Reporters from The Associated Press visited mosques around the world Friday to take the pulse of the faithful at a time of upheaval in Islam. They found believers who, for all their cultural and geographical diversity, share an anger over Iraq and the Palestinians and a feeling that their religion is under threat from the West.
"Muslims are getting united now," said Mamdouh Habbal, a 61-year-lawyer attending prayers at Cairo's majestic Al-Azhar mosque. "Unfortunately, they're united in one thing: hatred toward America. Even an old man like me, it has hit me. And I've never known hatred my entire life."
Indeed, preachers and believers across the globe described a Muslim world of 1 billion believers under attack from threats both spiritual and worldly. They warned of decaying morals and declining traditions — and of what they called a U.S.-led campaign to tear Islam apart.
"What is happening now in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan is a war against Islam, a crusade, an old war in new clothing," Youssef Abu Sneineh said in his sermon to at least 150,000 people at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque.
In Qom, Iran, the preacher claimed fraud in the recent election in neighboring Afghanistan, in which U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai is expected to win big, and the congregation chanted: "Death to America."
Mohammed Aslam, a 65-year-old retired school teacher, emerged from prayers in Islamabad, Pakistan, saying he prayed to God to forgive his sins, protect his family and unite Muslims.
Then he added: "I prayed that America be destroyed and Bush face defeat because he has unleashed oppression against Muslims everywhere in the world."
The great issue in the 2004 election — it seems to me as an Englishman — is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.This is exactly right. Electing Kerry would be an exercise in frivolity that we can ill-afford. Read the rest of this important article after the jump: it actually gets even better from here! Starting with six good reasons not to trust Kerry, he goes on a roll.
When George W. Bush was first elected, he stirred none of these feelings, at home or abroad. He seems to have sought the presidency more for dynastic than for any other reasons. September 11 changed all that dramatically. It gave his presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission. Now, we can all criticize the way he has pursued that mission. He has certainly made mistakes in detail, notably in underestimating the problems that have inevitably followed the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and overestimating the ability of U.S. forces to tackle them. On the other hand, he has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations right at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.
There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to "try men's souls," as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest." Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." However, something persuades me that Bush — with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue — is the president America needs at this difficult time. He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.
On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?
France's antiterrorist police on Friday identified a young Frenchman killed fighting the United States in Iraq, the first confirmed case of what is believed to be a growing stream of Muslims heading from Europe to fight what they regard as a new holy war.
A Friday afternoon in Gaza City and a Palestinian militant group is staging a passing-out parade for its newest graduates. On a dirt soccer pitch, 24 masked recruits of the Popular Resistance Committee go through a program of song, march and very ragged foot drill. Some clutch real rifles, others wooden cut-outs.When the guns are not toys [bugmenot]
The crowd of onlookers is appreciative, but smaller than it might have been. There are wanted men present, and two Israeli attack helicopters are circling nearby. The missiles can come without warning.
Out on the pitch a masked fighter tiger-crawls to the halfway line, pushing a homemade bomb. As a show of force, someone throws a hand grenade into a rubbish tip, but he gets the cue wrong and no one is looking when it goes off. "Allahu Akbar", he shouts, anyway.
The trainees have a strange way of moving. During a simulated hijacking, the gunmen crouch and swivel like Spiderman, brandishing their rifles in stiff, formal movements as in the sword play of Samurai - a dance of death.
When the masks come off, one reason for the play-acting becomes immediately apparent: several of these would be "fighters" are barely 12 years old.
"I want to be a fighter against the Jews," says 12-year-old Ahmed. "The Israelis have no right to be on our territory. This territory is our own - all of Palestine, not just Gaza and the West Bank."
As with all the children and youths in the trainee group, Ahmed is wearing a black T-shirt bearing the name of the Popular Resistance Committees. It also shows a Kalashnikov rifle over a silhouette of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque and the slogan "Kill them where you find them".
"I'd like to carry out a martyrdom attack (suicide bombing) for the sake of God," says another young recruit, also called Ahmed, 14. "The Israelis hate us deeply."
One blogger, who goes by the pen name of ‘Ali,’ said he launched Iraqthemodel in November, 2003, along with his brothers.Iraqi blogs building free speech
"Our main motive was that we saw that media coverage of the Iraqi issue was biased and sometimes full of lies," said Ali, a 34-year-old medical resident in pediatrics, who is married and a 1995 graduate of Baghdad University. "We wanted to reach as many people as possible and try to correct their information, as this is a media war too, not just a gun battle," he told UPI.
Ali said the number of readers of his site is steadily rising and has held the 200,000 monthly average since last June. However, the scope of the blog has changed somewhat during its first year in existence.
"We started by posting our thoughts and comments on the news, but a good amount of our writing is reporting about events on the ground and personal experiences," Ali said.
Though many in the US media are skeptical that elections can be held next January in some parts of Iraq, as planned by the Bush administration, Ali reported earlier this month that "many citizens in Fallujah stated that they would be willing to participate in the upcoming elections."
Another blogger, Zeyad, founder of HealingIraq.blogspot.com, said he launched his project in October, 2003, "because there were very few Iraqi blogs back then.
“Now there are more than 60," he added.
He said freedom of thought was not something he was used to under Saddam Hussein.
"It was a strange experience to be able to express one's views without the fear of censorship or retribution," Zeyad said.
He said that, like Iraqthemodel, his site receives from 3,000 to 6,000 hits per day and he frequently reports news that no one else – particularly in the West – reports about Iraq.
"I did reporting, for instance, on the large demonstrations against terrorism last December, which went unreported by the international and local media," Zeyad said.
HealingIraq has also published photos that have not appeared elsewhere, he said. Nevertheless, the bloggers seem to have a sense of accomplishment that their writing and reporting are being heard in the United States.
"It is good to make a wave which can be visible from far away," said Sam, a blogger who runs Hammorabi.