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Scholar Describes US Action as War Against 'Extremism' - 2001-09-25

A Middle East scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says the terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington represent only a minority of the world's Muslims. Shireen Hunter dismisses any notion that the United States is fighting a war against Islam.

Shireen T. Hunter, an expert on the Middle East, Central Asia and Islamic revivalism at CSIS, says the U.S. campaign against terrorism is not directed against Islam or Muslims, but is a war against extremism.

She says the interests of the overwhelming majority of the Islamic world coincide with those of the United States. She said, "How could it be possible that America goes to war with Islam? Islam is not a country. It is a religion, a faith, a civilization. Nearly 1.5 billion people are its followers and believe in it. Out of this, probably one million people support the type of operations that we witnessed in New York and Washington. The United States itself has a large population of Muslims. There are also more than 20 million Muslims living in Europe."

Ms. Hunter says the activities of terrorists have done more damage to the Islamic world than to their intended targets in the West. She says they have hampered social progress and caused economic stagnation. She continued by saying that terrorism has failed to yield positive results, adding, if it were effective, all the difficulties of the Mideast, or elsewhere, would have been resolved.

Shireen Hunter says extremist operations and the arbitrary interpretation of Islam have created differences and cleavages among Muslims. She says the infighting is creating more turmoil in the Islamic world than outside.