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U.S. Muslim Leaders Want Unity Ahead of Sharon's Visit


CHICAGO, June 25 (IslamOnline) - Ahead of a controversial visit by Israel's ultra-rightist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington, leaders from U.S. national Muslim organizations said Muslims need to "solve their differences" to be able to stand up for Palestinian rights in the occupied Muslim territories.

The call came from two national U.S. Muslim organizations during a public Muslim meeting in Chicago last Friday. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Souheil Ghannouchi, President of Muslim American Society (MAS), headed the gathering which was entitled, "Will Palestine Bleed Forever? - What is being done? What could be done? What you can do."

The leaders of MAS and ICNA were in Chicago to attend a strategic planning meeting of the two organizations. ICNA, a majority of whose members are from the Indian subcontinent, and the predominantly Arab MAS, have recently set an example for Muslim organizations by deciding to merge into a single organization. They plan on combining their respective publications and uniting their youth groups.

Shah, a respected Muslim leader in the U.S., said that Muslims tend to become emotionally attached to the issue of Palestine whenever it attracts media limelight, but then quickly forget it without taking any concrete actions.

He said that this is not just an Arab issue but also an issue for what he called "the whole Muslim Ummah (nation)." 

Speaking on the Israeli efforts to control the Holy Land, he said that despite their numerous sectarian differences, they are united on the topic of Israel. 

The so-called Jewish Temple Foundations, dedicated to the construction of what Jews believe is Soloman's Temple - at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, have collected millions of dollars for that end.

"If we are unable to stop the Jews now, their next stop is Yathrib (The Prophet's city of Medina), where the Jews used to live until their expulsion by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). That's the pinnacle of their motives." 

Deploring the disunity among Muslims over the issue of Palestine, Shah said that there are divisions even among Palestinians themselves, claiming that not all treat it as a political issue. Some 'scholars' are even debating the "Islamicness" of Al Quds (Jerusalem), when in fact Jerusalem is Islam's third holiest city and an undeniable Islamic cause.

"If the Jews can put so much pressure on U.S. policy, why can't the Muslims do the same," Shah asked. "After all we pay close to $90-100 million dollars in taxes ever year," he said. 

"We need to take the Palestine cause as a Fard (a religious obligation) and work whole-heartedly towards its realization," he said. 

Quoting from Quran and Hadith, Shah said that Allah's help will surely come but we have to do our part by eliminating the ethnic and national boundaries and work as a one united Ummah.

Ghannouchi quoting the Quranic verse, "Thus we have made you a model community that you might be a witness over the nations," said that Muslims could not remain passive or idle when so much oppression is being perpetrated against both Muslims and others around the world. 

"Palestine is a pure Islamic cause even if we use the Jewish logic (who claim to be the followers of Prophet Musa (AS) since we the Muslims are the true followers of Prophet Musa (AS)," he said. 

Ghannouchi said that the idea of planting "a Zionist" entity in the heart of the Islamic world has nothing to do with Judaism. "It was just a marketing strategy by the Zionists to create a nation of their own," he said. As proof he cited the fact that they considered several other places like Argentina and Uganda before settling for Palestine. 

"The least thing we can do is to keep this issue alive and pass it on to our coming generations." He said that Muslims must believe in the cause with utmost Ikhlas (sincerity) and be persistent, adding that U.S. Muslims have a significant role to play.

For without U.S. dollars and legal protection, Israel does not have leg to stand on. " It's a shame that despite being right, we haven't been able to change American policy towards the Middle East," he said. 

The meeting came as Sharon was preparing for his second visit to Washington since President George W. Bush came to office in January. Sharon, who will meet Bush in Washington on Monday, is riding high in public opinion polls in Israel and enjoys considerable U.S. support. 


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