Rome, 14 Nov. (AKI) – The United States has become a “national security state” that is using the so-called war on terror as a disguise to promote opposition to Islam, according to one of Indonesia’s leading Muslims.
Din Syamsuddin, head of the Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the Bush administration was exacerbating tensions with Muslims, especially in the Middle East.
“The way the US government handled terrorism after the World Trade Centre bombing, by launching a ‘war on terror’ is insulting to the Muslim world and even other countries,” Syamsuddin told AKI in Rome.
“Its unilateral approach includes three big mistakes – connecting terror action to Islam, by making generalisations, and the stigmatisation of the image of Islam, especially through the media.”
Syamsuddin, whose organisation claims to represent 35 million followers, was in Rome to attend a conference on inter-religious dialogue, organised by the Indonesian and Australian Embassies to the Holy See.
He said the worst thing about contemporary terrorism was that it was presented as a ” clash of civilisations ” along religious lines and the US was guilty of double standards.
“The transformation of the United States into a national security state since September 11, and its corollary ‘war on terror’, has exacerbated the problem of inter-civilisation relations,” he said.
“A great number of Muslims have negative feelings to the West, especially the US. The US (action) in Iraq and Afghanistan has added to the situation,” he said.
Asked about radical Islamic groups such as Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front, Syamsuddin said the impact of actions by the US had ‘paved the way for them to be more radical’ but he stressed these radical groups were ethical.
He said that it was a serious error to equate Islam with terrorism and wanted the West to understand that Islam was a religion that promoted peace.
Syamsuddin said the best way forward was to promote dialogue and co-operation between religions to reduce misunderstanding and mutual suspicion.
He supported the recent letter by 138 Muslim scholars who wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in a bid to promote inter-religious dialogue.
Also speaking at event in Rome was the head of Australia’s National Council of Churches Reverend John Henderson, who said that dialogue between Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religious groups had produced better understanding in the Asia Pacific region.