Asma Gull Hasan is afraid that for too many Americans, Islam has become the deadly, placid face of Osama bin Laden or the resolute stare of a Palestinian suicide bomber. So she is trying to make her voice heard amidst the anger and static of the debate so that United States’ war on terrorism does not become a war with Islam.

“I think most Americans are open-minded and on the fence about Muslims,” the 29-year-old writer and lawyer explained in a recent interview. “My purpose is to explain how tolerant and diverse Islam really is, the way it is practiced by the majority of Muslims in the world. But even Muslims struggle with having Islam hijacked by its most violent sects.”

Hasan, the daughter of Dr. Malik and Seeme Hasan, grew up in Pueblo. Her new book – titled “Why I Am a Muslim” – was released by the Boston publishing house of Thorsons Element. It will be available in bookstores beginning in late March.

Hasan, 29, wrote her first book “American Muslims: The New Generation” in 2001 and it was released just weeks before the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Call it good timing or bad timing, Hasan found herself on the book circuit just when American talk shows and newspapers were desperately hunting for American Muslims to talk about the new war on terrorism.

The next thing Hasan knew, she was on programs such as ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” or National Public Radio interviews or writing guest opinion columns for major newspapers – always explaining that American Muslims and Islam are not the enemy.

Her appearances always sparked a flood of e-mail, she said. Much was supportive, but there was always angry criticism from religious zealots of all stripes – Christians who said she was going to hell unless she converted and Muslims who said she was not devout enough, or too outspoken for a woman.

“It was pretty exhausting and I was glad when it was over,” she said.

Last year, she heard that Thorsons Element wanted to publish a book explaining Islam to Americans. “They wanted an American Muslim woman’s voice and I had the experience they were looking for,” she said.

Hasan took leave from her San Francisco law firm and wrote the book in a month last autumn. It is a small volume, only 167 pages, but reads like a heartfelt message of personal faith. And Hasan’s faith goes beyond her own story of being Muslim to why she believes Islam is an American faith that has its foundation in tolerance, justice and personal rights.

Citing the Quran repeatedly, Hasan argues that:

Islam is tolerant of all religions, especially Christians and Jews – the “people of the Book.”

“Islam teaches that God has a path for everyone and that Muslims are not supposed to compel anyone to accept Islam,” she said.

”Muhammad taught Muslims to be just and respect individual rights and property. She noted that in his last sermon, Muhammad said there were no inherent differences between people – Arabs, non-Arabs and other ethnic groups – except in each person’s “piety in good actions.”

“Muslims are required to be just, to do justice and to perform charity,” Hasan said. “Those are American values, too.”

Islam actually gives women status and guarantees their individual rights.

“Until Islam, women were largely considered to be the property of their husbands,” she said. “But the Quran treats them as individuals, saying they can be property owners and are entitled to their inheritance.”

Hasan notes that Muhammad even argued against women changing their names after getting married and set out lengthy grounds for a woman to obtain a divorce.

So how does Hasan reconcile her view of Islam with the repressive images Americans see on television, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan forcing women out of their jobs and back into the home as wives and mothers only?

“That’s a region of the world where tribalism still dominates,” she said. “My feeling is the Taliban would have treated women the same way whether they were Muslim or not. The Quran does not justify their actions.”

Hasan said the fact is more than 1 billion people in the world are Muslim. Unfortunately, many of them are illiterate and cannot read the Quran for themselves, she said. There are verses warning Muslims against friendships with Christians and Jews, but Hasan said those are often taken out of the historical context in which they were given – when Muhammad was waging war to unify the tribes of Arabia under Islam.

Hasan said that the most intolerant sects of Islam, such as the Wahabi movement, have come to the forefront in international conflicts over Israel and Palestine, and the United States’ two wars against Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have succeeded in portraying the war against terrorism as a war against Islam, she said.

That is dangerous for all concerned, Hasan said.

“If you think that Muslims are the enemy, then they will become the enemy,” she warns in her introduction. “What Islam is really all about is so different from the many misconceptions about what Muslims do and believe – about women, about other religions, about even the concept of jihad. Islam does not preach violent aggression against one’s enemies. Do you honestly think I would be a Muslim if that were true?”

One poignant section of the book recounts how Hasan and her mother attended services at a Chicago mosque and were inspired by the wide variety of people crowding into the service, from African-American women in colorful turbans and South Asian women in their own costumes. Hasan said it was a reminder of the vast diversity of Islam.

She notes it was that same diversity that convinced Malcolm X, the American black activist, that he needed to reconsider his strident message that black and white Americans could never live in harmony.

“Like Malcolm, I am proud to practice a religion that is also practiced by members of every race in the world,” Hasan writes.

Still, Hasan is very American. She recounts how, after one public talk at Metro State College, a young foreign student challenged her claim that there is no conflict between being a patriotic American and a good Muslim. The young man insisted that “Allah” would always command his first allegiance, to the applause of several other young men with him.

Hasan writes that no country offers Muslims as great an opportunity to be fully Muslim as America – where civil laws underline the religion’s emphasis on justice, equality and freedom of religion. Today, if confronted by a similar, angry Muslim who insisted his religion is at war with American culture, Hasan said her reaction would be different.

“In hindsight, I realize I should have said, ‘You should leave America then. Why stay in a place that doesn’t matter to you?'” she writes.

But she notes that similar challenges are made by non-Muslim Americans. Hasan said she frequently receives e-mail with messages like, “How can you say that America is not at war with Islam? It is and your side will lose!”