1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security






I. Introduction

My father, Seifeldin Ashmawy, was a Sunni Muslim and an American
citizen who migrated from Egypt to the United States in 1969.
Just over one month ago, he was unexpectedly killed in a fatal
car accident.

He made his life here in America - he got married and had a son.
He was a scientist by profession, but a humanitarian and a
scholar by nature. Over the quarter of a century that he spent in
the United States, he witnessed a dynamic change in the Muslim
community - the emergence of an extremist movement that began to
threaten the foundation of his faith. He felt obligated as a
Muslim, and as a person, to do something about this danger.

He studied Islam and other religions extensively and began giving
lectures in synagogues, churches and universities about Islam -
trying to reverse the ideologies of the Muslim extremist
movement. He endeavored to promote the true Islam, fighting the
misconception that the religion was one of violence and

He organized a group of intellectual Muslims who believed in
moderation and authentic Islam and named the organization the
Peace Press Association. Under the auspices of this organization,
he published a monthly newspaper, The Voice of Peace, in Arabic,
English and Spanish, that reflected their moderate views.
Currently, The Voice of Peace is being distributed in 10 states.

He was careful never to accept any support from any country, or
political or religious organizations, placing great value on
being able to assure readers that his views and that of the paper
were totally independent. He held to this principle, even when it
meant paying the costs of the newspaper out his own pocket.

At about the same time as the inception of The Voice of Peace, my
father began to appear monthly on the WABC radio program,
Religion on the Line, representing the moderate voice of Islam to
over one-half million listeners. For many of these listeners, his
monthly appearances were their first and only positive
introduction to Islam - juxtaposed against the negative attention
given by the American media to the activities of Muslim

About five years ago, my father took part in mission for peace to
the Middle East with an inter-religious group. He met with
political leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, West Bank and Israel
and reached out to the common citizens in each country,
explaining to them the importance of peace to all of us.

On many occasions he publicly denounced terrorism. and extremism
in any form - political or religious. It was his opinion that
extremists among the Muslims are not motivated by religion, but
by their own political greed. He also firmly believed that their
actions of terror were a departure from the ethnic and religious
morals in which he, and the majority of Muslims, believed. The
senseless killings of civilians were abhorrent to him as Muslim
and as human a being.

He sincerely believed in a just peace in the Middle East. He
denounced the acts of organizations, such as Hamas, as well as
the collective punishment carried out by the Israeli government
against all Palestinians, regardless of their guilt or innocence.
In his opinion, peace would only be achieved when both sides
truly accepted one another as equals, and could deal with one
another in a fair and just manner.

Within my father's New Jersey community, he was involved in
openly confronting Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman before the World Trade
Center bombing, publicly debating the Sheik and his followers. My
father risked his life by taking the public stand that he did,
and he faced the indescribable hardship of knowing that threats
had been made on his life. Yet, he continued with the work to
which he had devoted himself.

In a past appearance before another Senate hearing, he stated
that "by appearing before you today I am placing my life, as well
as that of my family, in jeopardy; since I will be accused by the
extremists as a traitor to Islam." However, he believed strongly
in his faith and in peace. In that same statement, he made clear
that he had "chosen [his] path willingly to explain to Muslims
and non-Muslims the authentic Islam, which loves and respects the
life of every human being." It was this belief - and the support
of his loving wife - that gave him the courage to take such risks
despite no hope of reward.

During his life, my father fought to defend and protect his
country, the United States of America; to defend his faith; and
to speak out for the moderate voice of the world's fastest
growing religion, Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, and moderation. It is
inclusive of all people, regardless of race or ethnicity. It is
the only religion that accepts both the Torah and the Bible,
along with the Koran, as the authentic words of one God for all
people. Islam acknowledges and reveres all the prophets of God,
including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and Mohammed
(Peace be upon them); recognizing all of them as equals. A Muslim
is asked only to believe in one God, to do good deeds with good
intentions, and to help those in need. In no way is Islam a
religion of the sword; nor is it inherently anti-Western. It is a
faith of mercy - teaching that it is far better to forgive a
person accused of wrong doing than to pass judgement on them.

