SAN FRANCISCO, 17 Feb: American Muslim groups have urged Attorney General John Ashcroft to retract his remarks against Islam.
Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden confirmed that Mr Ashcroft had made "references to extremist suicide terrorists who have hijacked the religion" in an interview with Mr Cal Thomas. But added that it was not true that Mr Ashcroft applied the same belief more broadly to all of Islam.
The American Muslim Alliance (AMA), a major American Muslim political organization, said the justice department statement was not enough, and Mr Ashcroft, who was holding a very sensitive office, should have taken a clear position.
"We call on Mr Ashcroft to clarify his position, and if indeed he has made this statement, to retract it and to reassure the Americans that his personal religious conviction will not be an impediment in upholding civil rights and human rights of every citizen of America," said Dr Agha Saeed, the national chairman of the AMA.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also urged Ashcroft to clarify the remarks, which the group called "offensive" and "unbecoming of a law enforcement official who is currently initiating and administering policies that have a disproportionate impact on the Muslims."
Another group, the Arab American Institute, wrote to Bush to call the remarks "a horrible distortion of Islam" that "send the wrong signal to Americans, and do a grave disservice to your administration's efforts to unite all Americans in the war against terror."
The American Muslim Political Coordination Committee, an umbrella Muslim organization, also called on the attorney general to clarify his statement publicly, and to take a leadership role within the department of justice to sensitize officials about Islam and the Muslims
in an effort to allay concerns that an anti-Muslim culture had taken root in the department of justice.