Will

.c The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A London-based Arabic magazine said it has obtained the will of Osama bin Laden in which he accuses fellow Muslim leaders of betraying him in the face of the American campaign to destroy his al-Qaida movement.

The weekly magazine Al-Majallah said the typed will was dated Dec. 14, 2001, and signed by bin Laden. At that time, U.S. forces were bombing the al-Qaida stronghold at Tora Bora where bin Laden was believed to have fled after the collapse of rule by the Taliban.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the article in the Saudi-owned magazine, which was to be published Saturday. The copy had what the magazine said was a photo of one page of the four-page will with bin Laden's supposed signature. There was a second enlarged photo of the signature.

In the purported will, bin Laden accuses Muslim leaders of betraying him and ``the students of religion,'' meaning the Taliban, the magazine said. Bin Laden and Taliban leaders complained during the American attack that other Muslims had ignored pleas to come to their aid.

``Without treason the situation would have been different today and the outcome would have been different,'' the text of the copy says.

``The situation has reversed. We saw the cowardly crusaders (the United States) and the humiliated Jews stand up while the soldiers of our nation raise the white flag and surrender to the enemies like women,'' it says.

A U.S. intelligence official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said American officials have not verified the authenticity of the will.

Issam Abdel Allah, a member of Al-Majallah's editorial board, said the will was received from sources in Afghanistan, but he declined to give further details.

He said the magazine double-checked the document's validity with other sources, adding: ``If we wouldn't have confirmed it, we would not have published it.''

He said Al-Majallah did not know if bin Laden was alive or dead, but he added that ``it seems he wrote it (the will) in a very difficult situation under severe American bombing.''

In the purported will, bin Laden refers to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

``The battle of New York and Washington was the third strike against America, the first of which was the bombing of the Marines in Lebanon, the second was the bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi,'' he says, referring to an attack in 1983 that killed more than 200 Marines in Beirut and the 1998 bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

He also says he still expected the United States to eventually be defeated by militant Islam.

``Despite the setback the new battle will lead to the elimination of America and the infidel West even if decades later,'' the copy says.

He directs his followers to postpone fighting ``the Jews and the crusaders until you purge your ranks of the cowards and stooges.''

In the copy, bin Laden also orders his wives not to remarry after his death and his sons not to join al-Qaida - apparently because of his betrayal, which he refers to throughout the document.

``I have chosen a path fraught with dangers on which I suffered lots of troubles, pain, betrayal and treason,'' the will says.

``I have been saddened like my brother Mujahedeen when we saw ... America, the chief infidel, push the weakest of our people - men, women and children - while the (Islamic) nation stood watching this painful scene as if they were watching an entertaining film,'' it says, according to the article.

10/25/02 18:50 EDT


Police Arrest 2 Men in Sniper Case

.c The Associated Press

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - Two men, one of them described as an Army veteran who recently converted to Islam, were arrested at a roadside rest stop Thursday for questioning in the three-week wave of deadly sniper attacks that have terrorized the Washington, D.C. area.

The arrests - linked to a telephoned boast about a deadly Alabama robbery - raised hopes of a conclusion to the intensive and often frustrating investigation of the shootings that have killed 10 people and critically wounded three others since Oct. 2.

The men taken into custody were not immediately charged in the sniper attacks, but authorities made it clear the arrests were considered pivotal. A newspaper report said the men were motivated by anti-American bias; police in Washington state, where the men recently lived, said they were not part of any organized group.

President Bush was told that federal authorities were reasonably sure the case had been solved, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

``There's a strong feeling these people are related to the sniper shootings,'' said Douglas Gansler, state's attorney in Maryland's Montgomery County, where the sniper task force is based. Asked if he believed the sniper was still at large, he said ``no.''

The arrests occurred hours after authorities descended on a home in Tacoma, Wash., believed to hold clues important to the investigation. They then issued a nationwide alert for the car, spotted by a motorist and an attendant at the rest stop.

Charles Moose, the Montgomery County police chief who is leading the investigation, had said John Allen Muhammad, 42, was being sought for questioning in the slayings and called him ``armed and dangerous.'' Muhammad was said to be traveling with a juvenile, identified by a law enforcement as John Lee Malvo, 17.

The key break, authorities said, was a phone call to the sniper task force tip line suggesting investigators check out a liquor store robbery in ``Montgomery.'' The caller claimed credit for both the robbery and the sniper shootings, officials said.

Investigators checking the tip matched it with the Sept. 21 liquor store robbery in Montgomery, Ala., in which two employees were shot, one fatally. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright said Malvo's fingerprint was found at the scene on a magazine about weapons.

Police then traced Malvo to a home in Tacoma, Wash., that was searched Wednesday by authorities looking into the sniper shootings. Malvo had been living in the home with Muhammad, a source told the AP, also on condition of anonymity.

A composite sketch of the suspect in the liquor-store shootings was made and ``there are some very good similarities'' to Malvo, Montgomery Police Chief John Wilson said. He said the gun used in Alabama was not the same as the one in the Washington, D.C.-area shootings, however.

Members of the sniper task force arrested the men without incident at 3:19 a.m. off I-70 in Frederick County, Md., about 50 miles northwest of the nation's capital, said Larry Scott, an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. State police said the men offered no resistance.

``I'm confident that these are indeed the people'' sought in the killings, a law enforcement source told the AP.

The relationship between Malvo and Muhammad, who also goes by the name John Allen Williams, was not clear, but several newspapers reported that the teen is Muhammad's stepson.

The Seattle Times said Muhammad changed his name after converting to Islam.

Several federal sources told the Times that Muhammad and Malvo may have been motivated by anti-American sentiments in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Both were known to speak sympathetically about the men who hijacked jetliners over Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, the sources told the newspaper.

Neither man was believed to be associated with the al-Qaida terrorist network, the sources said.

The Times reported that Muhammad was stationed at Fort Lewis outside Tacoma in the 1980s, served in the Gulf War and was later stationed at Fort Ord, Calif. Malvo, who authorities said is a citizen of Jamaica, attended high school in Bellingham, Wash., last year.

The witnesses at the rest stop called police at 1 a.m. after they spotted the men sleeping inside one of the cars sought in the investigation - a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with a New Jersey license plate. Micah Rasmussen, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said the car was registered to Muhammad at a Camden, N.J., address.

ATF spokesman Joseph Green said the car was being fingerprinted and dogs were sniffing it for explosives at the rest stop.

On Wednesday, FBI agents spent hours at the Tacoma home, eventually carting away a tree stump from the yard and other potential evidence in a U-Haul truck.

Scott, the ATF spokesman, said the stump would be brought to the agency's lab in Rockville, Md. On background, law enforcement sources said they believed the stump might contain bullets or fragments.

Several hours after the arrests, spokesmen at the Pentagon said they had no information and referred calls to the agencies handling the case. Defense officials had said last week that, at the task force investigators' request, the Army was searching its records of people trained as snipers for any former or current service member who might be involved in the shootings.

A Fort Lewis spokesman did not return a call for comment on whether Muhammad was stationed on the base.

FBI agents visited Bellingham High School, 90 miles north of Seattle, on Wednesday. Mayor Mark Asmundson told the Bellingham Herald the agents were apparently seeking information on a male teenager who once attended the school and an older man. He said both left the area about nine months ago.

Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll said his force had known about Malvo since December 2001, when a police officer at the high school filed a suspicious persons report because the youth arrived at the school without transcripts or other papers.

Carroll said investigators believed the two arrested men were acting on their own, not as part of a group.

Pfc. Chris Waters, a Fort Lewis soldier who lives across the street from the Tacoma home, said he called police after hearing gunshots in the neighborhood nearly every day in January.

``It sounded like a high-powered rifle such as an M-16,'' he said. ``Never more than three shots at a time. Pow. Pow. Pow.''

One of Muhammad's ex-wives, Mildred, was questioned by the FBI on Wednesday, said Adele Moses, who identified herself as the woman's sister. She said Mildred was living with her in Clinton, Md., southeast of Washington.

Associated Press writers Stephen Manning and Jesse J. Holland contributed to this report.

10/24/02 11:34 EDT


Chechens Kill One Moscow Hostage

.c The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) - Chechen gunmen holding hundreds of hostages in a Moscow theater shot and killed one captive and said they were ready to die for their cause, warning Thursday that thousands more of their comrades were ``keen on dying.''

A blanket-shrouded body, identified only as a woman, was wheeled out of the theater Thursday afternoon, apparently killed in the early hours of the hostage drama. Sergei Ignachenko, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, said the woman appeared to be in her 20s and had been shot in the chest and her fingers broken.

The rebels, both men and women, stormed the theater at 9:05 p.m. Wednesday as an audience of about 700 people watched a popular musical.

In a broadcast monitored in Cairo, Egypt, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel broadcast a videotaped statement by one of the estimated 40 hostage-takers from inside the theater.

``I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living,'' a black-clad male hostage-taker said in the broadcast. ``Each one of us is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of God and the independence of Chechnya.''

``Even if we are killed, thousands of brothers and sisters will come after us, ready to sacrifice themselves,'' declared a female hostage-taker, covered in a black robe except for her eyes.

Al-Jazeera did not explain how it obtained the pictures Al-Jazeera did not explain how it obtained the footage and it was not clear if it had been taken in the theater or before the raid began. Police and soldiers have pushed journalists hundreds of yards back from the theater.

Al-Jazeera is known for having broadcast statements by Osama bin Laden and other members of his al-Qaida terrorist network. Russian and U.S. officials also have said some al-Qaida fighters may be in Chechnya. Chechens also were among fighters ousted from Afghanistan late last year when the ruling Taliban were overthrown.

More than 100 women and children had been released since the gunmen in camouflage stormed into the theater, Moscow police spokesman Valery Gribakin said. The freed hostages were sobbing and shaking as they emerged from the theater which holds 1,163 people.

And even as the Chechen rebels were threatening to kill their hostages, intermediaries entered the building earlier Thursday bearing a white flag and won the release of five more captives.