I wish to emphasize that Islam is a religion of peace -
forbidding Muslims from taking an offensive stance in a conflict;
instructing its followers only to fight if attacked. It is a
universal faith with believers on every continent and nearly
every nation in the world. Therefore, those who promote Islam as
a narrow religion of violence, bigotry, and hatred profoundly
misrepresent the faith.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished committee members, my father
devoted his life to the moderate Muslim voice only to discover
that no one, neither the media nor the government, was concerned
about how extremism affected Islam's majority - moderate Muslims.
They seemed to forget that the extremists are but a small, albeit
a loud, minority among a vast sea of moderates who believe in the
authentic teachings of Islam.

I am here, in my father's, and my own, name to tell you that the
mask of religion, which these extremists wear, must be torn from
their faces and they should be recognized for what they stand for
- greed and power.
The moderate voice of Islam must be allowed to speak. It is in
that voice - the voice of my father - the voice with which I
speak to you today - that we will all find security and peace.

II. Islamic Extremism

The face of the Muslim extremists has been modified in the last
three decades. Their operation has extended from the local to the
international. Their activities have changed from small
skirmishes to what can be described as a militia jihad. Their
actions were initially directed against foreign occupation, now
they terrorize their own communities. Their agenda began with
religious motivation and has transformed, today, into political

Their tactics, beginning with the initial birth of extremism in
Islam which occurred in 657 A.D., have never altered. They are
the same today as they were over 1,300 years ago. The extremists
mobilize people by slogans and arouse them by fear. They attack
their Muslim brethren who do not agree with their motivation by
branding them infidel, "Kaffara, (sing. Kaffer)". The non-Muslims
are the enemy of God, "A'adau Allah, who are living in a
corrupted Western society with a hidden agenda to destroy Islam.

Throughout the past thirteen centuries, the Islamic extremist
movement, with its peaks and valleys, has had a multifaceted
agenda, but always one objective - to rule the Muslim world.


1) To establish an Islamic theocratic government

Although neither The Koran, the Muslim's holy book, nor the
Prophet of Islam indicated or recommended any type or style of a
political system for the Muslim community, the ideology of the
extremist movement revolves around the creation of a theocracy.

The government in Islam has never been theocratic. From the very
beginning of the history of Islam, the Muslim rulers never
professed that they were infallible. They never asserted that
they were the only source to interpret the Koran. The Muslim
scholars and judges, who held a respected status in the state,
were the initiators of this thought.

The extremists describe the current governments as secular,
believing that they are applying the Western code rather than the
Islamic law. The word secular was borrowed early this century
from the Western vocabulary and was translated to Arabic as
"A'almani". It has been used by the extremists to describe civil
government in the Islamic world. The extremists use the word
"A'almani," or secular, as a synonym to the word "Kaffer," or
infidel. They use it to defame and taint the current governments
as Western collaborators. It is their most popular slogan to
instigate people against their civil institutions.

2) To impose islamic law, "The Shar'ia"
The Islamic law is the work of many Muslims scholars. They
codified the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet. The
moderate Muslims do not consider this specific work of the
scholars to codify the Koran and the prophet's tradition to be
untouchable, and they believe that it could be modified to suite
the times and places. It is very important to emphasize that
moderates do not believe in the modification of the Koran itself,
only the legal codification developed by the scholars. All
Muslims believe that the Koran was revealed, word for word, by
God to the Prophet. However, the extremists reverse the
moderate's call for a revision of the Shar'ia and represent it to
the less educated citizens as if it is a call to modify the
Koran. This is plainly not the case. The extremists on the
contrary would like to apply the Shar'ia, as it was written in
the seventh and eighth centuries, to the modern world of the
late twentieth century.

