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Violence by Muslims blamed on 'ignorance'

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007

Muslims who would resort to the violence that claimed the life of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto do not understand their own religion, the imam of a Monroeville mosque told about 150 people gathered for Friday prayers.

Dr. Mohammad El-Hillal, religious leader at the Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke during 1 p.m. prayers as unrest roiled parts of Pakistan. He called upon worshippers to renew their "deen," an Arabic word meaning religion or path.

"What happened to us• Do we need new wisdom• Yes, we do," he said. "It is because of ignorance, because of illiteracy. They do not know their deen, really."

Pakistani officials said Bhutto died Thursday from smashing her skull against the sunroof of her car as she ducked from gunfire. Islamabad released a transcript of an intercepted phone call in which alleged al-Qaida operatives take responsibility for the shooting and the suicide bombing that immediately followed, claiming 20 lives.

At least two dozen people died in rioting that broke out in several cities across the central Asian nation, and it was still unclear whether Jan. 8 parliamentary elections would go forward.

"Oh Allah, we ask you to grant the people of Pakistan peace, security and patience," intoned El-Hillal, a native of Syria. "Oh Allah, we ask you to grant the people of Pakistan hope."

Arshad Hafeez, a Murrysville resident originally from Karachi, said Bhutto's death could rouse his native countrymen to the realization that extremism must be dealt with firmly.

"Islam teaches you to be supportive of other Muslims, not to be in conflict. I think even the military feels reluctant to wipe out certain elements because they think it's not right to attack other Muslims," Hafeez said. "This is a wake-up call: You have to draw the line somewhere."

Zouhira Koubaa, 41, a native of Tunisia who teaches at the Snowdrop Elementary School next to the mosque, said she appreciated the role model Bhutto provided for other Muslim women.

"I don't like this thinking that women are lower, or are not supposed to be in politics," said Koubaa as she left prayers with her daughter, Nadaa, 7. "She was a good lady. I was praying for her."

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