CAIR: 5 YEARS AFTER TERROR ATTACKS, AMERICAN MUSLIMS LOOK WITHIN
After the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, distraught Muslim leaders in the United States feared the next casualty would be their religion.
Islam teaches peace, they told anyone who would listen in news conferences, at interfaith services and, most famously, standing in a mosque with U.S. President George Bush.
But five years later, the target audience for their pleas has shifted. Now the faith's leaders in North America are starting to warn fellow Muslims about a threat from within.
The 2005 subway attacks in London that investigators say were committed by British-born and -raised Muslims, and the relentless Muslim-engineered sectarian assaults on Iraqi civilians, are among the events that have convinced some U.S. Muslims to change focus.
“This sentiment of denial, that sort of came as a fever to the Muslim community after 9-11, is fading away,” said Muqtedar Khan, a political scientist at the University of Delaware and author of American Muslims. “They realize that there are Muslims who use terrorism, and the community is beginning to stand up to this.”
Muslim leaders point to two stark examples of the new mind-set:
_A Canadian-born Muslim man worked with police for months investigating a group of Islamic men and youths accused in June of plotting terrorist attacks in Ontario. Mubin Shaikh said he feared any violence would ultimately hurt Islam and Canadian Muslims.
_In England, it's been widely reported that a tip from a British Muslim helped lead investigators to uncover what they said was a plan by homegrown extremists to use liquid explosives to destroy U.S.-bound planes.
Co-operation isn't emotionally easy, as western governments enact security policies that critics say have criminalized Islam itself. . .
Yet some leaders say keeping watch for extremists protects all Muslims and their civil rights.
Salam al-Marayati, executive director of Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, says working closely with authorities underscores that Muslims are not outsiders to be feared. It also gives Muslims a way to directly air their concerns about how they're treated by the government.
“We're not on opposite teams,” al-Marayati said. “We're all trying to protect our country from another terrorist attack.”
In 2004, his group started the National Anti-Terrorism Campaign, urging Muslims to monitor their own communities, speak out more boldly against violence and work with law enforcement. Hundreds of U.S. mosques have signed on, al-Marayati said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, ran a TV ad campaign and a petition-drive called Not in the Name of Islam, which repudiates terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of people have endorsed it, according to Ibrahim Hooper, the group's spokesman.
After the London subway bombings, the Fiqh Council of North America, which advises Muslims on Islamic law, issued a fatwa _ or edict _ declaring that nothing in Islam justifies terrorism. The council said Muslims were obligated to help law enforcement protect civilians from attacks.
“I think everyone now agrees that silence isn't an option,” Hooper said. “You have to speak out in defence of civil liberties, but you also have to speak out against any kind of extremism or violence that's carried out in the name of Islam.”