The leader of a U.S. Muslim group said yesterday that recent State Department travel warnings are beginning to separate terrorist threats from Islam, "a positive response" to repeated complaints.
Recent advisories were "very positive in delinking the issue of terrorism from faith," said Aly Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim Council and one of several Muslim Americans invited to dinner last week by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.
Albright told them, "Your views are being heard." She also promised the department would try to hire more American Muslims.
Abuzaakouk wrote the department Dec. 14, three days after a worldwide warning was issued advising Americans traveling abroad about the potential threat of terrorism. Abuzaakouk complained that it was "unfortunate and unnecessary" to associate terrorist threats with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"For American Muslims, as for Muslims the world over," he wrote, "Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal, the most sacred month of the year. Terrorism has no place in Islam or any religion--and anyone, of any faith, who seeks to justify attacks on civilians in the name of religion should be universally condemned."
Also, Abuzaakouk wrote, "linking terrorism with Ramadan only reinforces popular stereotypes without improving the security of Americans."
In an Associated Press interview Monday, Abuzaakouk, a former journalist and lecturer, said subsequent advisories delinked terrorism and faith. "That is a positive response," he said.
The dinner given by Albright at the end of a day-long Ramadan fast drew his praise, as well.
"It brought to the State Department the leaders of the American Muslim community for a very positive message," he said.
Asked if he expects results from Albright's promise to encourage hiring of American Muslims, Abuzaakouk replied: "Oh, yes."
"It is recognition at the highest level and encourages us. We are already telling our young people to take the opportunity to take the test," he said.
Responding to periodic complaints that Muslims were ignored in the shaping of Middle East policy, Albright said at the dinner that she intends to make sure "the legitimate concerns of Muslim Americans are taken into account."
Pledging to hire more Muslims, Albright also said at the State Department dinner, "We are recruiting hard." But she said women and minorities, including Muslims, remain underrepresented.
CAPTION: Muslim worshipers gather for afternoon prayer outside the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan, which began Dec. 9.