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Oakland Tribune – July 16, 2005

SF Bay Area Muslims pledge to fight hate in mosques

By Momo Chang

SAN FRANCISCO — Responding to fears of possible homegrown terrorists, Bay Area mosque leaders assured they will carefully monitor their communities and continue to promote nonviolence.

"The people who committed the crimes are on the fringe of the fringe," said Souleiman Ghali, president of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. "Speaking as an Islamic leader, I will never tolerate amongst our people, in our mosques, in our schools, the indoctrination of hatred or killing."

Four leaders from mosques across the Bay Area representing an estimated 2,000 members as well as a dozen other interfaith community leaders spoke Friday. Ameena Jandali of the national organization Islamic Networks Group estimates there are 30 mosques in the Bay Area and that approximately 200,000 Muslims live in the region.

Recent details of the London bombers as young men, born and raised in England, have created mounting fear of possible terrorists in the United States. The London bombers are suspected to have been misled and encouraged by mentors.

Muslim leaders said their role is to continue to promote nonviolence in their mosques.

"I know the people in my community, and I know many of the young people," said Mohamad Rajabally, president of Islamic Society of the East Bay. "The safety of America is also the safety of our families."

Other Islamic organizations want to prevent misunderstanding of a religion that is often associated with terrorism and violence.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights organization, has launched a "Not in the Name of Islam" campaign that includes a petition condemning violence, signed by 700,000 Muslims. The national campaign also includes a 30-second public service announcement stating, "Islam is not about hatred and violence. It is about peace and justice."

Leaders said they represent moderate Muslims — the majority of the Muslim population — and acknowledged that extremists may never evenset foot inside their mosques or be affiliated with their organizations. Leaders said they will continue to denounce violence, but that everyone needs to work together to eliminate terrorism.

"The fundamentalists may not even be in our mosques," said Imam Tahir Anwar, the religious leader of the South Bay Islamic Association. One suspect in the London transit bombings was never seen attending his local mosque, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Other leaders in the Muslim community said that reaching out to people in their communities is essential to building peace in the long-run — by getting to know neighbors, co-workers, teachers and students.

"If all of us get to know each other, we have a better chance of making America safe because only knowledge and acceptance can subside the fear," said Samina Faheem Sundas of American Muslim Voice.

Zakariyya Twist of Zaytuna Institute, an educational center in Hayward, explained that Muslims are at the forefront of a lot of world issues today and encouraged people to learn more about Islam.

"I can see people thinking, 'What's up with Islam?'" said Twist, who converted to Islam eight years ago. "Because every time we hear something about Muslims, it's about something terrible happening."