In response to my last piece in The Pueblo Chieftain, I received an anonymous e-mail to my Web site. The writer wrote, “Your story, ‘They don’t hate Americans, just the policies,’ isn’t correct. Why would they burn us alive, then hang us on a bridge; why would they cut us to pieces, why would they kill us in cold blood? The Americans there serving in the Armed Forces did not make the policies, they’re just there serving, yet they get punished by the Muslims just for being an American. That’s hatred. I disagree with you.”

The writer here has committed an understandable and typical mistake. We should not mistake the actions of a few Muslims for the feelings of all Muslims. President Bush himself has made the same point in decrying the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Don’t judge all of America as being disrespectful and abusive toward Muslims because of the actions of a misguided few.

Certainly, a vocal minority of all Muslims worldwide holds hatred for America. But what population in the world today does not? American policies are hated everywhere, unfortunately. Just ask the French! Furthermore, when American involvement is perceived as invasion, some members of that vocal minority will engage in what they feel is self-defense. Whether that is right or wrong, it is a natural risk we take in our noble efforts to help the people of Iraq. News reports say that Iraqis are horrified by the killing and mutilation of Americans abroad, as most Muslims probably are. It goes against all standards of decency in Islam and is counter to rules prescribed in Islam for combat. Polls of Iraqis show that a majority actually welcomes the U.S. presence. Are we, as Americans, going to abandon the poor and hungry people of Iraq who desperately need us because a vicious few have engaged in the most abhorrent of shock tactics?

In order to win the war on terror, it’s important that we not lose sight of the goal. Our goal is not to eradicate Islam. If you truly believe that is the goal, then prepare yourself to lose the war on terror. More than a billion of the world’s inhabitants are Muslim, about one-sixth of the world’s population. This number means that one in six people in the world is Muslim. Just for comparison’s sake, the population of the United States is about 300 million. Based on the numbers alone then, we Americans are quite outmatched. Add in that Muslims are spread all over the globe, in every corner of the Earth, and with all kinds of ethnicities and languages, and we face even worse odds.

The Muslim world is not all the same. The strategies to attack one Muslim population cannot necessarily be applied to another on the other side of the world.

Other countries and empires have done their best, devoting far more resources than the U.S. has, to decimate the Muslim population, and at times when it was smaller. They all have failed, and sometimes the failure sent off shockwaves that prompted the beginning of the end for that nation. Some of you may remember that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The Russians, by their own admission, assumed the invasion would be swift and simple. How hard could it be to defeat a ragtag band of scraggly, dusty Third Worlders and establish a communist satellite? They soon found out it was impossible.

The resources the Soviet Union dedicated to the perpetual war with Afghanistan put a second burden on the empire, already engaged in a costly arms race with the United States. Buckling under the pressure, President Mikhail Gorbachev ordered Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988. The turbaned, tattered warriors – some descendants of the fierce Genghis Khan – had devastated the Western front of the Soviet Union. One of the world’s most powerful superpowers was brought down by a fierce, tribal civilization.

This story is only one of many where Muslims have prevailed over insurmountable odds. CIA documents now available show that the United States supplied weapons and aid to these Afghan fighters, assuming fully that the Russians would slaughter them. The United States’ goal was simply to distract the Soviet Union’s attention to gain an upper hand in the Cold War. While the United States did achieve this goal, even the CIA was surprised that the Afghans won. We had sent these tribal warriors to their deaths, with our U.S. guns. No one was more surprised than we were when they actually lived and won!

To convert the war on terror into a war on Islam would be a mistake. We simply cannot go to war with more than 1 billion of the world’s population. We will lose. President Bush, Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell know this fact and, for that reason, state that that War on Terror is not a war on Islam. Although these sound bites appear simply to be politically correct rhetoric, truthfully they are the administration’s prudent recognition that a war against Islam is impossible to win. The famous Islamic scholar, and former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong has noted in her writing that whenever Muslims have been pressured by external forces, they have prevailed triumphant.

But do not worry. I am not saying that we will lose the war on terror. What we are fighting is the use of terrorism to scare people, to create instability, to turn the world into a “Wild West” gone mad. As President Bush said in his address on the evening of 9/11 no citizen of the world should have to face the fear that Americans did that horrible day, that the United States will make the world safe from those who seek power through fear and cruelty. To fight terrorism is a goal of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad himself fought the terrorists of his day -the pagan tribes of Mecca, whose society was governed by blood vendettas and revenge. Muhammad ushered in an era of peace in Arabia, an era that is now being threatened by psychotic tyrants disguising their lunacy as Islam.

I, as a Muslim, fully support the war on terror. To make the world safe is a noble goal. As an American, I am proud that my country has taken on the challenge and has the vision of a peaceful tomorrow. The United States is the only country brave enough to do it. We must not let the enemies of peace derail us with their small-minded evils. Our goal is greater than they can fathom.

Asma Gull Hasan, a Pueblo native, is the author of the new book, “Why I Am A Muslim: An American Odyssey” (Thorsons/Element 2004). Her Web site is