3) To revive the Caliphate

The Caliphate was abolished by Mostafa Kamal "Attatork" in 1925.
The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I gave him the
opportunity to overthrow the last Sultan "Abdel Hamid," who was
also the last Caliph. The extremists consider that the Caliphate
represents the unity of the Muslim community under one ruler, the
Caliph. Simultaneously, they also consider the Caliph a successor
to the Prophet of Islam. The moderate Muslims refuse this notion.
They advocate the idea that the Caliph is a civil head of state
and hold to the belief that there was no successor to the
Prophet's heavenly inspired revelations.

The first Caliph, Abu Baker, was elected by the Muslim community
after the death of the Prophet in 632 A.D. in his inaugural
speech, he told the people that they had elected him, although he
was not the best of them. He also said that if they approved of
what he was doing they should help, however, if he stayed, they
should correct him. This was the first civil institution after
the death of the Prophet - a government by the people and for the

The extremists accuse the moderates who refuse the idea of
reestablishing the Caliphate of blasphemy and of opposing the
revival of Islam.


The Shi'ites and The Kharijites

About 657 A.D. a conflict over who would rule the new Islamic
Empire took place between Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the
Prophet Mohammed, and his rival, Muawiya, the Prophet's second
cousin. The conflict ended with Muawiya's victory.

During the conflict, Ali was obliged to acquiesce to a settlement
by arbitration; however, a group of his followers did not accept
the agreement on the grounds that the result of the battle should
not have been be decided by human intervention. Instead, they
determined to fight until God judged by victory or defeat. The
result of the war would be the final arbitration and judgment of

Their opinion was based on misinterpretation of a portion of
Koranic verse ("Judgement belongs to God alone." Sura 4:57.). The
entire verse was exclusively about the People of the Book, Jews
and Christians, who refused to apply God's commandments. The
verse was explaining that in a dispute the commandments of God
should lead the people to the correct judgement.

These dissenters seceded from Ali's camp and became known as
Kharijites or "Seceders." They declared both leaders, Ali and
Muawiya, to be infidels and deserving of death. This was the
beginning of a schism in Islam.

A member of the Kharijites killed Ali, and they continued to war
against Muawiya and his successors on different occasions. It is
believed that this is one of the reasons why Muawiya's dynasty,
the "Omayyads" (660 to 750 A.D.), became weak and was eventually
overthrown by the "Abbaside" dynasty (750 -1258 A.D.).

The doctrine of the Kharijites has never died, and has been
embraced by many extremists and anarchists in Muslim countries.
Those who adhere to that doctrine still raise the banner of
"Judgement belongs to God alone." However, the word "judgement"
took on a different meaning and began to mean Rule exclusively,
including all its political attributes.

On the other hand, the followers of Ali after his assassination
in 661 A.D., claimed that Ali and his line were the only ones who
should rule the Muslim community. This group of supporters became
known as the Shi'ite of Ali. The word "Shi'ite" means "party" or

From the early part of Islamic history the Shi'ite were
oppressed. Since the Shi'ite of Ali or the "party" of Ali's main
objective was to overthrow the central government, they became
the enemy of the state. Faced with continuous persecution and
execution, the movement went underground. The underground
movement became militant and violent. The simple idea of
supporting Ali and his line was later complicated when it became
philosophized and theorized.

The Shi'ite are divided into many factions, but the two main
groups are the "Twelvers" (mainly in Iran) and the "Ismailites "
(the majority in Pakistan and India). The Shi'ite population is
about 100 million; Iran, being the stronghold and the most
populous country among the Shi'ite communities, assumed their

The Shi'ite embrace martyrdom, following the example of El
Hussein, the son of Ali and grandchild of the Prophet, who was
killed in his attempt to overthrow the central government. The
hidden agenda of the Shi'ite is to spread their doctrine and
attempt to install the lineage of Ali to lead the Muslim
The majority of the ideology of extremism has been derived from
these two groups. Furthermore, both ideology have meshed together
to the point that it is sometimes difficult to rationalize their
tactic and policies.


