Thirty Muslim leaders worth knowing about


Issue: "Islam and teroris," Oct. 27, 2001

Eight Afghans who may play major roles in overthrowing the Taliban
Burhanuddin Rabbani of the Jamiat-i-Islami faction is a professor of Islamic law who became president of Afghanistan in 1992 but was ousted by the Taliban in 1996. His backing comes primarily from the Tajiks, who make up about 25 percent of the population. He maintained power with the help of General Massood. Ahmed Shah Massood was the Afghan commander who died on Sept. 15, six days after being wounded in a suicide bombing. A Tajik known for his integrity and charisma, Massood led the guerrillas who defeated the Soviet Union. His assassination seems to have been timed to eliminate a formidable ally for the United States in any fight against the Taliban after Sept. 11. General Abdul Rashid Dostum of Jumbish-i-Milli, the National Islamic Movement, is an ethnic Uzbek whose support came from Uzbekistan and Russia. Considered by some to be an "old-time commie warlord," in 1997 he returned to Afghanistan from exile in Turkey. Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf is the head of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (Ittihad-i-Islami Barai Azadi Afghanistan), which is part of the United Front against the Taliban. Abdul Haq is a prominent Afghan commander who fought guerrilla battles against Soviet and Communist Afghan troops in Kabul, losing one leg in the process. Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, head of the Islamic Party, is a radical Muslim who was allied with Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and is considered a loose cannon. Once the Russians were defeated he turned his attacks on the more moderate rebels in Kabul. Mohammed Zahir Shah is Afghanistan's 86-year-old exiled king. He ruled for 40 years, from 1933 to 1973, and was a laissez-faire ruler who allowed tribal self-rule. His cousin seized power while the king was vacationing in Italy. Commander Karim Khalili comes from the Shi'ite/Hazara Hezb-i-Wahdat, the Islamic Unity Party. Twelve leaders of key Muslim-dominated countries
General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan came to power two years ago in a bloodless military coup, during which he suspended the constitution and declared martial law. He has supported limited U.S. strikes against Afghanistan. King FaHd of Saudi Arabia is trying to walk a tightrope between Muslim extremists in his kingdom and his reliance on western military power to counter the threat from Iraq. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey supports the coalition against terrorism and is allowing U.S. forces to use its military bases and airspace for attacks against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. Turkey is the only predominantly Muslim country in NATO. King Abdullah II of Jordan assumed the throne in 1999 when his father died of cancer. The son has promised to ease restrictions on the press and work for a more open government. Bin Laden terrorists apparently planned to blow up his yacht while he was vacationing last year, but a royal jet removed him to safety. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt became president when Muslim extremists assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981. The battle against Muslim extremism in Egypt continues, with more than 26,000 Islamic militants jailed. Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq since 1979, waged an eight-year war against Iran and in 1990 invaded Kuwait, only to be forced out in 1991. He is thought to possess both chemical and biological weapons and to have a nuclear weapons program. Bashar al-Assad of Syria is a 34-year-old doctor who assumed power when his father died suddenly in June, 2000. He has expressed support for fighting international terrorism; observers are skeptical. Muammar al Qaddafi of Libya seized power in a 1969 coup. He blends Islam with Arab nationalism and revolutionary socialism. Known for his support of international terrorism, he has nationalized industries, stolen property belonging to Jews and Italians, and reinstituted Islamic law, including cutting off the hands of thieves. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria came to power after more than 100,000 Algerians died in fighting between Muslim extremists and the secular government from 1992 to 1997. Backed by the military oligarchy, in 2000 he granted a blanket pardon to the Islamic Salvation Army forces that led to the surrender of 80 percent of the Islamic guerrillas. President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, a religious leader who opposed the Shah, headed the Islamic Center in Hamburg, Germany. He returned to Iran after the Shah's ouster in 1979 and became president in1997 with support from Iranian "moderates." Megawati Sukarnoputri is president of Indonesia. The daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, she rose to power in July after Indonesia's first democratically elected president, Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid, was ousted on corruption charges. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, a 75-year-old former doctor, has been prime minister since 1981 and is considered anti-Western in many ways. ' Ten U.S. Muslim leaders
Sami Al-Arian of the Islamic Committee for Palestine is currently on paid leave from the University of South Florida after an appearance on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor prompted death threats. His close associate, Ramadan Shallah, assumed command of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1995. He has been photographed with President and Mrs. Bush, and his son was an intern for Congressman David Bonior. Nihad Awad, founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in 1994 called the conviction of four Muslim fundamentalists for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center "a travesty of justice." Aly R. Abuzaakouk (his name is also spelled Abu Zaakouk) is executive director of the American Muslim Council, a group advocating greater participation of Muslims in the political process. Although critics point to his organization's past unwillingness to criticize terrorists, he condemned Osama bin Laden's praise for the Sept. 11 attacks: "The 6,000 or more of our fellow American citizens of all faiths that were victims of this heinous crime are all innocent victims. It's as if the people who did this, and I think it's bin Laden and al-Qaida, have killed all of humanity 6,000 times." Abdurahman Alamoudi, president of the American Muslim Council, attended the prayer service at the National Cathedral on Sept. 14. In December 1996, in Chicago, he reportedly told the Islamic Association of Palestine, "I think if we are outside this country, we can say, 'Oh, Allah, destroy America,' but once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it." Candidates Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush both returned campaign contributions because of his outspoken support for Hamas and Hezbollah militants. Sayyid M. Syeed is Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Islamic group in the United States. He has worked to bring unity between Muslims from the Near East with those of African-American heritage who follow Imam W. Deen Mohammed, son of Elijah Mohammed, founder of the Nation of Islam. Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council is a high-profile Democrat with ties to the Clinton administration. He said on a radio program after the 9/11 attacks, "If we're going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies." Sheik Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of the Islamic Supreme Council of America attended the prayer service at the National Cathedral and prayed privately with the president. He has been critical of some Muslim leaders in the United States since he addressed the State Department in 1999 and talked about the imminent threat posed by Islamic extremists in the United States. Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, met with President Bush at the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks and participated in the Sept. 14 service at the National Cathedral. Khaled Saffuri of the Islamic Institute participated in an Oct. 2 White House meeting with Arab-American and Muslim leaders. Omar Ahmad, board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was invited to but could not attend a second White House meeting with American Muslim leaders.

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Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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