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World: Karzai Says Islam Wrongly Linked To Terror

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (left) and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer at the Global Terrorism and International Cooperation symposium in Ankara on March 23. (epa) At a major gathering of politicians, scholars, and military officers in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the world not to associate terrorism with Islam.

PRAGUE, March 23, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- In a keynote address at a large symposium devoted to terrorism, Afghan President Hamid Karzai today called terrorism the "most menacing of mankind's enemies."

It is a threat that requires a global response, he told the delegates at the two-day symposium, who came from 82 countries.

He also said it is wrong to link Islam with terror.

Terror has no religion, no tradition, and no system of values, he said, and the use of the word "Islamist" to describe the phenomenon is inaccurate.

"Islam is a religion of peace. In Islam killing an innocent man, killing an innocent person is equated with the killing of the whole humanity," he argued.

"Therefore, the first thing that we should do as people in this world is to commit ourselves to recognizing that no religion is for extremism or terrorism, that no religion wants to hurt."

Respect for each other's system of values is a basic element in cooperation between peoples, Karzai said in his address. He was therefore critical of the publication in the West of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which triggered a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world early this year.

In urging cooperation, Karzai did not refer to any specific situation. At home, Karzai has been critical about the counterterrorism efforts of neighboring Pakistan, whom he accuses of not doing too little to prevent the movement of militants in border areas.

The speech was well-received by the politicians, academics and military officers at the gathering, says Seyfi Tashan, of the Turkish Bilkent University's Foreign Policy Institute.

"He spoke without papers, he was very lucid, and he made a very good impression," Tashan said. "He also thanked Turkey for all the support it has given Afghanistan for many, many years."

Along with Karzai's calls for greater cooperation, respect, and understanding, there was also a call for a common vocabulary.

Another speaker, the chief of Turkey's general staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, appealed to the international community to agree on a common set terms to apply to terrorism.

He noted that descriptions at present could range widely, from "freedom fighters" to "traitors."

The symposium, which was organized by the Turkish Army, will also be addressed by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. He is scheduled to speak on March 24.