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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bush's 'fascist' talk alienates Muslims

A letter to the editor
By Hussam Ayloush, Press Enterprise, September 6, 2006

William R. Snaer [Call our Enemy What it is: Islamofascist, Aug. 27] is mistaken.

Language can be an important tool in our fight against terrorism as well as in winning the hearts and minds of 1.3 billion Muslims. Immediately after the U.K. officials foiled an alleged terror plot involving transport of liquid explosives on planes, President George W. Bush held a press conference and stated, "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

Needless to say, it was offensive and erroneous. Islam teaches its followers to promote the values of peace, justice, human brotherhood, and positive cooperation among nations. These teachings culminated in a rich Islamic civilization, the likes of which are still visible in Spain, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

To link Islam with fascism due to the acts of a small minority falsely claiming a link to Islam is inaccurate, unfair, and counter-productive.

During World War II, there were priests who blessed German and Italian soldiers' efforts to spread fascism, but we never talked about Christian fascism, and rightly so, because linking Judaism, Christianity or Islam and their good teachings with the evil of fascism is an oxymoron.

Bush's ill-conceived statement, now repeated by a number of right-wing politicians and columnists, unfairly contributes to an increasing tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Moreover, Bush's anti-Islam rhetoric offends and alienates the very Muslim masses that we strongly need in order to isolate the fringe minority of violent extremists. Let's not forget that those who tipped British officials off to the alleged terror plot were Muslims. Do we really want to send Muslims a message that this war is actually a war on Islam? Do we really want to play into the hands of extremists who so far have been despised and rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims?

Those who insist on offending and demonizing one fourth of our world's population fall under one of two categories. They are either Islamophobes who have found joy in a new slur or, more alarming, are deliberately seeking a wider and longer conflict between our country and the Muslim world.

Extremism and hatred, on all sides, are the fuel of terrorism and violence. Our best approach to containing terrorism is through a culture of mutual respect, trust, and dialogue. The more prevailing this culture becomes, the more isolated extremists are going to be.

As for our language, we should call the enemy what it is - extremist, radical, terrorist, fascist.

Hussam Ayloush is the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California chapter, and is a resident of Corona.

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