1) State Sponsorship

Until about 1952, small local groups with little or no outside
support composed the extremist movement. The largest group was
the Muslim Brotherhood. It was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan
El Banna. When Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt in 1953, he
promoted his Pan-Arabism policies. The Pan-Arabism policies
became very popular among the Arabs. The Saudis, fearful of this
policy, began to financially support the Muslim Brotherhood to
destabilize Nasser's regime.

The Saudis fostered the idea of Pan Islamism as a counter policy
to Nasser's Pan Arabism. They also tried to assume the roll of
leadership and protector of Islam, which Egypt had enjoyed for a
long time. In order to assert their leadership, the Saudis,
intentionally or unintentionally, found themselves obliged to
finance many of the extremist groups.

The Islamic extremist movement expanded out of Egypt in the 1950s
and '60s. The growing patriotism and the call for independence by
Arab countries gave rise to this strong conservative and, later,
extreme movement.

Libya, after Kaddafy came to power in 1969, and Iran, in 1979,
followed the footsteps of the Saudis in their support of

As a result of the increase in state support, the extremists
began to emerge from a limited, domestic movement to
international terrorism. They became the vengeful arm of these
states, such as the explosion in December 21, 1988 of Pan Am 103
over Lockerbie, Scotland; the bombing of the U.S. army barracks
in Beirut, Lebanon; the bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in
November 1995; and the June 1996 bombing of the El Khobar

2) The Ayatollah Khomeini and "Iran"

The turning point in the extremist movement in the past two
decades was the installation of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
government in February 1979 with the help of the USA under
President Carter's administration. The structure of this
theocratic government is based on the Shi'ite doctrine.

Contrary to the majority of the Muslims, the Shi'ite believe in a
hierarchy of religious clergy with the Ayatollah Ruhollah being
the highest. The main voice and interpretation of religious and
non-religious matters is the opinion of the Ayatollah, the Imam
(the Arabic word for leader). The Imam in Shi'ite doctrine is
infallible and must be obeyed.

The Iranian government recognizes that Muslims hold the lineage
of the Prophet close to their heart and camouflage their
intention to expand their doctrine and influence by using this
emotional tie of "Ahl El-Beit", the closest kin to the Prophet,
to mobilize the public to spread their doctrine.

The government has mobilized and utilized the country's resources
and media to achieve their goals. Their goal is to install other
theocratic governments favorable to the Shi'ite's ideas and
doctrines. They finance the extremist movement in other countries
and provide a safe haven for its proponents. In addition, they
train the extremist guerrillas,"mujahedeen," to destabilize the
governments in other Muslim countries.

The extremists considered the installation of the Khomini
government a leap to success for their movement. A theocratic
government is in place and their dream can now be realized. The
style of this government became the role model for the

3) The war in Afghanistan

In 1978, the Soviet Union engineered a bloody military coup in
Afghanistan and installed a communist government. The United
States, fearing that the U.S.S.R. would have a stronghold close
to the oil rich Gulf States, took an active role during the
Ronald Reagan administration to drive the Soviets out of

The CIA, with the support of the Reagan Administration, recruited
some Afghanistan extremists and trained them in Pishawor,
Pakistan. Pishawor became not only the training ground for the
Afghani militants, but the gathering point for all extremists,
such as Ramzy Youssef. Some extremists were recruited directly or
indirectly by the CIA from other Muslim countries, such as Abed
Allah Azzem, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahmen, currently imprisoned in the
U.S. for the World Trade Center bombing, and Mustafa Shalaby,
former head of the Brooklyn, New York office to recruit the
mujahedeen. Shalaby was mysteriously killed and his killer is
still at large.

As a result of the U.S. involvement, these extremists were well
trained and organized. They were trained in the use of advanced
weapons, sophisticated communications and guerrilla warfare. They
became extremely knowledgeable in military tactics and codes. In
fact, they became a strong, subversive military force.

The idea which was instilled in them-- that they were fighting
for God and in the name of God-- united all the recruited
fighters and formed a cohesive fraternity of all these
extremists. Their battle cry or their slogan in their fight
against the Soviets was "Allah Akbar" or God is Great.

