Law School Discussion

Muslims from Africa praise America but they criticize WH policy

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Muslims from Africa praise Americans

But they criticize White House policy

May 9, 2006

BY NIRAJ WARIKOO

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER


On a visit sponsored by the U.S. State Department, about a dozen Muslim leaders from Africa were in Michigan on Monday to learn about Islam in America.

While they praised the U.S. government's treatment of Muslims inside the country, they were less enthusiastic about how it treats Muslims elsewhere, criticizing the White House for how it deals with Muslims in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Africa.

"America's population is good," Abdel-Madjid Mahamat Amine, a Muslim leader from Chad, said through a translator. "But its foreign policies have caused America to be seen as having an ill spirit."

Most of those on the visit, part of a State Department program to improve relations between the United States and foreign countries, were Muslim leaders from countries in the western part of Africa.

The group visited the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and then the Muslim Center in Detroit, where they discussed how Islam is practiced in the United States. Several said they were impressed with America's commitment to freedom of religion.

"We have noticed there is ... freedom to practice your faith," Mahamat Amine said.

At the Muslim Center, the group toured the mosque, had lunch and spoke with center members about a range of subjects, from politics to African-American Muslims.

The group has been to Washington, D.C., and will next visit Santa Fe, N.M., and Seattle, before heading home.

Djibril Zakari Sambaou of Benin was visiting the States for the first time. He said he was pleased to be able to pray in a room while visiting the Pentagon. But he said that the U.S. government should "get to know us more" through ways other than politics.

Dawud Walid of Detroit, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, met with the delegation.

"I'm glad to see these leaders make a clear distinction between the American people and the foreign policy of the current administration," Walid said. "I'm hopeful they will take this message back home."

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060509/NEWS05/605090415/1007