The Milwaukee Sentinel, p.13A
5 February 1993.
By Mary Beth Murphy
Some of Milwaukee’s top religious leaders joined the Islamic community Thursday in condemning the rape of Muslim women in Bosnia-Herzegovina as “a deliberate military tactic to achieve ethnic cleansing.”
The cabinet of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee called upon President Clinton to take immediate action through the United Nations to halt these and other atrocities.
The action should lead to:
- International access to concentration camps and protection of survivors.
- Classification of mass rape as an international war crime.
- Prosecution by an international tribunal.
- Establishment of programs to help rape victims.
- Protection for relief workers.
- Political settlements of disputes that guarantee basic human rights.
There is recognition in the religious community that some kind of military intervention might have to be taken to achieve stability, but it has to be done through the U.N., Jack Murtaugh, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, said at a news conference at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee.
While human rights violations occur in many countries, said the Rev. Paul Bodine, executive officer of the Milwaukee Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “in this situation, we are in anguish over the rise of racial and ethnic hatreds.”
In a statement, Bodine referred to media reports saying more than 20,000 women, primarily Bosniaks, have been raped by Serb fighters as part of a calculated plan to force Muslims from their homes.
Mordecai Lee, executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Council, said it was the first time a representative of the local Jewish community appeared at the center to speak out jointly with the Islamic community.
“I hope that our solidarity today is an indication that there is no inherent or fundamental gulf between the Jewish and Islamic communities, and that we can reach out and work together when we share common goals,” Lee said.
Jews, primary victims of “similarly monstrous behavior in the past,” cannot remain silent “while the cruel and heartbreaking events in Bosnia continue to occur,” Lee said.
Mohammad Aslam Cheema, a leader of Milwaukee’s Muslim community, expressed gratitude for the Interfaith Conference statement.
Muslims in America, including Milwaukee, repeatedly have urged the U.S. government to intercede and stop the atrocities in Bosnia, Cheema said.
“The entire world acknowledges aggression in Bosnia,” he said. “The Serbs’ actions have added new words to the English language — ethnic cleansing.”
If the International community will not intervene, Cheema said, the arms embargo should be lifted in Bosnia. [See: "Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Arms embargo on Bosnia was ‘the most serious mistake made by the UN"]
“If they have to die for their cause, they should be given reasonable defensive weapons at least,” he said.