These well-trained extremist guerillas, or mujahedeen, with
America's assistance, were able to overthrow Communism and defeat
the Soviets. However, this victory was interpreted within their
own community as a sign that they could conquer anything if they
continued fighting for God.

After the overthrow of Communism in Afghanistan, the extremists
were abandoned by the United States and left without a common
goal. They returned to their homeland's, however, with belief
that they were invincible. Their dream to establish theocratic
governments in their own countries became stronger, supported
with their new military training. It was the return of the Afghan
fighters to their countries of origin that brought a new wave of
extremism to many nations.

4) Infiltration of extremism into the West

The liberal policies of the West, primarily France, Germany,
England and the United States, allowed the extremists from the
Middle East to establish bases of operations in their countries.

The extremists infiltrated these countries through immigration or
political asylum. They have taken advantage of the democratic and
liberal atmosphere to organize and form a nucleus of leadership.
From these new bases, they attempt to achieve their political
agendas in their home countries.

The easily obtained western technology and free open market
offers them a better and more effective way to direct and finance
their followers. The tolerant policies of the West facilitate the
creation of safe havens for their supporters and fugitives.

Utilizing all the current technology available in communications
has helped the extremists to have strong, successful, effective
and influential underground activities.

The quick and immediate transferal of monies has also enhanced
the power of the extremists, giving them the opportunity to
expand by financing and supporting new members into the inner
circle and to hijack established Islamic institutions, or
establish new ones.

The protection the extremists receive in the Western countries
under the auspices of freedom of speech and association has
unfortunately made them powerful. In addition, their activities
are not necessarily illegal since their conspiracies are not
toward the host country, but towards the countries of their

5) The East vs. The West

The aftermath of the Crusades became evident in the attitude of
Muslims towards the West. Muslims became distrustful of the
West's intentions and policies. The West, in turn, became aware
of these suspicions when they occupied the Middle East countries
in the Eighteenth Century. England and France, the main players
at the time, understood the economic and the strategic location
of the Middle East and attempted to westernize and modernize the
occupied countries.
The Muslim conservatives assumed that the intention of these
nations, beyond the movement towards westernization, was to
demoralize Islam. Furthermore, the differences in lifestyles
between the two cultures made it even more difficult for the
conservatives in the Middle East to accept the new changes.

The occupation of the Muslim countries by the West categorized
them as the enemy and the oppressor. The extremists used this
perception as a motivation to fuel hatred and antagonism towards
the West, and perpetuated and strengthened the image of the West
as the enemy of Islam.

The creation of Israel in 1948, and the failure of the West to
achieve a just peace in the Middle East, further eroded the image
of the West; providing the extremists more opportunities to
portray the West, and the U.S. in particular, as the "Great

Although extremists consider the western civilization corrupt,
they take advantage of the democratic principles to expand and
protect their movement, while simultaneously pointing their guns
towards them. They feel that by terrorizing the people of these
countries, it will lead their governments to exert pressure on
their home governments to compromise and negotiate with them.

6) Domestic causes

Nasser's successful coup against King Farouk in 1952, his popular
Pan-Arabism policy, and his successful challenge to the West made
him a hero in the Arab world. His support given to Algeria
against France, enticing the people of Yemen, Jordan and Iraq to
turn against England, and his efforts to turn other Arab
countries against the United States all aided in his increasing
popularity. His success in defeating an alliance sponsored by
United States between Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan,
"The Baghdad Alliance," made Nasser a model dictator for all
other Arab countries.

But the failure of all the dictators to ease the poverty, bring
victory to the battlefield, improve the economy, and generally
elevate the standard of life for the people brought only
frustration. This frustration was subsequently used by the
extremists to agitate the people against the government and to
expand their support.

Moreover, the liberal educational policy adopted in the Arab
states permitted the underprivileged children, who were
influenced the most by very conservative ideas, to attend
colleges and universities. As a result, these students were
easily attracted to and recruited by the extremist movement.
Later, they infiltrate government offices and all other facets of
life, and gave rise to ultra conservative notions.


