Although violent demonstrations in Pakistan and Indonesia are much sought after by paparazzi and make emotional headlines, the fact is that support for Afghanistan has been surprisingly weak from the Moslem world.
The pro-Bin Laden demonstrations in Nigeria, which cost at least 200 lives and large-scale riots in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi have made the headlines in recent days. However, it should be remembered that the majority of the population of Pakistan is from the Pashtun ethnic group, the same as the Taleban and that the tone of these demonstrations is not only support for Moslem brothers, but also for tribal brethren.
Elsewhere, reactions have been small-scale and limited. In one demonstration in Indonesia, there were more police than rioters. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, only 2,000 students turned out. In the Iranian town of Zahedan, the demonstrators were mainly Afghan refugees. In Cairo, in Bangladesh, in Ankara, only around 5,000 people performed the now common ritual of burning the stars and stripes along with a Bush scarecrow.
In India, there was a demonstration in favour of the attacks, with banners reading “The USA should attack Pakistan” and “Bomb terrorist training camps in Pakistan”. An effigy of Bin Laden was burned and stamped upon.
While the USA imposes sanctions on Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya, a long list of Moslem countries receive aid from Washington, namely Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Pakistan.
The call for a Jihad was peremptorily rejected by the Islamic Conference Organization in Doha, Qatar last week and the final declaration abstained from condemning the attacks on Afghanistan: “The ICO confirms the readiness of its member states to actively fight terrorism together with the international community under the auspices of the UNO”.
However, there was also a reference to the creation of a state of Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem, a position at last being discussed by the USA and UK. Curiously enough, and with most of Islamic states not in favour of him, this is exactly where Osama Bin Laden intended to arrive.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL