Religious Leaders Slam US Strikes

Cape Town's religious leaders have condemned the US military strikes on Afghanistan, but some with more vigour than others.

Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, spokesman for the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference, told the Cape Argus that the Catholic Church's stand was that "violence begets violence."

He understood the anger of the US people and their president's need to improve his status after the September 11 attacks.

"But the US must ensure that they avoid hitting civilian targets at all costs, especially women and children."

Cawcutt said extremist behaviour gave religion a bad name and he issued a message of sympathy to the Muslims who were suffering.

"Official Islam is an extremely peaceful religion - it wholeheartedly preaches tolerance.

But what the Islamic extremists are doing presently can be likened to what happened during the crusades."

President of the Cape Town Muslim Judicial Council, Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, condemned the US military strikes as being "attacks against Islam".

"They are cowardly because they entail attacks against innocent civilians.

The US has not even revealed proper evidence to prove Bin Laden's guilt.

It is the worst form of injustice and, ultimately, terrorism," he said.

Gabriels appealed to Capetonians to remain peaceful and avoid confrontation.

"Muslims must please refrain from harming any Americans or Zionists, or their businesses," he said.

Rabbi Ruben Suiza, who is the Registrar of the Jewish Ecclesiastic Court in Cape Town, said although "the US and the rest of the world had to defend itself from terrorism", South Africa should not allow itself to be divided by politics outside its boundaries.

"Judaism says that if another man plans an attack against you then you are compelled to pre-empt that attack and neutralise the danger. But, ideally, under no circumstances should a nation raise a weapon against the innocent people of another nation.

"We must give the civilians of Afghanistan physical support and protection from both sides, either if the US bombs them, or if the Taliban uses them as protective shields or for political gains."

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, likened the horror of the September 11 attacks on the US to those endured so far by the "people of Afghanistan who are at the receiving end of America's military response".

"The fact is that at the end of every war, the protagonists end up talking.

Why can't the talk simply replace the destruction?"