Moslem religious leaders in the Middle East, where the sound of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer echos through the streets five times each day, are pleased that Americans are adopting the Islamic fiath.
But they wish the newly converted would follow more closely both the Koran - Islam's bible - and the laws of the United States.
"No doubt we are happy to have Moslems in the United States. But we would be happier to know these. Moslems are law-abiding people not causing harm to innocent citizens," said Ahji Mahmud Alaya, a recognized authority on Moslem law here who is the son of a former mufti (Moslem religious leader) of Beirut and secretary to Hassan Khaled, the present mufti.
(Sheikh Abdulla Mahmoud, director of an Islamic center in the United Arab Emirate state Sharjah, left there Monday to consult with other Moslem leaders about how to reconcile warring black Islamic factions in the United State. He was to consult with Moslem leaders in Mecca and Cairo, then travel to the United States, Reuter reported).
While stopping short of condemning Washington's Hanafi Moslem group Aleya - whose views echoed those of other Islamic leaders interviewed here - emphasized that the taking of hostages runs counter to religious law.
Moreover, while revenge is a part of the Islamic code, it must be done by the state not by individuals. In the eyes of most Moslems, revenge is the same as punishment. "Taking hostages of any kind is against the soul of Islam." Alaya said, repeating it three times to make sure his point came across.
"An innocent is an innocent," he continued. "To take revenge, do it against the man who made the mistake."
In Moslem countries, where there is no separation between church and state, revenge would be enacted by the government. In non-Moslem countries such as the United States, revenge - or punisment - would also be the job of the government, Alaya said. "There would be chaos if everyone did it himself."
While Alaya refused to attack Washington's Hanafi Moslems as betrayers of the faith, he pointed out that Islamic rules contained in the Koran are written in Arabic and it is hard for anyone who does not read Arabic to understand the rules of the religion.
The religion holds, he said, that "no Moslem in the world can say another Moslem is not a true believer. We can't sit in judgment of other Moslems. That is up to God."
Moslem leaders here know little about their American counterparts and how they practice their religion. They have no direct relations with them, and newspaper accounts are not enough to judge them by.
Alaya explained, however, that "Just saying, 'I am a Moslem' is not enough. What is important is the daily practice of the religion according to the Koran. We are ordered by God to judge what we can see. Only God can judge a man's intentions."
The Hanafi takeover of three Washington buildings failed to attract much newspaper coverage here or in other parts of the Middle East.
According to Alaya, the religious community paid little attention, although the action of the three Moslem ambassadors in Washington won the admiration of may residents here.
Hanafi is one of four interpretations of Islamic practices recognized by the Sunni, the heavily dominant sect. Most Moslems here find it strange that the Washington group should so strongly identify itself as Hanafi.
In the Middle East, most Moslems are not sure what school of religious thought they follow and the differences are more of obscure philosophy - similar to the old question among Christian theologians of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
"I never knew I was a Hanafi until four years ago when my father mentioned it," said one young Moslem here. It turned out after checking further, that the family is not Hanafi after all - which illustrates how little the designations metan in ordinary religious practice.
According to Alaya, the Hanafi school is not the strictest of the four; it is known as the school of pardon or the school of love.
Yet many of the American Moslems appear to think it is the most orthodox because the word Hanafi in Arabic, as used in the Koran, means one who is "sound in faith" and follows "the straight path," said an expert in Islamic law.
There are about 180 million to 200 million Sunni Moslems who follow the Hanafi school, which was founded about 1,200 years ago by Abuqahanifah Nu'man Ibn Thabit. The other schools are Hanbali, considered the strictest; Maliki, and Shafi'i, considered the most moderate and the one that has spread most widely around the world.
The Hanafi school was the official rite of the Ottoman Turkish empire and is followed mostly in Pakistan and the Asian parts of the Soviet Union. Although most Lebanese Moslems are Shafi'is, they follow the Hanafi laws because of the influence here of the Turkish Ottoman empire, Alaya said.
One thing is certain: the Hanifis are not Moslem sect. The two major sects are Sunnis, who make up 80 per cent of all Moslems, and the Shiites.
The division began on the death of Mohammed, the prophet, in the year 632. The Sunnis believe that the leadership of Islam can pass from one person to another on the basis of merit. The Shiites believe that the leadership should pass to the next male relative of Mohammed.