Sharpshooters perched on rooftops around the theater less than three miles from the Kremlin.

Distraught relatives tried to reach family members inside the theater. Alina Vlasova, 24, said her sister Marina was so upset when she called from inside the theater that she could barely speak. ``They are standing over us with automatic rifles and are getting angrier,'' Alina said her sister told her.

A pro-rebel Web site, www.kavkaz.org, said Thursday that Russia had seven days to begin withdrawing from Chechnya or the theater would be blown up.

The Web site said the attackers were led by Movsar Barayev, the nephew of warlord Arbi Barayev, who reportedly died last year. The site said some of the women hostage-takers were the widows of Chechen rebels killed fighting the Russians.

President Vladimir Putin canceled his trip this week to the APEC summit in Mexico as the secessionist war that has bedeviled Russia for a decade came terrifyingly home to the nation's capital.

Meeting with security officials Thursday, Putin said ``freeing the hostages with the maximum assurance of their safety,'' was the main goal. He said the raid was planned ``in one of the foreign terrorist centers'' but did not name it.

The dramatic siege was a bitter blow for Putin, who repeatedly has said Russia has the situation in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim republic in southern Russia, under control. While Putin's popularity remains high, opinion polls show public support for the war dropping in recent months.

In Washington, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that ``the American government and the American people stand with the people of Russia at this difficult moment. There are no causes or national aspirations that justify the taking of innocent hostages.''

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said three Americans were among the hostages, but he did not identify them. Citizens of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Germany also were confirmed to be among the hostages.

A senior liberal lawmaker met with the Chechens on Thursday and said they were prepared to allow foreign doctors into the theater to treat some of the hostages who were in bad condition.

Irina Khakamada, a leader of the Union of Right Forces liberal party, also was to meet with Kremlin officials to deliver the hostage-takers' demands, which she did not detail.

Iosif Kobzon, a lawmaker and a popular singer who has performed songs lauding Chechnya, went inside the theater together with Khakamada and said that one of the attackers told him the Chechens were ready to release 50 hostages in exchange for the Moscow-appointed head of Chechnya's administration.

The armed men and women, wearing camouflage clothing, arrived in jeeps just as the second act of the popular musical ``Nord-Ost'' was about to begin. The musical - the title means ``North-East'' in German - is based on Veniamin Kaverin's romantic novel ``Two Captains,'' which recounts the story of two students and their different destinies during the Soviet times.

Yuli Rybakov, a liberal lawmaker, said the hostage-takers had automatic weapons, grenades, belts with explosives attached, mines and canisters with gasoline with them. One hostage told Echo of Moscow the hostage-takers attached explosives to themselves, theater chairs, support columns and walls, and along aisles.

Hostage Maria Shkolnikova, a physician, was shown on television reading a handwritten statement from the rebels demanding an end to the Chechen war. She also spoke with Echo of Moscow radio by cell phone and said hostage-takers wanted to talk with representatives of Doctors Without Borders. She said the Chechen said they might release the foreign hostages after those talks.

``People are close to a nervous breakdown,'' said Shkolnikova, adding that the hostages were being fed water and chocolate.

Schools and kindergartens near the theater were closed Thursday and nearby hospitals prepared for casualties. The theater is a former Soviet-era House of Culture that belonged to a ball-bearing plant.

Several hostages, speaking by cell phone to various Russian television stations and news agencies, pleaded with Russian authorities not to use force. Previous attempts by Russian authorities to resolve similar large-scale hostage incidents involving Chechens ended in bloodshed.

In 1995, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev and his fighters briefly took more than 1,000 hostages in southern Russia and then escaped back into Chechnya. More than 100 civilians died. In a January 1996 raid on the southern Russian town of Kizlyar, rebels took hundreds of hostages at a local hospital. Some 78 people were killed.

In an apparent attempt to dampen the anger of ethnic Russians, members of the Chechen community in Moscow volunteered to replace the hostages, especially children, police spokesman Gribakin said.

Russian forces left Chechnya in 1996 after a disastrous two-year war but returned in 1999 after rebels raided a neighboring region and Russian authorities blamed rebels for a series of apartment bombings in Russia that killed more than 300 people.


Court Throws Out Suit Against Writer

.c The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) - A French court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against best-selling novelist Michel Houellebecq that accused him of inciting racial hatred by calling Islam a ``stupid'' religion in a magazine interview.

The court ruled that Houellebecq's comments, denounced in the lawsuit by four Muslim groups, displayed ``ignorance'' about Islam but did not include an intent to affront or show contempt toward Muslims.

The 44-year-old author, who shot to international fame with the 1998 shock novel ``Atomized,'' which was published in the United States as ``The Elementary Particles,'' defiantly testified in court in September that he had no contempt for Muslims, but that he had ``as much contempt as ever'' for Islam.

Tuesday's decision was expected. The public prosecutor's office had already recommended dismissing the case. Still, some of the plaintiffs said they would appeal.

``We are totally surprised by this decision, which seems to be inspired by a poor understanding of Islam,'' said Jean-Marc Varaut, a lawyer for an association representing the Mosque of Paris.

Houellebecq's lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat, said the author would be happy if there were an appeal.

``If our contradictors want to pursue the ridiculous and make another an appeal, we'll take them up on it,'' Pierrat said.

In a September 2001 interview in the literary magazine Lire, Houellebecq was asked about his personal feelings on religion. The magazine quoted him as saying he rejected all monotheistic religions, but he singled out Islam for special criticism.

``The most stupid religion is Islam,'' he was quoted as saying.

The author, whose latest work, ``Platform,'' deals with Thailand and sexual tourism, suggested in his testimony that as a writer, his comments were a type of fiction.

The court rejected that argument, saying that the comments were made as personal statements and could not be given a ``novelistic distance.''

10/22/02 20:02 EDT


First Trial of 9/11 Suspect Opens

.c The Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) - A Moroccan student accused of aiding the Hamburg terrorist cell involved in the terror attacks on the United States went to Afghanistan in 2000 and attended a training camp there, his lawyer said Tuesday at the opening of the first trial of a Sept. 11 suspect.

The revelation came in a Hamburg state court where Mounir el Motassadeq, 28, faces charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

El Motassadeq denied traveling to Afghanistan when police questioned him after his arrest last year. But his defense revised that account after he testified Tuesday that he last saw Sept. 11 lead suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta in May 2000 ``when I planned to go to Pakistan, Afghanistan.''

Defense attorney Hartmut Jacobi told reporters that el Motassadeq went to Afghanistan, where ``he was in a training camp.'' Jacobi refused to give other details.

El Motassadeq also testified that he often talked with Atta but never heard a word from him about the group's plans.

The prosecution says el Motassadeq trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan and helped the Hamburg cell with logistical support leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. When terrorist pilots Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah left Hamburg in 2000 to begin flight training in Florida, el Motassadeq stayed behind, filtering money through an account to al-Shehhi in the United States, according to the indictment.

A calm el Motassadeq told the Hamburg state court Tuesday that he first met Atta in 1996 when he started studying in Hamburg, and that they often talked about religion and politics - including the situation in the Palestinian territories and Chechnya.

Asked by Presiding Judge Albrecht Mentz whether there had been any indication that Atta planned violence, el Motassadeq replied: ``In my opinion, it is no solution.''

``Perhaps Atta was of a different opinion,'' he added. ``But Atta never spoke about any attacks.''

Earlier, el Motassadeq listened with no visible sign of emotion as prosecutor Walter Hemberger read out a summary of the indictment.

El Motassadeq admits close ties with members of the cell, but says he was not privy to their attack plans. He has told investigators he paid utility, rent and school bills for al-Shehhi, but transferred no money to the United States, according to his defense team.

El Motassadeq sat facing prosecutors with his two attorneys and an Arabic translator beside him, leaning into a microphone as he answered the judge's questions in German. Initially making nervous hand gestures, el Motassadeq appeared to relax during the two-hour questioning.

Atta, he said, had helped him and the other suspect being held in Germany over the Sept. 11 attacks - another Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi - to find an apartment.

El Motassadeq said that Atta had spoken of Chechnya, and added that ``I know that he wanted to travel there and fight alongside'' Chechen rebels.

For the trial's opening, police blocked the busy street in front of the Hamburg superior court building in the center of the sprawling port city and deployed extra officers. Metal detectors and guards were set up at the side entrances.

About 100 journalists and spectators watched the proceedings from behind a bulletproof glass window.

El Motassadeq was arrested in Hamburg two months after the attacks. Mzoudi was arrested in the city this month on charges of supporting a terrorist organization.

Germany's chief federal prosecutor, Kay Nehm, has said the hijackers knew by October 1999 they would attack the United States with airplanes, but that the idea likely originated elsewhere in the al-Qaida network.

All were united by ``hatred of world Jewry and the United States,'' Nehm said in unveiling el Motassadeq's indictment in August.

El Motassadeq came to Germany in 1993 to study. By 1995, his German was good enough to win admission to a Hamburg technical university's electrical engineering program. In Hamburg, he met his wife Maria - a Russian who had converted to Islam three years before - and, during the same time, Atta and other future cell members.

With more than 160 witnesses due to testify, the trial was expected to go beyond the three months of sessions scheduled so far. A panel of five judges will hear the case and lead the questioning, as is custom in Germany.

10/22/02 09:31 EDT


Egyptian Police Arrest, Harass Local Christians

Barbara G. Baker
Compass News Service

ISTANBUL, October 15 (Compass) -- A letter smuggled out of Cairo's Mazraa Tora prison last month confirmed that an Egyptian convert to Christianity who disappeared five months ago has been imprisoned on criminal charges.

In a handwritten letter obtained by Compass last week, Hisham Samir Abdel Latif Ibrahim, 26, confirmed that he had been arrested in early May by Egyptian security police. According to the letter written on September 17 to a Coptic Christian cleric, Ibrahim has been accused of falsifying his identity papers and reviling Islam.

