UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the first U.N. seminar
on confronting Islamophobia Tuesday with a plea not to judge Muslims by the
acts of extremists who deliberately target and kill civilians.

The daylong forum came six months after a U.N. seminar devoted to
confronting anti-Semitism, also a first for the world body. Both were part
a series entitled “Unlearning Intolerance,” sponsored by the U.N.
Department of Public Information.

“The few give a bad name to the many, and this is unfair,” he told Islamic
scholars, writers and religious leaders as well as representatives of other

Annan urged people to condemn terrorist and violent acts carried out in the
name of Islam but which “no cause can justify.”

“Muslims themselves, especially, should speak out, as so many did following
the September 11 attacks on the United States, and show a commitment to
isolate those who preach or practice violence, and to make it clear that
these are unacceptable distortions of Islam,” he said.

Annan said “it is essential that solutions come from within Islam itself”
and suggested that the Islamic scholarly principle of
“ijtihad,” a process of critical inquiry, could foster free debate into
what is good and bad in Muslim cultures as well as others.

He stressed that Islam “should not be judged by the acts of extremists who
deliberately target and kill civilians…”


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