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U.S. Islamic Leaders Call on Faithful to Denounce Terrorism

Times Staff Writer

Alarmed by resurgent anti-Muslim rhetoric in the aftermath of the beheading of an American in Iraq, U.S. Muslim leaders launched a new campaign Thursday to disassociate their faith from terrorism.

In Washington, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the nation’s Muslims to sign an online petition to declare that terrorism betrays Islam and that American Muslims abhor it.

In Los Angeles, Muslim leaders said that the beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg would be condemned in as many as 50 mosques that are part of the Shura Council of Southern California. Berg was killed by a man identified Thursday by the CIA as Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is considered an ally of Osama bin Laden.

The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council said it was stepping up a months-long effort to gather Muslim leaders and members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol to denounce terrorism.

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Although Muslims have faced criticism and hostility before, such as after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Berg’s slaying has prompted new outrage directed at Islamic leaders.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and others said Muslims were being painted with a broad brush on radio talk shows and on Internet sites. Hooper said talk-show callers were asking why Muslims were not condemning the brutality.

The new American Muslim campaign, “Not in the Name of Islam,” is “one way we can get that word out,” Hooper said of the online petition drive.

Aslam Abdullah, editor of the Minaret, a national Islamic magazine published in Los Angeles, said: “Those people who claim they beheaded Berg have been killing innocent people for the last several years.... They are basically exploiting the case of the Iraqi prisoners. It’s an ungodly, un-Islamic act. I have no hesitation in saying they are not Muslims.”

Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, called Berg’s killing barbaric. He rejected any connection between Berg’s beheading and the brutal treatment and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad by U.S. troops. Berg’s decapitation “was actually a stab in the heart of Islam,” Al-Marayati said.

Abdullah said a prayer vigil at the Los Angeles Federal Building was planned for May 22 for Berg and the Iraqi prisoners.

“It’s important,” Hooper said, “that Muslims do their part to try and break this downward spiral of mutual hostility and hatred that seems to be engulfing the entire world.”


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