"I was told that a man called Adel had informed them about me," Ibrahim wrote. He stated he had been interrogated daily by SSI officers, who named a person they claimed had issued new Christian identity papers for him.

Born in Alexandria into a Muslim family, Ibrahim is believed to have obtained Christian I.D. papers on the basis of a newly issued birth certificate identifying him as Milad Mahrous Habib Agayby. Egyptian Muslims are forbidden by law to change their religious identity, although open incentives are offered to encourage Christian citizens to convert to Islam.

According to acquaintances in Cairo, Ibrahim became a Christian in 1996 through listening to the Christian radio program "Yanabi El Sahara" (Fountains in the Desert).

Before his disappearance on May 7, Ibrahim had been living with Shafik Labeb Ishaq and his wife Violet, a Christian couple active in an evangelical Coptic Church in Cairo. Since March, the couple and their three daughters have been subjected to repeated harassment by both security police and local Muslim extremists.

An accountant for an Egyptian communications company, Ishaq confirmed that several times during March security police officers summoned him and his wife for interrogation, sometimes late at night or even at dawn. The police also came knocking at their door at odd hours of the night, always claiming to be searching for unknown individuals.

At the same time, the family received warning notes and dozens of obscene telephone calls, threatening to kidnap and rape their youngest daughter Sarah, 14. Repeated attempts were made by young Muslim men to convince Sarah she should run away, leave her faith and become a Muslim.

Then on April 8, fanatic Muslims in the neighborhood managed to kidnap Sarah for four days. Although her parents located her and forced the captors to return their daughter, a similar attempt was made on July 28. Again on August 16, a veiled Muslim woman tried to force her way into the home where Sarah was staying.

To protect Sarah from being forcibly converted to Islam, Ishaq and his wife obtained travel documents and sent her on August 27 to England, where she remains in an undisclosed location until the rest of her family can leave Egypt to join her.

"Sarah was exposed to danger," the Ishaq family's pastor confirmed in a written statement from Cairo, "and even the lives of her family are also in danger."


Bali Blast Shows Terror Patterns

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A tropical paradise, a discotheque, a wedding hall, a corner cafe: More and more, terrorists are hitting home by hitting civilians away from home.

This weekend's deadly bombings in Bali, Indonesia, underscore how vacation destinations and other unsecured places are no longer out of bounds.

After the bombings, which killed more than 180 nightclubbers, including two Americans, the State Department warned that attacks on ``softer'' targets are likely to increase as security tightens at official U.S. buildings.

``These may include facilities where Americans are generally known to congregate or visit, such as clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events,'' the department said in a travel advisory.

President Bush said the increasingly indiscriminate nature of the attacks meant everyone was vulnerable.

``The free world must recognize that no one is safe,'' he told reporters on the White House lawn, ``that if you embrace freedom you're not safe from terrorism.''

Westerners pursuing respite from their everyday lives made Bali attractive to terrorists, said Matthew Levitt, a former FBI agent who now monitors terrorism for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.

``It's hitting this sacrilegious subculture of dancing and drinking that was the point,'' he said.

The radical Islam fueling al-Qaida and its sympathizers makes everything fair game.

``These groups are no longer interested in traditional political goals,'' such as national liberation, Levitt said. ``They're interested in undermining society. They're interested in annihilation.''

With government installations increasingly fortified, terrorists may be tempted by other targets that symbolize Western culture, religion or power but don't have the same degree of protection.

Striking a blow at Christmas was thought to be the point of a thwarted attack in December 2000 on a festive market near the main cathedral in Strasbourg, France, according to testimony at the trial in Germany of four Algerians accused of plotting the attacks. An off-camera voice on a videotape surveys glittering lights and revelers and refers to the ``symbol of the heathens.''

An April attack on a synagogue on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, had as much to do with the island's popularity with tourists as it did with the Jewish nature of the target, investigators say. Most of the 19 killed were German vacationers, and tourism to the North African country's pristine beaches has dropped substantially.

Terrorists in Israel have targeted wedding halls, religious holiday meals and cafes in quiet, residential areas - breaches of the few boundaries terrorists there once recognized. Coffee shops across Israel routinely post security guards now.

Keeping people shuttered at home may be the point, said Don George, the travel editor for Lonely Planet books.

``I'm filled with this sense that the rules are changing under our feet, that we can no longer divide the world up into safe haven-not safe haven,'' said George, who predicts tourists will now avoid crowds and head for out-of-the-way sites - such as archaeological digs.

``Travelers will be thinking about, `Where can I let myself go?''' he said.

Bali was especially shocking, George said, because of its unique and accepting Hindu-Pacific culture. ``It's always been an extremely harmonious place. Every day there is a festival.''

Indeed, the U.S. government drew a distinction between Bali and other parts of Indonesia in a November warning urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the country. The warning said Bali had not experienced the troubles seen elsewhere in the country, and the most dangerous feature of life there was a rash of motorcycle accidents.

The Oct. 6 explosion that struck a French oil tanker off the Yemeni coast also is being investigated as a terrorist attack and demonstrates how terrorists might pick targets more vulnerable than warships, military bases and embassies.

10/14/02 18:14 EDT


Falwell Apologizes to Muslims

.c The Associated Press

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - The Rev. Jerry Falwell has apologized for calling Islam's founder a terrorist, saying he ``intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.''

In an interview with CBS' ``60 Minutes,'' the conservative Baptist minister said he had concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Muhammad ``was a violent man, a man of war.''

``I think (Prophet) Muhammad was a terrorist,'' he said.

Muslims were outraged. A general strike called to protest his comments in Bombay, India, turned into a riot, and five people were killed.

On Saturday, Falwell issued a ``statement of reconciliation.''

``I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for the September 30 edition of CBS's `60 Minutes' were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims,'' Falwell said.

He said he made the remarks in response to ``one controversial and loaded question'' at the end of an hourlong interview.

``That was a mistake and I apologize,'' Falwell said.

10/14/02 09:19 EDT


Shiite Clerics Enraged by Falwell

.c The Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Shiite Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Iran have reacted with rage at the Rev. Jerry Falwell for calling Islam's prophet a terrorist and an envoy of Iran's supreme leader reportedly called for his death.

Iranian cleric Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, addressing weekly Friday prayers in the northwestern town of Tabriz, said Falwell was a ``mercenary and must be killed,'' the Farsi-language daily Abrar reported Saturday.

``The death of that man is a religious duty, but his case should not be tied to the Christian community,'' Shabestari, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying.

In an interview broadcast last week on the CBS program ``60 Minutes,'' Falwell said: ``I think (Prophet) Muhammad was a terrorist''.

The conservative Baptist minister said he has concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Islam's prophet ``was a violent man, a man of war.''

In Lebanon Saturday, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah called on Muslim countries to respond to Falwell who, he said, had ``infringed on the prophet (Muhammad's) dignity.''

Fadlallah, however, cautioned against resorting to ``physical violence'' against Falwell, saying Islam is ``a religion of mercy and love.''

In a statement issued in Beirut, Fadlallah also urged Muslims worldwide to counter what he called ``a cultural war'' launched against Islam following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Fadlallah, 67, has condemned the Sept. 11 attacks. He is a senior Shiite religious authority and a harsh critic of U.S. policies in the Middle East, a region where Arabs view America as being biased toward Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

In August, Fadlallah issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning Muslims from assisting the United States and its allies if they attack Iraq. He also urged Muslims to withdraw their money from U.S. markets for fear they may be frozen or confiscated.

Earlier this week, another Shiite cleric in Iran, Ayatollah Hussein Nouri Hamedani, called on Muslims to cut relations with America. He accused Falwell of implementing ``a Zionist plan'' to cause a clash between Islam and Christianity.

But other Muslim clerics held different opinion.

``Although (Falwell's) opinion is insulting, he can be answered through dialogue so that all ambiguities in his mind are cleared,'' Iranian Ayatollah Hussein Mousavi Tabrizi said.

Tabrizi refused to compare Falwell to British author Salman Rushdie, against whom the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the Iranian revolution, issued a death verdict in the 1980s for blaspheming Islam in his book ``Satanic Verses.''

``Rushdie is a symbol of the red line between Islamic countries and the West. But we will not issue a death verdict against the priest. Iran is a country that promotes dialogue among civilizations,'' Tabrizi told The Associated Press on Saturday.

10/12/02 16:07 EDT


Falwell Remarks Prompt India Riots

.c The Associated Press

BOMBAY, India (AP) - Five people were killed Friday in Hindu-Muslim rioting and police gunfire after riots broke out during a general strike to protest the Rev. Jerry Falwell calling the founder of Islam a terrorist. Forty-seven others were injured.

The rioters attacked each other with knives and stones during the strike called to protest what Falwell said on CBS television early this month. Muslim organizations said Falwell's remarks were derogatory and blasphemous.

The conservative Baptist minister told the television network Islam's prophet ``was a - a violent man, a man of war.''

``Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses,'' Falwell said. ``I think Muhammad set an opposite example.''

Two Muslims and one Hindu were killed by police gunfire and one Muslim and Hindu died of stab wounds in Sholapur 225 miles south of Bombay, the capital of western Maharashtra state, said Kirpa Shankar, the junior home minister of Maharashtra state .

The trouble started when a group of Muslims took to the streets and were challenged by Hindus. Some rioters targeted shops, homes and vehicles, police said.

Falwell's remarks had triggered street protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday.

10/11/02 15:20 EDT


Effort to ban anti-Islam book fails in France

From combined dispatches

PARIS A French judge yesterday refused an "anti-racism" group's request for an immediate ban on Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci's new book, which argues that the September 11 attacks shows the true face of Islam.

The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, also known as MRAP, had asked Judge Herve Stephan to ban the book, "Rage and Pride," saying its contents are an incitement to racial hatred.

Judge Stephan said he saw no point in an urgent ban, because the book had already sold 45,000 copies in France since its publication last month and nearly a million copies in Italy. He referred the case to another court, which is scheduled to hear it July 10.