The problem of extremism cannot be resolved unless specific
measures are taken. They include:

1. The moderate Islamic voice must be accepted, adopted and
promoted by the local governments, as well as the international
community, in order to counteract the vehement propaganda of the
extremists. It is a known fact that the moderate Muslims far
outnumber the extremists. By advocating the moderate position,
the extremist movement will find itself an outcast in the Muslim

2. Some Western countries are attempting to apply the policy of
"divide and conquer" among the Muslim community. On one hand,
they help the extremists, and on the other hand, they are
supporting the local government. This must be stopped. This
policy will not succeed in the Muslim community since all Muslims
consider themselves a part of a single foundation. The result of
a "divide and conquer" policy will be a severe backlash, and it
will bring hate and violence to the countries that initiate this

3. It is imperative that we stop labeling the extremists with the
prefix of Islamic and/or Muslim. These two prefixes antagonize
the Muslim community and strengthen their suspicions towards the
West's intentions, while at the same time, increase sympathy and
solidarity towards the extremists. Labeling a Muslim Shi'ite or
Sunni will also be counterproductive, since Muslims look upon the
whole community as one. And they feel that the West is attempting
to put a wedge among the Muslims.

4. Increase or enhance education among the public through
publications and use of the media to explain that the ideology of
the extremists is far from the fundamental teachings of Islam.

5. Recognition of the extremists gives them a political identity
and increases their influence among the masses. Refusing to
acknowledge them will reduce their influence and effectiveness in
the community. As history has demonstrated, (both in Egypt and in
Israel and Palestine), when the government aids and recognizes
the extremists as an entity, the extremists will grow stronger
and then will work against the government that helped to create
it. An example of this is the extremists in Egypt that the killed
Sadat, and Hamas which was aided by Israel and now is beyond
control of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

6. Isolate the head of state of the countries that sponsor and
support extremism without applying embargoes that punish the
people. Applying embargoes that hurt the common citizens will
backlash and gives the extremists yet another opportunity to
attack the West, allowing them to state that the West is trying
to kill and destroy the Muslim people.

7. Comprehensive peace in the Middle East is essential to curb
terrorism and extremism not only in the region, but throughout
the world. This will improve the economic conditions in Middle
Eastern countries and give the governments time to focus on their
individual domestic problems. It will also eliminate the slogans
the extremists are using, either to show the ineffectiveness of
their government to solve the domestic problems or to achieve a
just solution to the Palestinian problem.

8. Another essential point to curb terrorism and extremism is the
necessity to eliminate corruption among the governing Muslim
leaders. This is a main source of discord among the people and an
important tool in the hands of the extremists, who use its
existence to gather support from the masses.

9. Cut the source. It is obvious that the sources that supply
military and financial support to the extremists are known to the
Western and Middle East intelligence organizations. If the source
is restrained and thwarted the extremist movement will suffer,
and their growth and influence will be minimized to the point of

III. The Threat Extremism Poses to the Muslim Community

One could accurately say that the misconceptions and
misunderstandings that plague the Islamic community are almost
entirely the result of the extremist movement within Islam. The
perception of Islam as a violent, intolerant, anti-western
religion has been created by the minority extremist component of
Islam and then perpetuated by the attention that they receive in
the Western media and by other Western power blocks.

Islam, in spirit and in practice, is a religion of inclusion, of
peace, and of mercy. Its followers are taught to be kind and
tolerant to all people, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, or
religion. Perhaps more than any other faith, Islam can be said to
propound a truly universal philosophy that is accepting of all
people, religions, and ideas. The Koran, the holy book of Islam,
could not be more explicit in its command "There shall be no
compulsion in religion." This single line embodies the spirit of
Islam - a faith that acknowledges and strengthens the nobility of
the individual, while simultaneously embracing the importance and
power of community.

