Muslims in the United States are closely monitoring the air strikes against military targets in Afghanistan. They express support for the U.S. campaign against terrorism but raise concerns about the tactics.
Shortly after the air strikes got underway on Sunday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington issued a statement of support.
The AADC also welcomes statements by President George Bush that the military actions are not targeted against the Afghan people or against Islam.
AADC President Ziad Asali says providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people is also a welcome sign. "It is a good symbolic thing to do," he said. "It is a needed message and it is right to give that message."
Mr. Asali echoes many Muslims and non-Muslims alike who criticize past U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and welcome the shift in attitude. "Has the U.S. policy failed miserably in Afghanistan," he asked? "Of course it has. After having supported the various groups to fight the Soviet Union until it was defeated, the U.S. just walked away from Afghanistan and left it as a morass for contending parties and the more extreme, irrational elements imposed their will on the others and we ended up with a regime of the Taleban that are the worst possible regime on earth."
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council of American-Islamic Relations cautions that the campaign against terrorism has to rely on more than military power. Mr. Hooper said, "This is really a battle for hearts and minds. This is not a battle between armies in uniform, so we have to really go after the root causes of terrorism. And, I think one of the main things that come out of this is realignment of American foreign policy to promote justice and human rights in all areas of the world, including the Middle East and specifically in Palestine."
Arab Americans have long complained about a U.S. bias toward Israel in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Middle East experts and diplomats say that perception has helped fuel anti-American rage on Arab streets. They now expect the Bush administration to take a more active and they say evenhanded role in the Middle East peace process.
Arab Americans also worry about hostility toward them on American streets. Since the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, more than 350 attacks against Arab Americans have been reported, including five killings.
Islamic cleric Faisel Abdul Raouf of the Farah mosque in New York City hopes that anger has subsided. "So far," he said, "we have been gratified by the speeches of our political leaders from President to mayors to governors to many friends who made it clear that Muslims are not being targeted and any attempt to do so is a case of grossly mistaken identity."
Still, Arab-American leaders are urging the community to be vigilant and report any suspicious or threatening incidents to the police.