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>JN April 30, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 74
Israel, Egypt Hold Optimistic Views on Middle East Peace
By Dale Gavlak (VOA-Cairo)
Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers expressed hope that
cease-fire talks between Israel and the Palestinians will succeed.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres came to Cairo to discuss an Arab
initiative aimed at ending seven months of violence, however, Egypt
denied that a cease-fire had been agreed upon.
Both ministers described the talks as very important and focused.
Israel, they said, was given an opportunity to express its concerns
and suggestions regarding the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative.
They clarified that a cease-fire agreement had not yet been
reached, but that Israel and the Palestinians are talking toward
that end. They emphasized that the violence must stop.
Peres expressed hope for the cease-fire talks. "Once the cease-fire
has taken place and the indication of it is seen, I hope the
opportunity to return to negotiations is very much a promise and a
good way to start."
Peres told the Egyptian leaders that if violence ends, Israel would
lift the closure of the West Bank and Gaza because the Palestinian
population should not suffer because of the present circumstances.
Peres said Israel was not planning to build new settlements, but
that existing settlements should be allowed to develop naturally.
"We are not going to establish new settlements only to answer the
needs of normal life. I do not say that this is an agreed version
between the Egyptians, the Palestinians or ourselves. But our
position is clear and approved by the Knesset, and this will guide
our future actions."
But Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa quickly defended the Arab
stand, saying they want to see all settlement activity stopped
because it undermines the peace process. "The Israeli foreign
minister has informed the president formally that government of
Israel shall not build settlements, new settlements, any
additional settlements. He talked about the natural growth or
whatever, and here we sharply differ with this point, this
policy because of the fact that there are a lot of empty
Fighting Erupts in Gaza Despite "Cease-Fire"
By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)
Middle East violence flared, despite signs that Israelis and
Palestinians had worked out a cease-fire accord. That has been
denied by the Palestinians. Nearly 500 people, more than 400 of
them Palestinians, have died since the start of the Palestinian
uprising against Israel in September.
Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted in Gaza as Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak spoke in Cairo of the sides taking steps toward a
truce. The Egyptian president made his announcement after
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat took a series of steps to halt
seven months of bloodshed.
Palestinian officials said Arafat ordered his security forces
to halt shooting and mortar attacks against Israelis from areas
under his control. He also ordered the arrest of a senior member of
the militant Islamic group, Hamas, which opposes peace talks and
has called for Palestinians to maintain their violent struggle
until Israel is destroyed.
Arafat also reportedly took strong action to reign in members of
his own Fatah faction of the PLO, who have been launching attacks
against Israelis. He reportedly ordered his security forces to
disband groups within Fatah that had been engaged in violence.
Islam Expanding Rapidly in U.S.
By Nico Colombant (VOA-Washington)
A new report shows Islam is growing fast in the United States. The
study, done for the Council on American Islamic Relations, says
there are now at least eight million Muslims in the United States.
And it says there are now about 1,500 mosques in the country, a 25
percent increase since the mid 1990s, with many more planned or
The report's main author, Ihsan Bagby, says Islam owes its rapid
growth in the country to tens of thousands of conversions each
year, immigration from Islamic countries, and a high birth rate
among Muslims. Most of the conversions are reported among
African-Americans, who often find Islam as a possible replacement
to broken down families.
Bagby said the report also showed that practicing Muslims
increasingly want to use their religious group identity as a base
for political expression. "This shows you that the mosque is and
will be in the future a springboard, a platform for Muslim
involvement in the American society. Sixty-one percent of all
[leaders of] mosques said that in the past year they wrote or
called a politician. Seventy percent said that they wrote or called
the media at least one time in the past year."
Still, Muslims in the country lack political leaders with
mainstream appeal. Popular Muslims are mostly athletes - such as
basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon, retired boxing great Muhammad
Ali, or the recently crowned world heavyweight champion, Hasim
Most Muslims in the country are not African-American or Middle
Eastern as is usually believed but immigrants from South Asia.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, many prominent Muslim
groups, like the Washington-based Council on American Islamic
Relations, endorsed Republican candidate George W. Bush, attracted by
some of his conservative policies.
However, a Muslim activist in the Washington, D.C. area, Hodari
Abdul-Ali, said there are differences between immigrant Muslims
looking for a political voice and African-American Muslims who
mostly want social progress through Islam.
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