Arab world split in reaction to attacks

By Associated Press
08 October 2001

Reaction across the Middle East to the allied attacks on Afghanistan were mostly negative, with accusations that America is ignoring the local situation in its desire to hunt down Osama Bin Laden.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, dozens of armored vehicles were deployed on Monday morning as Islamic militants protested outside the US and British embassies amid new threats against resident westerners.

Police were also deployed to control a small demonstration outside the home of US Ambassador Robert Gelbard, who has been the target of recent death threats. Hardline Islamic groups labeled America as the "real terrorist", while the Indonesia government tried to balance Muslim concerns with its official backing for the US-led attacks.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Indonesia was "deeply concerned" about Sunday's air strikes. However, he said it also noted US claims that military, and not civilian, targets were hit.

The reaction was stronger in Syria, where an editorial in the state-run Syria Times said: "Terrorists are those (forces) of evil that violate human rights and kill innocent people. They are not only the terrorists of New York and Washington, they are also the Israeli occupation troops that kill defenseless Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Bring them all to justice."

Mohammed Kheir, a Syrian government employee, accused the United States of applying double standards.

"America is acting against Osama bin Laden without showing us proof while the evidence of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is there for all to see on television," he said.

Arab and Iranian newspapers devoted front-page headlines to the U.S.-British strikes late Sunday against Afghanistan's Taliban-run military installations and locations linked to bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Despite US President George Bush's repeated assurances to the Muslim world his country is not waging a war against them, many Arabs feel the real target is their faith.

"It is clear that this war targets the Islamic and Muslim renaissance," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu­Baker told The Associated Press in Jordan.

"As we rejected the killing of the innocent civilians in America, we condemn the killing of the innocent civilians in Afghanistan," Abu­Baker added.

The brotherhood is the largest Muslim opposition group in Jordan. Like other fundamentalists groups in the Arab world, the brotherhood accuses the United States of being biased toward Israel and bent on controlling Arab oil wealth.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, from which the Jordanian and other branches sprung, said the US strikes on Afghanistan were unjust.

"This is an act of aggression and injustice committed by a powerful nation against a powerless and helpless nation," Egyptian Brotherhood spokesman Maamoun el-Hodeibi told the AP in Egypt.

"This will not solve any problem. To the contrary, it will blow up the whole area and lead to more terrorism and the world will not see any peace, security or safety," el-Hodeibi said.

In Lebanon, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told The Associated Press in a telephone interview he rejected the US-led war against Afghanistan "because we think that any religious or civilized law bars any person or any side from declaring a war against a peaceful and oppressed people."

"I think America is confronting terrorism with terrorism," he added.

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi expressed concern that the "vast" military operation against Afghanistan "will not eliminate terrorism, but, on the contrary, it could expand (it) further."

Amid the voices denouncing the attacks, there was a note of approval for the US action from Kuwait. Ten years ago, the United States led a campaign to expel Iraq from the tiny emirate after a seven­month occupation.

Kuwait's independent Al­Watan daily said in a front­page editorial that while Muslims feel "severe pain" as they watch the attacks on Afghanistan, "this pain is eased by the fact that what is happening could at the end of the day be in the interest of Islam and Muslims."

Supporters of the military action outside of Europe China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Israel.

Turkey, the only member of Nato with a predominantly Muslim population, gave a full endorsement, calling the United States its "friend."

Saudi Arabia's government, which supported U.S.­led forces during the Gulf War, remained silent about the U.S.­British action in Afghanistan, while Iran and Iraq voiced protest.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein called the attack "an act of aggression that runs contrary to international law." Iraqi TV broadcast a statement by Saddam saying: "Today, America has carried out an assault on ... the poorest among the peoples and countries of the world. We do not think that any of those who are true believers in God can but condemn this action."


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