MRAP, which was founded in 1949 and calls itself a democratic organization, also named French publisher Editions Plon in its complaint. Its leader, Mouloud Aounit, insists that the group believes in freedom of expression. He argues that the book is "racist delirium" that "incites racial violence."

Miss Fallaci, 72, a former war correspondent who is known for candid interviews with world leaders, ended a decade-long, self-imposed silence after September 11 with the book, written in reaction to the terrorist attacks in New York, where she lives.

The book, due out in the United States in the fall, contains such provocative statements as assertions that Western civilization is superior to Islam and that Muslim immigrants in the West, who "multiply like rats," are to blame for the rise in crime and prostitution.

"The children of Allah," she writes, "spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day."

Earlier this month, Miss Fallaci rejected the accusations against her and denounced recent anti-Jewish violence in France, linked to a spillover of Middle East tensions into the country's Muslim and Jewish populations. "I find it shameful that in France the France of liberty, equality and fraternity synagogues are burned, Jews are terrorized and their cemeteries are profaned," she wrote in a column in the prominent daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Muslim immigrants in France and elsewhere in Western Europe have been blamed for rising crime and anti-Semitic attacks, a development that has fueled recent gains by anti-immigration political parties throughout the continent. Miss Fallaci said she reserves the right to sue MRAP for branding her book "racist." She said she has been receiving death threats.

In addition to MRAP, two other anti-racism groups have complained about the book and asked that a disclaimer be included in every French copy instead of a ban.

The judge refused this plea as well.

Miss Fallaci has interviewed such political figures as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late Iranian supreme leader, as well as Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, Italian film director Federico Fellini and actor Sean Connery.

Mr. Kissinger, who called his Fallaci interview "the most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press," offered the first glimpse into the Austrian-born diplomat's private life.


India Muslims Protest Falwell Remark

.c The Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) - Thousands of Muslims in India's Jammu-Kashmir state demonstrated in the streets Monday to protest remarks by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in which the conservative religious leader said the founder of Islam was a terrorist.

Irate mobs shouted anti-American slogans, threw stones at passing vehicles and forced shops to close in some places as Islamic groups called for a daylong strike to protest what they called ``derogatory and blasphemous remarks'' by Falwell in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS.

The protests began after a local newspaper reported the conservative Baptist minister had called Muhammed, the founder of Islam, a terrorist. The television interview was not broadcast in Jammu-Kashmir.

Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric, the mirwaiz Mohammad Omar Farooq, said Falwell had ``no right to outrage the religious sentiments of the second largest religious group in the world. It reflects his ignorance and bigotry.''

The violence came on the eve of the last round of voting for a new state assembly in Jammu-Kashmir, where Islamic militant groups have threatened to kill voters, candidates and poll workers who participate in the election.

Jammu-Kashmir is India's only Muslim majority state, with 12 million people. Militant groups have been fighting since 1989 to separate it from India or join it with Pakistan. Both nations claim the region and have fought two wars over it since gaining independence from Britain.

10/07/02 13:05 EDT


U.S. Charges 6 With al-Qaida Plot

.c The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Hailing a ``defining day'' in the fight against terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the arrests of four people in Oregon and Michigan on Friday on charges of conspiring to wage war on the United States and support al-Qaida.

The arrests came on the same day that a tearful John Walker Lindh was sentenced to 20 years for fighting for the Taliban and a laughing Richard Reid pleaded guilty in Boston to trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes.

Authorities arrested four people in Oregon and Michigan - including a former U.S. Army reservist. Two other suspects were indicted and were being sought overseas.

Five of the six in the latest indictment are U.S. citizens. According to prosecutors, some of them took weapons training and then tried to travel to Afghanistan to join up with al-Qaida and the Taliban, but could not get into the country.

Ashcroft said one of those arrested, Jeffrey Leon Battle, joined the U.S. Army Reserves to obtain training in U.S. tactics and weapons. Ashcroft said Battle, who was discharged last January while in Bangladesh, intended to use that experience against American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Battle later ``caused himself to be discharged'' from the Army, Ashcroft said without elaborating.

Court papers identified the six as Battle, 32; Patrice Lumumba Ford, 31; Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, 24; his brother Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, 22; Habis Abdullah al Saoub, 37; and October Martinique Lewis, 25, the ex-wife of Battle.

Battle, Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Bilal, Muhammad Bilal and Abdullah al Saoub set out for Afghanistan in October 2001 and tried to enter the country by way of China but failed, Ashcroft said.

Lewis stayed behind and wired money to Battle eight times ``with the knowledge the money would be used to support his attempt to reach Afghanistan'' to help al-Qaida and the Taliban, according to the attorney general.

Ahmed Bilal and al Saoub were being sought outside the United States. Battle, Ford and Lewis were arrested in Portland, and Muhammad Bilal was taken into custody in Michigan. He had been living with a sister in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn for about a month but had previously lived in Oregon.

Ashcroft, announcing the arrests at a Washington news conference, called it a ``defining day.''

In Alexandria, Va., Lindh asked forgiveness for serving the Taliban rulers who sheltered bin Laden and his terrorist leadership in Afghanistan. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III accepted a plea agreement reached in return for Lindh's cooperation. Lindh, 21, read a 20-mintue statement renouncing terrorism and bin Laden, declaring that if he had known the Taliban was harboring terrorists, he never would have joined them.

Prosecutors in Boston said they would ask for a sentence of 60 years to life in prison for Reid, 29. Reid, a British subject who converted to Islam like Lindh, was accused of trying to murder the 197 people aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight on Dec. 22. He was overpowered and tied to his seat by passengers after a flight attendant saw him trying to light a fuse sticking out of his hiking shoes. The flight was diverted to Boston.

Ashcroft, meanwhile, said the FBI is looking into whether other Portland-area residents may have also gone to Afghanistan with the same intention as the six indicted.

The charges against the six included conspiracy to levy war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaida, conspiracy to contribute services to al-Qaida and the Taliban and possessing firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence.

The indictment said Battle, Ahmed Bilal and al Saoub engaged in weapons training in Washougal, Wash., starting in late September 2001, to prepare to fight with Taliban forces.

Ashcroft said the arrests represent ``a textbook example'' of cooperation among federal, state and local authorities in the war against terrorism.

Members of Portland's Muslim community were angered by the arrests.

``It seems like part of the witch hunt from the FBI,'' said Alaa Abunijem, president of the Islamic Center. ``The Muslim community in general is being targeted. People in general feel targeted.''

The Portland arrests occurred at an apartment complex a block from the Rizwan Mosque.

Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, a prayer leader at another Muslim site not far away, the Islamic Center of Portland, was arrested Sept. 9 and charged with Social Security fraud. The FBI initially said traces of explosives residue were found on his luggage after his arrest at the Portland airport, but further FBI tests ruled out the residue.

Kariye remains in jail.

The investigation leading to the six arrests started on Sept. 29, 2001, when a Skamania County, Wash., sheriff's deputy responding to a noise complaint discovered some people in ``Middle Eastern attire'' firing weapons at a gravel pit. The sheriff's department contacted the FBI.

10/04/02 17:42 EDT


Reid Admits Shoe Bomb Attempt

.c The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) - Richard Reid pleaded guilty with a laugh Friday to trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes, and he declared his hatred for America and his loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

``Basically I got on the plane with a bomb,'' Reid said, alternately defiant and flippant. ``Basically I tried to ignite it. Basically, yeah, I intended to damage the plane.''

Prosecutors said they would ask for a sentence of 60 years to life in prison, in accordance with federal guidelines.

Reid, 29, a British citizen who converted to Islam, was accused of trying to murder the 197 people aboard a Paris-to-Miami American Airlines flight Dec. 22. He was overpowered and tied to his seat by passengers after a flight attendant saw him trying to light a fuse sticking out of his hiking shoes. The flight was diverted to Boston.

When U.S. District Judge William Young asked him why he pleaded guilty, Reid replied: ``Because at the end of the day I know that I done the actions.''

Reid's smirks and laughter added a chilling note to his surprise decision earlier this week to plead guilty to all charges.

Told by the judge that prosecutors would detail his links to al-Qaida at his sentencing Jan. 8, Reid said: ``I don't care. I'm a follower of Osama bin Laden. I'm an enemy of your country and I don't care.''

He also said he does not recognize the American justice system.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan repeated that the government made no concessions to Reid in exchange for his plea.

Reid's lawyers had asked the judge to remove any mention of his alleged links to al-Qaida from the indictment, but Young refused.

The FBI believes Reid had help making the bomb from ``an al-Qaida bomb maker,'' and authorities have said they found unidentified hair and a palm print on the explosives.

Charles Prouty, agent in charge of the FBI office in Boston, said investigators are trying to find out who helped Reid. ``This is not the end of the investigation,'' Prouty said.

Before Reid entered his pleas, prosecutors outlined some of the evidence, reading excerpts from e-mails Reid wrote to his mother and a person identified as ``brother'' two days before the flight.

In one message, Reid described a dream in which he was waiting for a ride in a pickup, but when the truck arrived it was full and he could not go. He said it signified his sadness at not being chosen as one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Reid pleaded guilty to eight charges in all, including attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted destruction of an aircraft.

Federal authorities had been preparing for a high-security trial, where Reid's alleged links to al-Qaida would be presented. But Reid stunned them when he said he wanted to plead guilty to avoid the publicity of a trial and the effect it would have on his family.

When the judge asked Reid if he had consulted with lawyers about his guilty plea and if he understood, Reid replied: ``I don't recognize your system, so how can I be satisfied?''

10/04/02 14:55 EDT


Prisoners: 9/11 Was First of Three

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - John Walker Lindh and other al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners told U.S. interrogators the Sept. 11 hijackings were supposed to be the first of three increasingly severe attacks against Americans. Their claims have not been corroborated, government officials said.

Lindh will be sentenced Friday, likely to 20 years in prison, for supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during commission of a felony. He heard some of the claims while serving in a 20-man Taliban infantry unit of Arabic speakers in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with his account.

