|Subj:||War on Terrorism, or War on Islam?|
|Date:||9/25/01 8:38:20 PM Pacific Daylight Time|
September 25 11:20 PM ET
War on Terrorism, or War on Islam?
JAKARTA (Reuters) - The U.S. vow that war against terrorism
is not war against Islam may have fallen on deaf ears as
cries of jihad, or holy war, resound across the Muslim
The accompanying threat to strike Afghanistan in the hunt
for Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the devastating
September 11 attacks
on New York and Washington, risks triggering a violent
backlash among the world's billion Muslims.
"If they act without clear evidence and outside the U.N.,
then the danger is that this will be seen as a war against
Islam," said Emad Gad, a political analyst at the
Cairo-based al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic
"It's a kind of arrogance of power. They say you are either
with us or against us..."
Some Islamic leaders say the planned U.S. retaliation over
the attacks which may have killed about 7,000 people is
nothing more than an undisguised crusade against Muslims.
President Bush's call for a crusade against evildoers
revived for some images of Christian crusades against Islam.
"They've created an atmosphere of hatred toward Muslims
because they need to search for a victim, any victim...,"
Lebanon-based Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.
"We find that the Muslims are exposed to an American attack
in the name of a coalition 'war on terrorism' that has no
credible basis," said the leading Shi'ite and former
Hizbollah spiritual adviser.
ISLAMIC SUPPORT CRUCIAL
Islamic support is important to American success for several
reasons: Afghanistan is surrounded mainly by Islamic
countries; it broadens the coalition behind the United
States and it brings with it some of the world's biggest
"The United States should know that without Islamic support,
the obstacles will be dangerous," said Saudi Arabia's Arabic
al-Riyadh newspaper in an editorial. "The United States
should be aware of how entwined its position and interests
are with the Islamic world in times of war and peace."
As moderates seek to reassure their followers Washington is
not on an anti-Muslim crusade, hard-liners from Europe to
the Middle East to Asia are readying for a fight.
"There have been attacks and violence for years in the Arab
and Muslim world as a result of the U.S., so there was a
reason that this happened," said an angry young Sudanese at
the central mosque in Paris. "If there is a war, I'm ready."
In the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, young men
denouncing U.S. aggression are signing up to go to
Afghanistan to fight a jihad while others hunt for American
The country's main Muslim clerics' organization, the Council
of Ulemas (MUI), has condemned both the attacks on the
United States and any retaliation against a Muslim country.
"So, we call on Muslims in the world for a jihad fie
sabilillah (holy war for truth) should aggression by the
U.S. and its allies against Afghanistan and the Islamic
world occur," said MUI secretary-general Din Syamsuddin.
Calls for jihad if the United States strikes are echoing
around the Islamic world, including the Middle East,
Malaysia and Pakistan, where four people died in anti-U.S.
protests over the weekend.
Bin Laden has described the dead Pakistani protesters as
"the first martyrs in the battle of Islam of this age."
MODERATES MAY JOIN RADICALS
However, Indian Islamic scholar and head of the powerful
Muslim Personal Law Board Kalbe Sadiq said Muslims could not
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban if they were proved guilty.
"But we can't support the United States because their
previous record isn't good, either," he told Reuters. "So
this is a battle between two thugs." India's Muslim minority
of about 120 million approaches the population of Pakistan.
Analysts say while extremists are a tiny fraction of the
Islamic world, a long and bloody U.S. campaign with heavy
civilian casualties, and any failure by Washington to
reassess its own foreign policies, may swing some moderates
Saudi social anthropologist Mai Yamani said she was worried
about the fallout from any American military reprisals.
"That could strengthen the radical trend that we have here
in the Arab Muslim world and crush the moderate trend," she
German-born Indonesian Catholic priest Franz Magnis-Suseno
said: "It's safe for us now here... but these small groups
Resentment at U.S. actions in the Middle East, especially
its support for Israel and the sanctions against Iraq, is
the common thread linking the most moderate Muslims to the
"America helps Israel in attacking Palestinians," said
Ubaid-ul-Haq, a 32-year-old painter in the Indian capital,
New Delhi. "America must understand why people want to
Professor Amin Saikal, from the Australian National
University's Arab and Islamic studies center, told Reuters a
military campaign with clear objectives and a marked foreign
policy shift were vital to easing Islamic suspicions.
But he also believes ethnic, cultural and political
divisions mean the Islamic world cannot sustain a united
"If they could, they would have done so by now over Israel,"
he said. "But there are groups in the Muslim world that in
the short term may act against the U.S."
Islam varies dramatically in geography and teaching, from
its softer face in the vast Southeast Asian archipelago of
Indonesia, built on animist and even Hindu beginnings, to
the Taliban's own ultra-strict interpretation in
But as the world waits for any U.S. strike, Afghani-American
writer Mir Tamim Ansary warns a devastating conflict between
Islam and the West is, in fact, bin Laden's ultimate aim.
"We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the
West," he wrote in a widely-circulated email. "And guess
what: that's bin Laden's program. That's why he did this."
"Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?"