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August 1998 
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MER - WASHINGTON - 30 August:

One can't count on the establishment American press when it comes to the Middle East, that's for sure. Even when the facts are right, the emphasis and perspective are nearly always off, usually way off. And the reasons why are no secret, however rarely discussed with candidness and veracity.

This said, occassionally an interesting and insightful article comes along as in this case, dateline Khartoum and published in the New York Times last week. True, the choice of interviewee is questionable, the publication's motives suspect, and the general presentation slanted in various subtle ways. But even so, the situation created by America's "New War" is so flammable that even the American elite are being warned to pay some attention to the result of their actions.


"Now he is a hero in Saudi Arabia, in Islamabad, in Cairo, in all capitals of the Muslim world."

"You don't rub the entire Muslim world's nose in the dirt and make it kneel."

"Bin Laden is not an aberration. He is part of a long thread that goes back to the 18th-century Western occupation of the Muslim world."



New York Times - 25 August:

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- A normally serene scholar of Islam named Abdulrahman Abuzayd, who believes passionately in the wisdom of his religion and its values, is furious at the United States.

He is no friend of the National Islamic Front's government in Sudan. Indeed, two years ago, it burned his office at the university he led and forced him to step down.

He also is unhappy that the government invited Osama bin Laden, considered a top financier of terrorism by the United States, to take refuge in his homeland.

But sending cruise missiles, he says, is no way to deal with extremists -- and no way to deal with a government that may or may not have allowed a factory to make a compound of a nerve gas.

"As a Sudanese I'm mad," said Abuzayd, as he sat on his veranda, which looks over the urban landscape of low-slung, khaki-colored homes, a sun-bleached dusty road and an occasional wandering goat. "OK, we have problems with this regime. But we solve them ourselves. Now the Americans have come and given it a big shot in the arm."

He has the same concern about bin Laden, whose image -- with a long black beard and varying styles of headgear -- is now flashed around the world. "The Americans have suddenly created a Muslim hero out of  him, whereas last week he was considered a fanatic nut," Abuzayd said. "Now he is a hero in Saudi Arabia, in Islamabad, in Cairo, in all capitals of the Muslim world."

The United States has made serious missteps, he said, first by failing to convince the Muslim world that bin Laden was responsible for the bombings of American embassies in East Africa and then by attacking Afghanistan and the Sudan.

"By its strikes in Afghanistan and here, America did not eliminate terrorism," Abuzayd said. "This is not terrorism -- this is a resurging Muslim world. You don't deal with it with cruise missiles, you discuss it. You don't rub the entire Muslim world's nose in the dirt and make it kneel."

Abuzayd is upset because he has long articulated an Islam that is tolerant and free of corruption. At Omdurman Ahlia University, a private institution largely financed by the Kuwaiti government, he introduced a wide range of courses for male and female students and tried to keep the radical influence of the governing Islamic Front at bay.

After being forced out, he was hired by the U.N. high commissioner for refugees for an unusual task: to travel as a Muslim scholar among the Taliban in Afghanistan to talk about questions of justice and education.

He believes that most of his countrymen believe in his kind of Islam, too. But now he and others here complain that the unilateral American action will be likely to reinforce anti-Western sentiment in Sudan, which has become increasingly isolated in the last five years.

The American Embassy closed here nearly two years ago, after the United States contended that the Sudanese government had not done enough to close down camps for training terrorists. Many European embassies have scaled back and cut their aid.

Before, it was not uncommon to see a European face on the ramshackle streets of the capital. Now it is rare.

Most Western officials now concede that the training camps have been closed down. Abuzayd also said he believes that the camps have been shuttered -- in part, he said, because the government had established a network of domestic security services and did not feel the need for the extra security that the training camps provided.

The government also acquiesced to demands from the United States and some moderate Arab countries that bin Laden be expelled from here in 1996.

Some Western diplomats have said that even though the government here persists in fighting a pernicious civil war in the south and precludes any real pluralist politics, it was a mistake not to reward it for the attempts at change.

For many in Sudan and the rest of the Muslim world, this lack of response, and now the attack on the pharmaceutical plant, contrasts sharply with the American attitude toward Israel, Abuzayd said. "It can't help but be compared to what is going on in Israel," he said. "They kick out Arab settlers, uproot their homes and nothing happens. I believe that almost all young Muslims are radicalized by the Israeli behavior."

Referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, he said, "Netanyahu is the ugliest face of arrogance caused by unflinching levels of American support."

The historical reasons for the violence of bin Laden and other Muslim radicals was also important for the United States to consider, Abuzayd said.

"Bin Laden is not an aberration," he said. "He is part of a long thread that goes back to the 18th-century Western occupation of the Muslim world." In many of the contemporary reinterpretations of Islam in Saudi Arabia, in Asia and in Africa, he said, anti-foreign attitudes and severe puritanism are uppermost.

"Bin Laden is a young businessman who was terribly radicalized by his experiences in Afghanistan," when he helped fight against the Russian-backed government there, "and by the Gulf war," Abuzayd said.

But even with the strong anti-foreign sentiment among Muslim radicals, Abuzayd said, violent leaders only find ready support when they are attacked by the West. This was why it is so frustrating to watch the United States play into bin Laden's hands, he said.

In the end, Abuzayd said, he understood that the American strikes in Afghanistan and the Sudan were motivated by Clinton's need to "do something."

But, he added, "If you have a long arm, as Mrs. Albright says, you go in and get bin Laden. The Israelis did it in Entebbe."



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