Authorities have gathered similar information from prisoners of various levels of the terrorist network. But the officials said the United States hasn't found specific plans for two additional large-scale attacks and they suspect the claims could involve disinformation or folklore that circulated among low-level terrorists and Taliban soldiers after Sept. 11.

``We have not been able to corroborate the claims among the thousands of pages of documents and other evidence we have gathered the last year,'' one senior law enforcement official said. ``We believe some of these prisoners may have been trained to give misinformation or simply were passing on rumors.''

One law enforcement official said some al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners said the second and third wave attacks could involve biological, chemical or radiological weapons to increase casualties and were designed to paralyze Americans with fear and cripple the economy.

Details of Lindh's extensive interrogation, part of his plea agreement, remain secret. However, Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert who worked with defense lawyers and interviewed Lindh, said the Californian told him he picked up battlefield rumors about two waves of post-Sept. 11 attacks.

Reading from his interview notes, Gunaratna said Lindh told him: ``The original attack plan was in three phases, totaling 20 separate attacks. the first phase was ... two attacks on the World Trade Center, an attack on the Pentagon and a third attack on the White House.''

The notes also reflected that Lindh said: ``The second phase of attacks was going to be using biological agents and also attacks on natural gas and nuclear infrastructure.

``The second phase was going to make the U.S. forget about the first phase. The third phase was to finish the U.S. and was to take place within the next six months (after Sept. 11).''

Gunaratna said that while Lindh used the word ``biological,'' he believes from other sources that the weapon could be a radiological device, a so-called dirty bomb.

Gunaratna spoke with Lindh in his jail cell for eight hours on July 25-26 as a defense consultant, and submitted a report to a federal judge that concluded Lindh never swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

Still, Gunaratna said, Lindh would be a valuable U.S. intelligence asset because he understood what makes Islamic fundamentalists join conflicts around the world.

Lindh also said he heard that 50 people were going on 20 suicide missions, but added he received the information on the front lines in October - not prior to Sept. 11 when at a training camp, as his original indictment indicated.

Officials have had indications that additional attacks may have been planned immediately after Sept. 11.

For instance, shortly after the jetliner crashed into the Pentagon, German intelligence intercepted a phone call from the United States suggesting other terror teams were on the ground and ready to strike, U.S. and foreign intelligence officials say.

Officials said prisoners from the war on terrorism, including some kept at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have given similar accounts about two more attacks that were supposed to follow Sept. 11.

The details of the prisoners' account vary widely, officials said, but most agree that the subsequent attacks were supposed to be more severe than the Sept. 11 attacks that leveled the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, crashed a plane in Pennsylvania and killed more than 3,000.

Lindh, 21, pleaded guilty July 15. He was captured last December with other Taliban in Afghanistan, the last stop on his journey from a teenage convert to Islam in San Francisco's suburbs to a foot soldier for the vanquished Afghan regime.

10/04/02 04:50 EDT



Arnold Beichman
Hoover Institution

Media coverage of the Middle East has always been deficient in one area: Foreign correspondents have forever ignored the mosque and what the imams are telling their congregations.

Arab government spokesmen speaking excellent English tell correspondents what supposedly they need to know. The Friday mosque sermons are in Arabic and there's nobody around to do instant translations, and so a great source of political opinion remains unreported to Western audiences. It should be remembered that the taped sermons of the exiled Imam Khomeini smuggled into Iran for years finally culminated in a revolution that dethroned the shah in 1979 and transformed a shaky ally into an unswerving enemy.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has just released translations of Friday sermons delivered in the main mosques of Saudi Arabia. These sermons are available on a Saudi-based website http://www.alminbar.net. (Alminbar means "pulpit" in Arabic.) The Web site, created in July 1999, is reportedly visited weekly by some 3,000 imams from 62 countries and territories.

Too bad amateur diplomats like the New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman didn't see these sermons when he was peddling Saudi "peace" proposals. Reading these Saudi mosque sermons, with their savage attacks on Jews and Christians, helps explain why 15 of the 19 terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center and crashed into the Pentagon were Saudi citizens. These mosques are supported financially by the Saudi government in the name of Wahabism, a highly orthodox version of Islam.

The majority of sermons discuss Christians and Jews concurrently and disparagingly. However, some sermons specifically target Christians and Christianity, especially Pope John Paul II. In a sermon delivered at the Al-Salaam mosque in Al-Unayzah, Sheikh Abd Al-Muhsin Al-Qadhi said: "Today we will talk about one of the distorted religions, about a faith that deviates from the path of righteousness. about Christianity, this false faith, and about the people whom Allah described in his book as deviating from the path of righteousness. We will examine their faith, and we will review their history, full of hate, abomination, and wars against Islam and the Muslims."

Appeals for interreligious harmony are a particular target of Friday preachers. Sheikh Adnan Ahmad Siyami in a sermon at a Mecca mosque lashed out at Pope John Paul's recent visit to Syria as an attempt to "facilitate the conversion to Christianity in Muslim lands." He is quoted as saying:

"The call by [the pope] may Allah punish him as he deserves to the people of the [different] religions in Syria to live in peaceful coexistence is nothing more than an audacious call for the unification of religions, in accordance with the principle of human religious harmony. This pope, the head of the Catholic Church, and those behind him calling for the unification of the religions, are the descendants of the Spanish inquisitors who tortured the Muslims most abominably. They are the descendants of those who led the Crusades to the Islamic East, in which thousands of Muslims were killed and their wives taken captive in uncountable numbers. Can we expect compassion from these murderous wolves? What made the pope go on his visit was his dissatisfaction with the robbing only of the Muslims' lands; he wanted also to rob their religion, so that they lose both this world and the hereafter."

Another target of the Saudi Mosque is U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Sheikh Sa'd Bin Abdallah Al-'Ajameh Al-Ghamdi in a sermon delivered at the Sa'id Al-Jandoul mosque in Al-Taif said:

"It shocked me to read and hear about the audacity of the 'Betrayer-General' of all nations [a reference to the U.N. secretary-general], who by affiliation and loyalty is a combination of a Jew and a Christian and leads the people to hell. He called to stop the incursion of this disease called AIDS although two months earlier he had contradicted this call when, in stupidity and brazenness, he led the nations calling for permissiveness that causes this disease. He called for permitting adultery and spreading acts of abomination and homosexuality, which is a sexual perversion, and even invited this kind of people to a conference in order to call for permitting them marriage of the third kind."

A common sermon theme is jihad and why, said Sheikh Mohammed Saleh Al-Munajjid, "Muslims must educate their children to jihad":

"This is the greatest benefit of the situation: educating the children to Jihad and to hatred of the Jews, the Christians, and the infidels; educating the children to Jihad and to revival of the embers of Jihad in their souls. This is what is needed now."

The underlying theme of most of these sermons is that Israeli-Palestinian peace can never be accepted by the mosque. In a sermon at the Suleiman Bin Muqiran mosque in Al-Riyadh, Majed'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Firian said:

"The modern countries of Kufur [that is, Western countries] have realized that the [Palestinian] Authority that speaks today on behalf of the Palestinian cause has not waved the banner of Islam, and its goal is to establish a secular state. Therefore, they protect it and prohibit attacking it, as [this authority] is the one that will give them concessions when they pressure it. There is a deep-rooted solution to the conflict: intifada and jihad for the sake of Allah. Today, the Islamic nation already knows that the Holy Land will not be liberated by dallying at vacation sites or sitting around the negotiating table with infidels. The solution is to do what the Prophet did to the Jews when they violated the agreements. The solution regarding the Jews is as the Prophet Mohammed said: 'I have brought slaughter upon you.' Yes, the solution for these is not peace and harmony. Jihad, not peace, is the solution."

These are sermons in Saudi mosques. Imagine the Friday homilies in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and other Arab countries.


US: Cleric Had Role in Bomb Attempt

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that a shadowy Indonesian cleric with links to al-Qaida played a leading role in a thwarted effort to bomb at least one American embassy in Southeast Asia on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, is the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional Islamic extremist network that receives support from al-Qaida, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials have declined to specify the target or targets of the Sept. 11 anniversary operation or to detail how the plots were averted. Hambali's precise role in the attack has not been laid out either, but terrorism officials suspect him of organizing other terrorist attacks as well.

Counterterrorism officials learned critical aspects of the bombing plot from an al-Qaida operative who was captured by Indonesian authorities in June. His information led to the closure of embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. That day, the Philippine government released a letter from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly warning that al-Qaida members were prepared to launch truck bomb attacks in the region and that intelligence indicated ``imminent threats to U.S. Embassies.''

The prisoner, Omar al-Farouq, was turned over to U.S. authorities after his capture. He recently began talking to his interrogators. Al-Farouq and Hambali are believed to have been close associates, with al-Farouq serving as liaison between Jemaah Islamiya to al-Qaida's senior leadership.

His interrogation has provided a clearer picture of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group U.S. officials say has a twofold purpose: to create an Islamic state in Southeast Asia and to conduct acts of terrorism against U.S. interests.

Jemaah Islamiyah resembles al-Qaida in organization and, like al-Qaida, operates across international boundaries. The group has cells in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand.

This is unlike many other groups affiliated with al-Qaida, many of which are focused on overthrowing the government of a single country.

Leadership of the group is split between Hambali, who handles operations, and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, another Indonesian cleric who denies links to terrorism but is believed to be the group's spiritual leader, according to U.S., Singaporean and Malaysian officials. The group has sent people to Osama bin Laden's Afghan camps and received money from al-Qaida.

Hambali's whereabouts are unknown. According to Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry, Hambali also gave the orders to Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who were arrested in December 2001 in connection with plots to bomb the U.S. Embassy in the city-state and American naval targets.

In addition, Hambali has been linked to two Sept. 11 suicide hijackers. He is believed to have arranged the January 2000 meeting of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi with a senior al-Qaida operative, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, one of the masterminds of the USS Cole bombing later that year. The subject of the meeting remains a mystery.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir lives openly in Indonesia, despite entreaties from Malaysia, Singapore and the United States to authorities there to arrest him. Indonesian officials say they have no evidence to arrest him, but American officials suggest the Indonesian government fears a public backlash if the popular cleric is detained.

