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Pakistan Promotes Tolerance

Many government officials in Pakistan are calling on Muslims to oppose intolerance. "Those who are using sacred places like mosques and madrassahs to spread extremism and hatred should be stopped," said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Speaking at a rally in Multan, in central Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf warned that "whoever is trying to take us to extremism is in fact leading us to disaster."

Pakistani security forces have arrested hundreds of violent extremists, including members of the al-Qaida terrorist network. President Musharraf has survived two assassination attempts by al-Qaida-linked terrorists. Extremists have targeted both Muslim and non-Muslim minorities, including Shi’as and Christians in Pakistan.

Islamic studies specialist Akbar Ahmed says that contrary to the claims of extremists, Islam in South Asia has a long tradition of tolerance. Writing in 2004 in the Globalist online magazine, Professor Ahmed said that the Muslim experience in South Asia "fostered a modern, confident Islam with a capacity to respect women, minorities and uphold human rights within the tradition of Islam itself."

The preceding is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.

A former Pakistani civil servant and now chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, D.C., Mr. Ahmed recalls the understanding of Islam he received from his parents in Pakistan. "They did not see a love for Islam and for living in today's world as incompatible," he says.

Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam, says that living in the twenty-first century presents new challenges for Muslims:

"Muslims believe Islam is the final revelation of God. It does not need to be reformed. But it is our understanding of Islam, it is our interpretation of Islam that has to be reformed or has to be updated or modernized."

The United States supports the rights of Muslims to practice their religion free of intimidation or violence. "The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope," says President George W. Bush, "is the force of human freedom."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.