A national Muslim advocacy group announced yesterday that it is asking Muslims around the world to sign an online petition condemning terrorism as "un-Islamic" and a betrayal of their faith.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said that its petition, titled "Not in the Name of Islam," is "designed to disassociate the faith of Islam from the violent acts of a few Muslims."
CAIR noted that its initiative was announced two days after a videotape showing the decapitation of an American in Iraq "shocked television viewers worldwide." The tape showed Nicholas Berg's masked assailant shouting "God is great."
"I think it was so gruesome and it disgusted all of us as Muslims," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "I just consider those who did it not human beings."
The online petition, posted at CAIR's Web site -- www.cair-net.org -- is a way for Muslims to demonstrate how they feel about Berg's killing, Awad added.
The petition states that "no injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam."
Those who sign "repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts," the document reads. "We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad."
Names of people who sign the petition will not be posted on the Web site, said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, citing technical problems and a desire to keep abusive messages from appearing. But he added that CAIR will say periodically how many people have signed.
Awad said the names of organizations that sign the petition will be posted after CAIR verifies the name of each and how many people it represents.
CAIR and other Muslim organizations have been frustrated in recent years because their condemnations of terrorism, including the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been widely disseminated.
"There are a lot of accusations by certain media outlets and certain commentators accusing Islam as a faith [and] the Muslim community of not condemning terrorism," Awad noted. "We have . . . stacks of statements we send to the media on a constant basis."
Hooper said CAIR's petition denounces all terrorist acts, including suicide bombings by Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, a Palestinian group that sometimes targets Israeli civilians.
Leaders of other Muslim organizations praised the petition drive as a way to show Muslims' rejection of terrorism, though some criticized CAIR's decision not to publish the names of individual signers.
"I think anything that is done today that dispels the canard that Muslims did not condemn 9/11 and are not cooperating with law enforcement is healthy," said Salam Al Marayati, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy, an Islamic think tank, said his group is "definitely going to take a look at it and see whether we should sign on as a group or at least as individuals."
But Masmoudi added, "In general, a petition is not taken seriously if you can't see the names of the people who signed it."