Matters of faith

Muslims send antiterror message

In the wake of the London bombings, American Muslims are making their voices heard. Major Islamic groups across the United States have created TV spots condemning terrorist acts and are committing to campaigns to prevent homegrown extremism.

This week, the Muslim American Society, based in Washington, D.C., with 50 chapters nationwide, announced a plan to emphasize the proper understanding of Islam among youths and within mosques. Many imams in the US have agreed to dedicate Friday's sermons to the religious duty of Muslims to work against the hate and violence behind terrorism, says MAS executive director Mahdi Bray. In announcing its campaign, the group also pledged to facilitate a national summit on combating terrorism.

Youth leaders of Muslim Student Associations in more than 30 universities issued a statement last week committing "to cultivate a culture of pluralism, tolerance, and coexistence."

In addition, a new TV ad called "Not in the Name of Islam"- developed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations - features American Muslims stating that those who commit acts of terror betray teachings of the Koran. CAIR sponsors an online petition with the same theme, which has so far been signed by close to 700,000 Muslims.

Views of Islam and Muslim-Americans

July '03 July '05

Does Islam encourage violence?
Yes 44% 36%
No 41 47
Neither/ Don't Know 15 17

What is your opinion of Muslim-Americans?
Favorable 51% 55%
Unfavorable 24 25
No opinion 25 20

Source: Pew Research Center, July 7-17, 2005

American views shift

A nationwide poll released Tuesday shows that American views relating to Islam have held steady or become more positive over the past two years. Conducted during the 10 days after the first London bombing, the survey finds that more Americans hold a favorable view of Muslim Americans. And fewer Americans see Islam as more likely than other faiths to encourage violence. (See chart above.)

By a 2-to-1 margin, those polled agreed that terrorist attacks represent a conflict with a small radical group rather than a clash between Islam and the West. Still, attitudes toward Islam as a religion remain less positive (39 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable), and about 6 in 10 Americans believe Islam to be very different from their own religion.

The survey of 2,000 adults was carried out by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

China keeps tight rein on religion

A wave of arrests in China has dashed hopes that the country's 2005 law on religion promised more religious liberty, reports Compass Direct, a Christian news service.

The new religion regulations adopted last March called on Protestant and Catholic house churches to register with the government. During May, June, and July, dozens of pastors were arrested in several provinces; some were released and others kept in custody. The arrest of about 600 house-church Christians in Jilin province included professors and university students, the service reports.

This month's trial of prominent house-church leader Cai Zhuohua has been postponed. Catholic Bishop Jia Zhiguo has reportedly been arrested and is being held in an undisclosed location.

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