Ba'asyir denies links to terrorism and that Jemaah Islamiyah exists, but U.S. counterterrorism officials allege he founded the group in 1989 and maintains knowledge of the group's operations.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, he challenged the United States to make its case against him and warned that jailing him would anger Muslims.

``I am not fighting against the American people but against the U.S. government,'' he said. ``The government and the Jews are fighting against Muslims. It's part of a crusade by America to attack Islam. The United States hates me because I struggle in the name of Islam.''

10/02/02 03:19 EDT


Fatwa Reportedly Issued in Iraq

.c The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A Shiite Muslim leader in Iraq reportedly issued a religious edict urging Muslims to resist any U.S. attack and deemed any cooperation with Americans a shameful sin.

In the edict, or fatwa, cleric Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani is quoted as saying ``it is the Muslims' duty, under this critical situation, to be united and do their best to defend Iraq and protect it from the plots of the aggressors.''

The fatwa comes as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is seeking to rally domestic and regional support amid accusations by President Bush that Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists.

Though Saddam's Baath Party is nominally secular, he has been using religious imagery and rhetoric more and more in an effort to appeal to ordinary Arabs.

Bush has not formally committed to war against Iraq, but has said he wants a regime change in Iraq and is reportedly reviewing detailed military options for toppling Saddam.

Al-Sistani, who has not made public appearances since he was chosen by his followers in 1996 as spiritual leader, could not be reached Monday. Iraqi Shiites in exile questioned whether the fatwa was indeed al-Sistani's or had been issued in his name by the Iraqi government.

On Sunday, Abu Dhabi television, based in the United Arab Emirates, aired footage from the holy city of Najaf of a dean with the pro-government Al-Sharia College, al-Sayyid Adnan al-Baka'a, reading the fatwa issued in al-Sistani's name.

The fatwa was reportedly issued Sept. 4 in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad. A copy was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

A spokesman for the main Iraqi Shiite opposition group in exile, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was skeptical al-Sistani, who is virtually banned by the government from public appearances, had issued the fatwa.

``We are not really sure that this fatwa was made by his eminence because his office has not issued it,'' Hamid al-Bayati, the council's spokesman told The Associated Press in Cairo.

Representatives of the council, which is based in Iran, participated last month in meetings with U.S. officials in Washington about a post-Saddam Iraq.

09/23/02 13:48 EDT


U.S. to Register Male Saudi Aliens

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A program that requires registration of foreign visitors from some countries in the Middle East and North Africa is being expanded to include men from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers.

An Immigration and Naturalization Service memo obtained by The Associated Press directs immigration inspectors registering aliens to include men, ages 16 to 45, from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen, starting Oct. 1.

A Saudi foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, noted that nationals of other countries could also be subject to registration and Saudis were not being especially singled out.

The Justice Department already had begun registering visitors from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Libya on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. As part of the registration, the foreigners are required to provide fingerprints, photographs and details about plans in the United States.

``It is imperative that the officers remain vigilant and verify the age of all males from these three countries in order to identify properly those who are subject to special registration,'' says the Sept. 5 memo, sent by Johnny Williams, the INS' head of field operations.

The memo was sent to INS offices to explain how to implement the Justice Department policy known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System.

Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said she could not comment on the internal INS document. But, she said, ``Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terrorism and they are not treated as state sponsors of terrorism in our enforcement efforts.''

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the registrations should be done at consulates, not at ports of entry where the process will create long waits and three lines - one for citizens, one for non-citizens and one for Arab-Americans.

Registration is required on arrival to and departure from the United States. The foreigners also must be interviewed at an INS office for stays of more than 30 days and notify the INS within 10 days of any change of residence, employment or academic institution.

The memo says inspectors also can register visitors for national security reasons who they determine are worth monitoring. The memo says inspectors should consider whether the visitor has made an unexplained trip to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Indonesia or Malaysia or the visitor's explanation for the trip lacks credibility.

Among other things, inspectors will be told to consider registering foreign visitors who previously overstayed a U.S. visa or whose behavior, demeanor or answers indicate that the person may be a security threat, the memo says.

The additional scrutiny for Saudi nationals follows introduction of stricter rules for Saudis who apply for visas to the United States. The visa paperwork formerly handled by travel agents now requires interviews at consular offices. The scrutiny also comes as President Bush tries to build support for a U.S. attack on Iraq, for which Saudi Arabia has said it will not allow use of its territory unless the attack is under U.N. auspices.

Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., chairman of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said the registration program seeks to weed out people that Saudi Arabia and other countries are arresting and cracking down on.

``It's a natural extension of what is already occurring with respect to the war on terrorism, which is separate and apart from our relationships with the governments that are involved in this new round of alien registration,'' Gekas said.

On the Net:

Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov

Immigration and Naturalization Service: http://www.ins.gov

09/23/02 22:19 EDT


Doctor Guided bin Laden on Path

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - As a young man, Ayman al-Zawahiri was one of many young, well-educated Egyptians who was attracted to messianic Islam.

A doctor, he was appalled by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and spent two tours of duty tending to victims of the conflict.

But he saw the Soviets as nothing more than an ephemeral enemy. Afghanistan, he believed in 1981, was a mere training course for the Muslim Mujahadeen ``to wage their awaited battle against the superpower that now has the sole dominance over the globe, namely, the United States.''

It was a turning point for Zawahiri when, during his service on behalf of the Afghan resistance, he met a Saudi, six years his junior, who had the same political outlook. His name was Osama bin Laden.

As reported by Lawrence Wright in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine, Zawahiri was a guiding force in making the most of bin Laden's militancy and money on behalf of Islam.

Wright suggests that bin Laden might never have become a terrorist mastermind it not for Zawahiri, a figure virtually unknown in the West outside of intelligence and law enforcement circles.

For Americans, Sept. 11 might be just another day on the calendar were it not for the encouragement and political skills Zawahiri passed on to his al-Qaida colleague.

The two were affiliated with different militant groups over the years but often found themselves together on the same turf, including Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

They did not forge a formal alliance until Feb. 23, 1998, becoming part of a new International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders. The founding document said the killing of Americans and their allies - civilian and military - is an ``individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.''

By that standard, bin Laden has been fulfilling his duty. He is wanted by U.S. law enforcement for the near simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

Zawahiri was involved as well, Wright reports, saying there was a link between the bombings and the purported CIA breakup of an Islamic Jihad cell in Albania a month earlier.

On Aug. 6, 1998, Zawahiri sent a declaration to a London-based Arabic newspaper: ``We are interested in briefly telling the Americans that their messages has been received and that the response, which we hope they will read carefully, is being prepared.''

The embassy bombings occurred the next day. More than 200 people died and more than 5,000 were injured.

Wright also was told that bin Laden reviewed photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and suggested a spot where a truck could go through as a suicide bomber.

After the bombings, Wright said, American intelligence concluded that Zawahiri was an equal partner in al-Qaida with bin Laden. They also believed that Zawahiri was in charge of al-Qaida's Yemen cell when the USS Cole was bombed at the port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000.

As Wright describes it, Zawahiri's scientific background may have been the catalyst for al-Qaida's interest in developing chemical and biological weapons.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Wright reports, Zawahiri and bin Laden were in the Afghan city of Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. They left their quarters there and fled to the mountains where they listened to an Arabic radio station's news flashes about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Afterward, on an unspecified date, bin Laden and Zawahiri appear together on a videotape and are seen talking about the Sept. 11 operations.

Zawahiri says, ``This great victory was possible only by the grace of God. This was not just a human achievement. It was a holy act. These 19 men (suicide bombers) who gave their lives for the cause of God will be well taken care of.''

Wright says this may have been Zawahiri's last public statement. He speculates that Zawahiri may have died in the American military campaign that began in Afghanistan three weeks after Sept. 11.

EDITOR'S NOTE - George Gedda has covered foreign affairs for The Associated Press since 1968.

09/18/02 01:49 EDT


Muslims Hold Conference in London

.c The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - Thousands of Muslims gathered at a radical Islamic conference in London on Sunday to confront what organizers said was a choice between accepting life under a ``colonialist world view'' or being labeled terrorists.

The group, Hizb-ut-Tharir, which seeks the overthrow of secular governments in Central Asia, said the daylong conference, titled ``Beyond Sept. 11, Role of Muslims in the West,'' would address the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

``Muslims have been asked to make a choice. Either they accept capitalism and its colonialist world view or be labeled the terrorist,'' said the group, also know as the Islamic Liberation Party, in a pre-conference statement.

Imran Waheed, Hizb-ut-Tahrir's leader in Britain, accused Western governments of trying to stifle Islam.

``When the West calls for integration it is asking Muslims to abandon Muslim values and adopt Western values,'' Waheed, whose group aims to create a caliphate ruled by the Islamic law of Shariah, told Sky Television news.

``Integration means adopting Western secular values in lieu of Islamic values - values which are from a foreign and different ideology to Islam,'' he added.

Mainstream Muslim leaders said, however, they were not attending the conference, and accused the group, which was formed in Lebanon in 1953, of being isolationist and undemocratic.

``They do not believe in democracy or the multiparty system,'' said Inayat Bungalawala of the Muslim Council of Britain.

``It is important for us to participate in all levels of democracy in the United Kingdom and we believe in participation and integration,'' he said.

Waheed said 10,000 people were attending the conference at the London Arena, east London, a figure confirmed by the hosts.

Speakers from Britain, Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia and the United States were scheduled to lecture on topics including the challenge of living by Islam in the West and the threat of military action against Iraq.

There are some 2.5 million Muslims in Britain, many with roots in South Asia.

On the Net:

Conference site: http://www.al-islaam.org

Hizb-ut-Tahrir: http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/english/homea.html

09/15/02 09:59 EDT


Prince Says Terrorists Were Deluded

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Saudi Arabia's Deputy Prime Minister said Tuesday the Saudi men who took part in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were ``enticed and deluded'' into committing their crimes and did great damage to Islam.

