U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson says “the United States has great respect for Islam and its ideals of justice, tolerance, and peace.” Ms. Patterson met with government officials and religious leaders in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
At the historic Badshahi Mosque, Ambassador Patterson was received by Imam and Khateeb [prayer leader] Maulana Khabeer Azad. Ms. Patterson stressed that “the United States has no quarrel with Islam. Our quarrel is with those from any faith who attempt to misuse religion to justify violence or terrorism for political ends.” Ms. Patterson said she looked forward “to working closely with Islamic leaders in Pakistan,” because “dialogue with religious leaders from all faiths is critical.”
Religious extremism remains a challenge for Pakistan. In July, more than one-hundred people were killed in shoot-outs between Pakistani security forces and Muslim extremists occupying the Red Mosque compound in Islamabad. The Red Mosque siege touched off violence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf said “terror and extremism have not ended in Pakistan but it is our resolve to eliminate them.”
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the U.S. stands with Pakistan in its struggle against violent extremists:
“We’ve known that there have been direct threats to Pakistan’s government and leadership, and no one knows better than President Musharraf who has been the subject of several assassination attempts over the last couple of years. But again, I think we share with him an understanding of the future that we would like to see for Pakistan and that is one that we believe is shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis, which is for a modern, moderate Islamic state that works with the United States and other members of the international community to fight against extremists like al-Qaida and the Taleban.”
President George W. Bush said “moderate Muslim leaders have the most powerful and influential voice” in the struggle against extremism. Mr. Bush said, “We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence.” .