Extremists have distorted this true image of universalism in the
eyes of the world. In the United States, their acts of violence
and fanatic intolerance have tragically marred the perceptions
Americans have of Islam. Though the doctrines they espouse are
wholly incompatible with the teachings of Islam, and run contrary
to the very foundations of the faith and its traditions, these
terrorists have managed to partially succeed in their goal to
alienate Americans from the Muslim community - thus making
leaders on both sides mistakenly believe that cooperation is, at
best, a difficult venture. They have succeeded in making the
American people unnecessarily wary of any association with Islam.
This alienation and wariness is extremely harmful to both America
and its Muslim communities - and to the Islamic world as a whole.

No good can ever come from blatant misconceptions of truth. The
fear that has been generated by these extremist entities has
given rise to an alarmist atmosphere in this country towards
Islam and its followers. This fear has found a foothold in every
aspect of American society - from the government down to the
American people. Moreover, there has been no significant attempt
by anyone in a visible public office to emphasize the fact that
these extremists are acting under contrary to Islam.

Extremism, by definition, is a force contrary to freedom,
liberty, and justice. Islamic extremism is no different than any
other form of ideological extremism. They believe that they are
justified in attempting to force their belief system on others.
In their eyes, moderate Muslims, who cringe at the blood and pain
caused by such extreme elements, are considered renegades of
Islam - nonbelievers and enemies of the religion. Within this
extreme movement, as with all types of extremism, there is only
room for one set of thoughts, one opinion, one vision. Extremism
poses its greatest danger to the Islamic community - stifling its
diversity and its multifaceted and multinational character. It is
a threat to the freedom and liberty of the community, and thus to
the very community itself; for what community can truly survive
staunch intolerance and lack of free thought.)

Islam is struggling with this extremist movement world-wide. In
this country however, the difficulties faced by moderate Muslims
are particularly unique. There is no question that moderate
Muslims make up the vast majority of Muslims in this country and
world-wide, with followers of extremist movements a fraction of
the population. Yet, the amount of attention received by each
group is inversely proportionate to its size. The media and other
sources of public information concentrate excessively on the
extremist element of Islam, and give little to no time to the
moderate Muslim voice.

While this can be explained by pointing out that it is the
extreme element who poses a conceivable danger and therefore
somehow deserves the majority of the media attention, this answer
does not take into consideration the full scope of the problem.
It is this attention that Muslim extremists have been able to
draw, to the exclusion of all else, that presents America and
American Muslims with their most significant problem.

Unless the moderate Muslim voice is given sufficient attention
and is allowed time and a significant forum, it is unreasonable
to expect that voice to be able to overcome any extreme Muslim
element present in this country. Moreover, the continued focus on
Muslim extremists without properly placing them in the context of
the larger Muslim community, will further alienate American
Muslims by reinforcing a belief that America is only interested
in weakening Islam. Allowing this belief to perpetuate would be,
at best, an invitation for further misunderstandings on all sides
- an event that be would detrimental to all.

In summary, Islam, perhaps the most misunderstood religion in the
world, has suffered as much as its people from ignorance and
foreign occupation. Islam, like the rest of the world, faces a
new challenge, the rise of extremism; however, this challenge is
not exclusive to Islam; it is being faced by every nation and
every religion. It is a phenomenon which is altering the thought
and action of every part of the world. It is a phenomenon which
can conceivably lead to the fall of governments, deviate mankind
from the course of God, and destroy many of the most cherished
democratic ideals. Islam is not a militant religion, but a
religion of peace, mercy, and love for all people. Unfortunately,
like everything else, when man uses something he distorts it. The
religion of Islam is no exception. However, true Islam joins
Judaism and Christianity in its call for love, mercy and justice.

As Americans we must never forget the value we place on freedom
and liberty, and at no time can America, in its possible
responses to extremism, allow the Muslim community in this nation
or abroad to suffer any injustices. We must remember to place
extremism in the context of the broader community. To do
otherwise would only place this great nation in the same category
as those very extremists we are trying to fight. Intolerance and
injustice at the hand of any entity - even for an admirable cause
- is repugnant to all that we as Americans, and I as a Muslim,
hold to be true.