Crown Prince Abdullah, who runs the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom, said in letter to President Bush and the American people that the Saudi Arabian people felt ``great pain'' after realizing that many Saudis were responsible.

Their reasoning was subverted to the degree of ``denying the tolerance that their religion embraced, and turning their backs on their homeland, which always stood for understanding and moderation,'' Abdullah wrote.

Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis.

``We, like you, are convinced that nothing can ever justify the shedding of innocent blood or the taking of lives and the terrorizing of people, regardless of whatever cause or motive,'' Abdullah wrote.

He reaffirmed the continued will and determination of the Saudi government ``to do our utmost to combat this malignant evil and uproot it from our world.''

He added that he shall never forget ``the horrible scenes of carnage, the raging fires, the smoke that covered the horizon, and the innocent people who jumped out of the windows in their attempt to escape.

``On that fateful day, the whole world stood with the American people in unprecedented solidarity that made no distinction as to race, religion or language.''

09/10/02 18:01 EDT


Radical Clerics to Celebrate on 9/11

.c The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - Extremist Muslim clerics will meet in London on Sept. 11 to celebrate the anniversary of the attacks on the United States and to launch an organization for Islamic militants, an organizer of the conference said Saturday.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed of Al-Muhajiroun, a radical group that supports making Britain an Islamic state, said the conference will argue that the terror attacks were justified because Muslims must defend themselves against armed aggression.

The event at Finsbury Park mosque in north London, ``Sept. 11, 2001: A Towering Day in History,'' will also mark the launch the Islamic Council of Britain.

Mohammed said the council will aim to implement Sharia law in Britain and will not exclude al-Qaida sympathizers from membership.

The conference will discuss the ``positive outcomes'' of Sept. 11, which delegates perceived as a battle against an ``evil superpower,'' he said.

``I did not praise Sept. 11 after it happened but it becomes more clear now why they did it, although I personally regret the loss of life,'' he said.

Mohammed said he had secured a six-figure sum to fund the Islamic council, which would build a dozen Islamic centers, launch a Web site and hold classes for Muslims.

``We will not stop al-Qaida people from joining. To us they are devoted people who were trying to stop the invasion of a Muslim country,'' Mohammed said.

Also due to attend the meeting on Wednesday are Yasser al-Sirri and Abu Hamza al-Masri, a cleric at the Finsbury Park mosque, which is widely regarded as a center of radical Islam in Britain.

Al-Sirri has been accused by the United States of sending money to Afghanistan to sponsor terrorism. British officials in July dropped extradition proceedings against him, saying there was not enough evidence.

Al-Masri is one of Britain's most contentious Muslim radicals. The Egyptian-born cleric, who lost his hands and left eye fighting in Afghanistan, is a prayer leader at the mosque.

He has had British citizenship since 1985, and is protected by British law from extradition to Yemen, where he is wanted in connection with several bombings.

Mainstream Muslim leaders have criticized previous conferences held by Al-Muhajiroun and other extremist groups, saying that their radical anti-American opinions did not represent the views of the majority of Britain's 1.5 million Muslims.

09/07/02 17:59 EDT


Sept. 11 Impacts Egypt's Terror War

.c The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - For Egypt, leading nation of the Arab world, the Sept. 11 attacks have resulted in striking gains in its own war on terrorism.

Already a year ago, the Islamic militants who had plunged Egypt into bloodshed were in disarray, with thousands of their members jailed and public opinion firmly against violence.

Today, the fallout from Sept. 11 has, if anything, driven the militants even deeper underground. It appears to have invigorated the battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest Islamic group, while emboldening moderate Islamists to speak out against violence and even talk of a modernizing Islam.

But Sept. 11 seems to have intensified the government's resolve to control Islamic extremism, no matter what the cost to human rights. Critics and human right advocates say this can only hobble progress toward genuine democracy and leave moderate-leaning Islamists with less chance of playing a role in government.

While always quick to denounce Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, the Egyptian government has shown no qualms about taking tough measures against its own opponents. Human rights groups say 12,000 to 15,000 Islamic activists are being held, many under emergency laws.

While pursuing its domestic battle, President Hosni Mubarak's government has for years sought to deny the militants the high moral ground by projecting an Islamic character of its own. Its constant criticism of Israel, especially during the latest bout of Mideast violence, bolsters its Arab and Islamic credentials.

The most populous Arab nation, with a mainly Muslim population of 68 million, Egypt is a close U.S. ally. It also is home to Al-Azhar University, the world's leading seat of mainstream Islamic learning, and has long had an influence on Muslims worldwide.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, has spawned Islamic movements throughout the Arab world. Egyptian militants have fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans and Kashmir over the past two decades. They also were prominent in the Sept. 11 attacks. Mohammed Atta, the suspected lead hijacker, was Egyptian, as is bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, and the ensuing worldwide battle against terrorism, Cairo has made remarkable progress in an area where it had only modest results before - persuading foreign governments to hand over fugitive militants.

At least 20 have been turned over to Egypt from Canada, Sweden, Bosnia, Jordan, Azerbaijan and Syria, according to ``The Arab Strategic Report,'' issued in July by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a leading Egyptian think tank.

``It can be said that the fallout from Sept. 11 helped Egypt capture wanted fundamentalists whose number is larger than what Egypt got over several years,'' said the report.

In this climate, some moderate Islamic thinkers have been inspired to speak louder against what they see as the narrow-mindedness and violence of some Islamists, something that previously could have gotten them killed.

``The Muslim nation needs a moderate and humane understanding of its religion,'' says Abuleila Madi, a former brotherhood member who heads an independent political research center. ``We need new interpretations in areas where change is applicable such as rights, the shape of government and women.''

The attacks also saw another significant development. In July, the jailed leaders of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Group, formerly one of Egypt's most radical forces, reissued a call for nonviolence that it had first declared in 1997.

The group was at the forefront of a revolt in the mid-1990s that left 1,300 people dead, and Mubarak's government had for years questioned the sincerity of the cease-fire proposal. Now, however, the government is paying some attention.

But the government also has come down harder on the Muslim Brotherhood, the older Muslim group, which had renounced violence in the 1970s and is popular enough to mount an electoral challenge to the president's National Democratic Party.

Scores of brotherhood members have been arrested, and some have been put on trial before military tribunals whose legitimacy is widely questioned.

Human rights activist Hisham Kassem believes that the West's preoccupation since Sept. 11 with security gives Mubarak's government a relatively free hand in dealing with critics.

``The government seems to have more work to do on the brotherhood,'' Kassem said. ``They'll be decimated.''

09/05/02 01:34 EDT


U.S. Muslims Expect More Hard Times

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - With the war on terror in its infancy, American Muslims attending their largest convention of the year predicted a long struggle ahead to protect their legal rights and dispel the suspicion that has hovered around them since Sept. 11.

Their charities and mosques are being raided. Fellow Muslims are being detained indefinitely or deported. Their relations with the White House are strained, with the Bush administration insisting that the tactics Muslims and others condemn are critical to rooting out terrorist activity.

``You really don't know if you're safe anymore,'' said Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, which organized the four-day meeting that runs through Monday.

Muslim organizations have been working with other groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, to challenge the government's new, far-reaching authority, including the right to imprison terror suspects without charges or defense lawyers. A civil liberties rally has been planned for noon Sunday in connection with the conference.

Muslim leaders hold little hope they can win the repeal of these expanded powers. Many Muslim advocacy groups lack the resources for such a fight, said Sarah Eltantawi, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, and even well-established organizations like the ACLU have been struggling to mount legal challenges.

``I don't see the situation improving. I see it getting worse,'' said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington civil rights group.

Mattson said the changes have had a particularly chilling effect on donations to American Muslim organizations such as schools and charities.

``People are afraid if they give something it will be used to track them down,'' said Mattson, a professor at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. ``If you can't donate to your local parochial school, what's going to happen?''

Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society, said alliances with leaders of other religions are key to improving the situation for U.S. Muslims, but they won't be easy to build.

Muslim relations with American Jews have been frayed by Mideast violence and Muslims have had little constructive dialogue with conservative Christians over the years. Since the suicide hijackings, many evangelical Christians - such as the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham - have repeatedly condemned Islam as evil.

Syeed, however, said he remains encouraged by the intense interest among everyday Americans in learning about Islam. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is working to harness the trend with a new program allowing donors to pay for a bundle of books on Islam to be sent to local libraries.

Muslims are also committed to becoming more active in politics. A voter registration drive is under way at the convention, which organizers say has drawn about 30,000 people.

As Americans continue to debate the balance of security and liberty, Syeed hopes Muslims can convince all U.S. citizens that the crackdown on Islamic institutions hurts everyone.

``If today Muslims are being affected, somebody else will be affected tomorrow,'' he said. ``It will be the end of America, if this is allowed to go too far.''

On the Net:

Islamic Society of North America: http://www.isna.net/

08/31/02 13:22 EDT


U.S. Muslims to Gather at Meeting

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A leading American Muslim group is gathering in Washington for its most important meeting of the year, two weeks before the anniversary of Sept. 11 and in the midst of difficult times for their community.

Organizers expect up to 30,000 people to attend the 39th conference of the Islamic Society of North America, which runs from Friday through Monday. Much of the convention will be dedicated to examining the impact of the terrorist attacks on Islam, civil liberties and political life in the United States.

``As American Muslims, our destiny is linked to the rest of the American citizens. We want this country to have peace,'' said Sayyid M. Syeed, the society's secretary general. ``Our job here is to discuss how we can achieve that kind of positive role in mainstream America.''

It is the first time the event is being held in the nation's capital and comes as Muslims seek a greater public voice in what for many is their adopted country.

American Muslims have been shaken by government raids on their charities and mosques, as federal agents work to uncover any links to terrorists. But Muslims also have been encouraged by the many Americans who have visited mosques and made other gestures of support.

