Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Area Muslims say divide in poll not about faith

Jun 24, 2006

A global divide between Muslims and the Western World isn't about religious faith, say prominent Islamic leaders in the Richmond area.

"While it is true there is a divide . . . it's about politics more than anything else," said Malik Khan, a trustee at the Islamic Center of Virginia and chairman of its outreach efforts.

Khan and other Muslim leaders are not impressed by the results of a new poll that attempts to measure mistrust between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West. The poll was conducted in 15 countries by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press.

"It creates a bad taste in the mouths of the Muslims, especially those living in the West," said Khan, who was president of the Islamic Center for four years. "It doesn't help."

Dr. Ali Hossaini, who came here from Iraq more than 50 years ago, agreed. "It's not helpful," he said. 'I think it is in many areas misleading."

Khan, who arrived in Virginia from Pakistan in 1973, and Hossaini said the attitudes of Muslims toward the West depends on where they live, how well they are educated, and what issue they're considering. For example, Muslims in the Middle East and some European countries tend to harbor more ill will toward the West than those living in the United States, Khan said. "We have a different view. We're much more patient, much more tolerant, much more understanding."

Many Muslims dislike the policies of Western governments, such as the treatment of Palestine after World War II and the current U.S.-led war in Iraq

"The poll said they are against the West," Khan said. "What they should have said is they are against the policies of the governments and administrations. They're not against the people."

Many Muslims, here and abroad, supported the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and spoke out against atrocities committed by Islamic radicals, he added.

"There was a point where we did converge," Khan said. "Let's not forget about that."

Contact staff writer Michael Martz at or (804) 649-6964.

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