Across Muslim world, many see retaliatory strikes as war on Islam
Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
News On 6
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Moderate Arab countries were slow to comment on the U.S. and British strikes on Afghanistan, but in the streets across the Muslim world, many denounced it as a war against Arabs and Muslims.
Moustafa Abdel Salam, a 28-year-old Cairo accountant, said ``America is now fighting terrorism, when it is the one that has created terrorism from the beginning.''
He said he was worried the United States would use the attacks to falsely accuse Arab and Islamic countries of terrorism.
In Pakistan, several influential clerics swiftly denounced the military strikes, calling them an attack against Islam.
The influential Afghan Defense Council, which is sympathetic to the Taliban and based in the Pakistani city of Lahore, issued a call for holy war.
``It is the duty of every Muslim to support their brothers in this critical hour,'' said Riaz Durana, the council's central leader. ``We will support the Taliban physically and morally against the aggression of America.''
Munawar Hassan, deputy chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's most powerful religious political party, called the strikes on the Afghan capital, Kabul, ``an attack against Islam.''
In downtown Peshawar, a Pakistani city near the Afghan border, knots of angry men gathered, shouting ``Osama! Osama!'' and ``America is a terrorist.'' Some held crackling radios to their ears and called out news updates.
``It is terrorism against terrorism, and that will solve nothing,'' said Amin Shinwari.
Pakistan's government, which has thrown its support behind the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, said it regretted that diplomatic efforts did not succeed and called for the U.S. action to remain ``clearly targeted.''
Many moderate Arab countries have expressed limited support for an anti-terrorism campaign, but have offered no troops.
In the hours after the U.S. assault, many remained silent, but anger over the U.S. move was widespread among ordinary citizens.
Kamal Ahmed, a Cairo cabdriver, said Arab countries should support Afghanistan because it's an Islamic country. ``They should back it financially and military,'' he said.
Since the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, many Arabs and Muslims have rejected U.S. allegations that bin Laden was behind the carnage.
``America should show us proof against bin Laden before hitting Afghanistan,'' said Rola al-Bosh, a 39-year-old Syrian who watched the strikes on Arab TV along with other patrons at the Havana Cafe in Damascus. ``And even if bin Laden is guilty, it's not fair that a whole people are being punished for the mistake of one man.''
Iraqi TV denounced the U.S.-British missile assault on Afghanistan as ``treacherous aggression.'' Iraqi TV had earlier taken the unusual step of linking up with the popular Arabic satellite station Al-Jazeera to show live coverage of the strikes on the Afghan capital. The link-up was abruptly ended when video of President Bush appeared on the station.
In Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi called the attacks ``unacceptable,'' saying they were launched ``regardless of the world public opinion, especially the Muslim nations and will damage the innocent and oppressed Afghans.'' Assefi, quoted by the Iranian news agency, IRNA, cautioned the United States to avoid Iranian air space.
``It's a shame that superpowers like Britain and the United States ally together against a small country'' like Afghanistan, said Maamoun el-Hodeibi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest and banned Islamic opposition group.
Hany Ishak, who works at a Cairo juice shop, said the U.S. strikes would increase already high tensions in the region. Ishak noted that his business has already been affected by the decrease in tourists after the Sept. 11 attacks. ``Now no one will travel anywhere or even leave their houses,'' he said.