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Sunday, January 12, 2003

Muslims urged to shun extremism
Islamic scholar says fundamentalism must be rejected

by Scott Bransford


Islamic leaders throughout the nation - including those in the Mid-Valley - must be strident in their efforts to protect mosques from the influences of radical ligious groups, a prominent scholar said Saturday.

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, made the remarks during a service at the Islamic Center of Yuba City. The service, which was open to the public, attracted about 400 people, including some from as far away as Fresno.

Kabbani, also the founder of the As-Siddiq Institute and Mosque in Michigan, has long been a prominent opponent of Islamic fundamentalism and worked closely with government officials.

In 1999, for example, Kabbani warned the Department of State that fundamentalist sects were infiltrating American mosques and discouraging religious tolerance. The sects, such as Wahabi, practice what Kabbani called a distorted version of Islam.


Kabbani reiterated his message on Saturday, calling on his listeners to protect local mosques from fundamentalist influences."They have conspired to take our mosques in America in order to create an ideology," Kabbani said. "Don't let this mosque be like other mosques."

Kabbani emphasized that true Islam is a religion that values love, non-violence and respect for authority. A "silent majority" of American Muslims despise terrorism, a phenomenon that is a relatively new development in the history of Islam, he said.

Wahabi and terrorist groups such as al-Qaida are not led by true followers of Islam, Kabbani argued, but rather by opportunists bent on using religion for self-promotion.

"Those who are really believers and not really after fame, they are accepting and content with what Allah gave them," Kabbani said. "Confusion in the Muslim community is caused by people seeking fame."

Shaikh Hisham Kabbani spoke of the threatening influence of radical Islamic groups on American Muslims during a speech Saturday afternoon at The Islamic Center of Yuba City.

Kabbani warned that extremist sects are detrimental to the image of Islam, since they break down relationships between Islamic leaders and members of other faiths.

In some cases, they also funnel charitable donations into the coffers of extremist groups, causing mosques or relief organizations to be looked upon with suspicion, he said.

"These wild animals want to come in and destroy humanity as a whole, and not only that, but discredit Islam," Kabbani said. "If you really love Allah, don't allow them to interfere with your mosque or else you will be lost."

The Islamic Center of Yuba City has taken measures to protect itself from the influences of outside groups, said Abdul Kabir Krambo, a member of the center's board of directors.

For example, signs posted outside the center state that it forbids anyone from handing out religious literature unless it is approved by the board of directors. Speakers also must be approved by the board before they take to the podium, Krambo said.

Since it opened, the center has refused donations from outside the organization to prevent influence peddling, Krambo said. Outside groups seeking to influence the Islamic Center have been turned away, Krambo said. "These guys and their ideology don't reflect what people believe here," Krambo said.

Some worshippers at the center on Saturday said they are committed to following Kabbani's message. Mirwaiz Farooqui, a native of Afghanistan now living in Yuba City, said Wahabi groups espouse beliefs that are incompatible with Islam and contemporary values.

"They're trying to tear us apart and we don't want that," said Farooqui, who fled war-torn Afghanistan as a child more than 20 years ago. "We want to stay together like brothers."

Non-Muslims who turned out for the speech also said they found solace in Kabbani's speech. Yuba City resident Keith Hutcheson, 42, a retired airman, said more people need to look beyond negative images about Islam. Hutcheson, who was stationed for a time in Egypt, said he once looked upon Islam with "a little bitterness." Learning more about the religion has made him look at it in a positive light, he said. "There are just a small group of haters that need to be avoided at all costs," Hutcheson said.

Robert Wachman, a Yuba College professor who is Jewish, also was impressed by Kabbani's speech. "I think it's important that the true message be heard that Islam is not out to get Jews or any other religion," Wachman said.