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Bush Is Setting the Right Tone

By MAHER M. HATHOUT and SALAM AL-MARAYATI
September 28, 2001

President Bush, in a historic meeting with Muslim and Arab Americans, says he would like to
see the word "Islamic" dropped as an adjective to the word "terrorism." Indeed, terrorism has no
faith, and terrorists should not gain any satisfaction or false validation with association to any
religion.

While we, as guests of the White House, were pleased with the candor and sensitivity of the
president, we have three concerns:

* Our community's voice should be incorporated into the policymaking apparatus, integral to the
synthesis of key governmental decisions, especially on matters involving Muslim and Arab
communities.

* Our country must realize the crisis of America's image in the Muslim world. If there is a time
to be evenhanded in the Middle East, it is now, and now is also the time to provide humanitarian
intervention to the Afghan refugees before military intervention begins.

* Our civil liberties should be guarded in the interest of all Americans.

Our delegation proposed a presidential task force of Arab and Muslim Americans to provide vital
cultural and religious information to our political leaders.

Bush has spoken of the need for economic development in the Muslim world to deal with the
root cause of terrorism. That's a refreshing departure from the typical lingo on terrorism, which
usually is couched in purely military terms.

We also believe that representatives of our organizations can enhance counter-terrorism
effectiveness in advisory capacities to the new Office of Homeland Security as well as to the
secretary of State. Arab and Muslim Americans are part of the solution, taking pride in serving
the nation and fulfilling our duties and responsibilities as citizens.

Are we sold on the war on terrorism? We don't know the details of this campaign yet, but it has
been imposed on us by the terrorists who violated our national sovereignty. War or no war, our
principled stands for civil liberties, human rights and freedom will not be abandoned for any
political gain.
American values are as important now as they had been before the terrorist attacks. The president
articulated his commitment to these same principles and has utilized them to unite all Americans.

Yet we also are sensitive to the tests all of us will have to endure during these trying moments.
While we maintain our right and anyone else's right to freedom of speech and while we resent
any political profiling for the purposes of exclusion of Muslims or any other group, we know we
must be extra sensitive at these times.

We know how difficult this will be; a hypothetical rejoinder offered by one of us during a recent
radio exchange clearly gave regrettable and unintended offense to Jewish Americans.

We are ready to work with other Americans in the campaign against terrorism and against
divisiveness. The president has made the special effort to enrich our pluralism. It's our collective
responsibility as Americans to provide more positive examples of cooperation in representing
American values.

Maher M. Hathout is chairman of the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council. Salam
Al-Marayati is director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles