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    Voices of Moderate Islam attendees return to Afghanistan

    By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbeldick
    Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs

    LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Task Force Bayonet partnered with Task Force Nashmi as 34 local Afghan leaders returned to Afghanistan Sept. 13. The returnees earned the title hajji from their journey to Amman, Jordan, and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as participants in the Voices of Moderate Islam initiative.

    The VoMI initiative, the first of its kind, gave participants the opportunity to see first-hand how Islam is practiced in Jordan, affording them a chance to change dialogue among Afghans and share their insights with friends and family.

    The VoMI attendees began their trek three weeks prior at Forward Operating Base Shank. They were transported to Amman, Jordan, for the second phase of the program, a comprehensive seminar experience with a focus on exposing attendees to Islam in a modern Jordanian society.

    Orchestrated by the leaders at TF Bayonet and TF Nashmi, the Jordanian Ranger Battalion attached to TF Bayonet, the initiative seeks to expand the understanding of the participants and give them an opportunity to experience how Islam is practiced outside of Afghanistan.

    When the participants arrived back at FOB Shank, they shared their experiences with international and local media. Three pilgrims spoke at length about their journey.

    “Religion is good, but we do not want the insurgents to misuse Islam to commit crimes and acts of violence,” said Sher Abass, a VoMI participant. “We have seen first-hand from our second home in Jordan and have come to appreciate this life we have, and we see the need to end the violence and fighting among ourselves.”

    Another participant, Abdul Hakeem, said, “We have brought a message back from our Jordanian brothers … to enjoy this life and to stop killing each other here in Afghanistan.”

    Jordanian Col. Aref S. Alzaben, who commands TF Nashmi, said, “In my country, we have both Christians and Muslims living together, as brothers, a secure country working for civilization.

    “When I came here two months ago … I saw the children of Afghanistan. They are looking for education and to improve their lives. We need to work together with other Islamic countries, and stop the madness. We cannot promote the violence.

    “Terrorists all over the world justify violence in the name of Islam. That is something which Islam prohibits. Killing innocent people is wrong,” said Alzaben. “We know from the Quran that we all, as Muslims, our big challenge is to follow our religion in the proper way… it is important to have respect for other religions. We do not want the insurgents to get away with violence in the name of Muslim religion.”

    The initiative is sponsored by U.S. Embassy Kabul, U.S. Embassy Amman, and in partnership with the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization. As part of the experience, following the seminar phase in Amman, the Jordanian government facilitated the attendees’ participation in a lesser hajj, called an urma, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

    The experience included visits to significant culture sites common to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

    “I want to challenge you all here today who made this journey to bring five of your close friends back here so we can share with them your experiences and move into the future and continue to learn together,” said U.S. Army Col. Jim Johnson, Task Force Bayonet commander.

    “As you left on this journey, most of you left as strangers to each other. And now, you returned as brothers,” added U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Yandura, coordinator of the event and a native of Troy, Mich. “People from all walks of life can come together.”



    Date Taken: 09.13.2010
    Date Posted: 09.17.2010 06:34
    Story ID: 56459
    Location: AF

    Web Views: 260
    Downloads: 4