The event was set to open Friday afternoon at the Washington Convention Center with a prayer for the victims of Sept. 11. Christian and Jewish religious leaders have been invited to participate.

Along with panel discussions on the attacks, the talks will touch on many facets of Muslim life, including health care, parenting, charter schools and investing. Muslim law bars the accumulation of interest.

Marriage will also be on the agenda. Families seeking spouses for their children will have the chance to meet face-to-face through a marriage service connected to the Islamic Society.

The National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, a coalition of groups including the National Lawyers Guild and the American Muslim Council, have scheduled a rally starting at noon Sunday at Freedom Plaza.

The event will end with a discussion of political strategy for Muslims in upcoming elections. Muslim organizations made their first collective endorsement of a presidential candidate in the 2000 race, when they backed George W. Bush.

There are no exact statistics for the number of Muslims in the United States. Estimates vary from 2 million to 6 million.

The Islamic Society of North America, based in Plainfield, Ind., is an association of Muslim organizations working in education, social service and other areas.

On the Net:

Islamic Society of North America: http://www.isna.net/

08/30/02 08:41 EDT


Libyan Students On Trial For Converting To Christianity

(CHARISMA) -- Fourteen students from Nasser University in the nation's capital, Tripoli, are on trial for converting to Christianity, according to a prayer appeal by the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). The names of the defendants -- 12 women and two men -- are not known, nor are details of how they came to Christ. An eyewitness told of seeing the accused being transferred from one prison to another, when they were blindfolded and bound together, said VOM. In a report by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a Christian worker familiar with the area commented: "The students are presumably in this for the long haul...If [they] were released from prison, presumably they would be killed by their families for disgracing [them]." VOM said that other students arrested at the same time for converting gained their freedom by reciting the Muslim creed, indicating they had turned back to Islam. VOM urged prayer for protection for the students, courage for their lawyer, and "protection, strength and encouragement for other secret believers in Libya." One of the most restrictive countries in the world, Libya forbids evangelism of nationals. Churches are allowed among the nation's large expatriate workforce, but their activities are closely monitored.


Franklin Graham Comments on Islam

.c The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - As the son and ministerial heir of the most famous evangelist in the United States, Franklin Graham is stepping into one of the tallest pulpits in Christianity.

His recent comments on Islam, however, show he won't be the ecumenical bridge-builder that his father, Billy Graham, often tries to be.

In a nationally televised service three days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Billy Graham preached a message of tolerance for Muslims. Two months later, Franklin Graham called Islam ``a very evil and wicked religion'' during an interview with NBC's ``Nightly News.''

He said more of the same in a new book and during its recent promotional tour.

Some in the Christian community credit Graham with speaking uncomfortable truths. Others say he's painting an unfairly monolithic picture of a diverse faith.

Graham says he wants to focus on his mission of promoting Christianity.

``I have declined dozens of interviews on the subject of Islam recently, yet I continue to be portrayed as waging an ongoing attack on Islam. That is not the case,'' Graham said in a statement late last week.

``My primary mission in life is to tell everyone I possibly can about the person of Jesus Christ.''

Graham's words carry added weight because he is the named successor to his 83-year-old father, who spoke of religious tolerance Sept. 14 at a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service at Washington's National Cathedral.

``We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be,'' Billy Graham said. ``The Bible says that he is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.'''

In November, as many, including President Bush, urged tolerance, Franklin Graham was criticized for his remarks during the NBC interview. In a subsequent Wall Street Journal column, Graham wrote that he does not believe Muslims ``are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith - including Christianity.''

But he also wrote that ``the persecution or elimination of non-Muslims has been a cornerstone of Islam conquests and rule for centuries.''

Graham's next brush with controversy came after a radio interview this month in which he said: ``The silence of the (Islamic) clerics around the world is frightening to me. How come they haven't come to this country, how come they haven't apologized to the American people, how come they haven't reassured the American people that this is not true Islam and that these people are not acting in the name of Allah, they're not acting in the name of Islam?''

In his new book, ``The Name,'' Graham writes that ``Islam - unlike Christianity - has among its basic teachings a deep intolerance for those who follow other faiths.''

Graham declined several requests last week by The Associated Press for a phone interview, instead issuing a statement through Samaritan's Purse, his Boone, N.C.-based relief agency.

Corwin Smidt, director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Michigan's Calvin College, is among those concerned about Graham's comments.

``Since we know so little about Islam, we need to be very careful about labeling it simply as one component,'' Smidt said. ``We have to be careful about characterizing a diverse group of people as all being the same.''

However, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said that even if Islam is the ``many-splintered thing'' described by Canadian theologist James Beverley, Graham is simply pointing out an obvious reality.

``If you look at all the splinters, you look at everywhere in the world where you have a nation that is dominated by Islam, there is no freedom of religion,'' Land said.

He declined to discuss the tone of Graham's statements, saying simply, ``He says things the way he feels called to say them and I say things the way I feel called to say them.

``I think his essential point, though, is that if Islam is a religion of peace, then where is it? ... Where are these people, the followers of Islam, when terrible things are being done in the name of their religion?''

Smidt noted that Billy Graham, whom Franklin Graham is to succeed as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, made his mark as an evangelist by reaching across lines that once divided fundamentalists from other Christians.

The approach led to Graham becoming an internationally beloved figure and counselor to presidents of various denominations across five different decades.

``Certainly, what (Franklin Graham) says is something that resonates with some Americans and some within the Christian community,'' Smidt said. ``There are also components of the community that are uncomfortable with comments that are very belligerent.''

08/26/02 04:46 EDT


Arab Fashion Designer Under Fire

.c The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) - A young Arab fashion designer who has come under fire from Muslim leaders for a racy dress said Monday she will not apologize for her creation that is decorated with Allah's name.

Fida Naamneh, 23, from the town of Arrabe in the Galilee in the north of Israel, has been denounced in mosques as an infidel. She has been compared to Salman Rushdie and death threats have been made against her in her village.

But she says it was her love for Islam and a desire to promote Arab culture which inspired her creation.

``I am proud of being Arab and Muslim and I don't understand why in my society some people think I did something wrong,'' she said.

The black dress, with its low cut front and back, is embroidered with three of the 99 ``asma,'' or names, of Allah - ``al-Kuddus,'' ``al-Hakim,'' ``al-Bari'' meaning ``the Most Holy,'' ``the Wise'' and ``the Creator,'' respectively.

The dress was part of a collection Naamneh designed for her final project at the college she was studying at in Tel Aviv where she was the only Arab student.

Her work won her a prize and received coverage in the Hebrew press.

That was when her troubles started. A local Arabic newspaper criticized her and her design. Hurtful rumors began to fly around her village and some people demanded she apologize.

Naamneh said she is determined to stand her ground and has her parents' support. ``I don't think I did something wrong. That's why I don't think I should apologize for making what I did,'' she said.

She said she was also not afraid of the threats against her.

``I am not afraid to go out. I am acting as usual but I also don't know how many people here will take this seriously and decide to do something,'' she said,

Her father, Mohammed, said some of the local religious leaders had come to see him and he explained that his daughter had not intended any harm.

``I am very proud of my daughter. A lot of people ... really liked the collection that she designed and I think a lot of people should be proud of her.

``I knew about the designs and I supported her. If there is any religious man who think she was doing something bad he should come and explain to us his opinion and so we can discuss it but I don't like it when people just talk,'' he said.

Sheikh Kamal Khatib, a senior leader of the Islamic Movement, said it was wrong to put the name of Allah on a dress because it could be worn to inappropriate places.

It was also wrong for a Muslim women to wear a dress like Naamneh designed because it was not modest enough, he said.

``It is all right to show that you are close to your religion and nationality but it is wrong to do it this way,'' he said.

08/26/02 10:14 EDT


Court Won't Halt UNC Quran Course

.c The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal appeals court refused Monday to halt a program to expose new students at the University of North Carolina to information about the Quran.

Attorneys for a conservative Christian group on Friday had asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to stop Monday's discussion sessions of a book that interprets the Islamic holy text. Members of the Virginia-based Family Policy Network and three unidentified UNC-Chapel Hill freshmen contended the assignment was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected the motion, ruling that ``the appellants have failed to satisfy the requirements for such relief.''

The brief ruling contained no further explanation.

A lower-court judge in Greensboro, N.C., had rejected the plaintiffs' arguments on Thursday. Terry Moffitt, board chairman for the Family Policy Network, said the group had no plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

About 4,200 incoming freshman and transfer students were assigned to read about 130 pages of ``Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations,'' by Michael Sells, a religion professor at Haverford College.

The Christian group said the assignment should have been prohibited because it promoted Islam. Lawyers for UNC-Chapel Hill said such a ban would mean a loss of free speech rights for students.

A university committee selected the book after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to introduce students to unfamiliar ideas shared by about 1 billion Muslims around the world, state attorneys said in a court brief filed Saturday.

The reading and the two-hour group discussions Monday afternoon were also designed to initiate students into the university's intellectual life, state attorneys said.

Officials had said a new student could decline the assignment but would have to write an essay explaining why. But they have also said that students who do nothing face no sanctions. In previous years, they said, about 50 percent to 60 percent of new students have participated in the summer reading program.

``Participation has been expressed as a requirement; but there has never been any adverse consequence for students who do not participate, other than their own self-chosen loss of a learning opportunity,'' state attorneys said.

The ruling issued Monday was written by Judge Robert B. King, who was joined in the unanimous decision by Judges Roger L. Gregory and William B. Traxler Jr.

The state House Appropriations Committee voted earlier this month to ban the use of public funds for the assignment unless other religions get equal time. Some legislators said their vote would have been no different had the book been a study of the Bible.

``They should never have used the power of that university to require a reading in one religion, mine or anybody else's,'' said Rep. Martin Nesbitt, a Democrat.

Of the students who brought the suit, one is evangelical Christian, one is Roman Catholic and one is Jewish.

On the Net:

Reading program: http://www.unc.edu/srp

08/19/02 12:09 EDT


2002 continued

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