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Muslims pray for American defeat, bin Laden victory as Ramadan starts

Muslims pray for American defeat, bin Laden victory as Ramadan starts

Author: Adnan Malik, Associated Press Writer
Publication: The Associated Press
Date: November 16, 2001

Khobar, Saudi Arabia, Nov 16, 2001 (AP) - The first prayers of the holy month of Ramadan brought forth a groundswell of pro-Osama bin Laden sentiment across the Middle East on Friday, with no let up in calls for America's defeat in Afghanistan despite its successes this week.

"Osama is a holy warrior and God will protect him," said a Muslim cleric in Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia. He did not want to be identified.

In Jordan, the preacher at Amman University mosque called on God to wreak vengeance on "Americans, Jews, their allies and whoever stands behind them."

The month of Ramadan - which officially began Friday in most Arab nations - commemorates the time when God began to reveal the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to the Prophet Muhammad about 1,400 years ago. During the four weeks, observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset to spiritually renew themselves.

Many Arab politicians had called on the United States to cease its airstrikes on Afghanistan out of respect for the holiness of Ramadan. But Washington said its military campaign would continue as there were many examples of Muslim countries waging war during Ramadan. The United States is trying to destroy the Osama bin Laden's al- Qaida terror group, which is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and their Taliban allies.

"The Americans are digging their own grave and, God willing, our holy warriors in Afghanistan will bury them soon," said Ahmed, 25, in Khobar, on condition that he be identified only by his first name.

The prayer leader at a Khobar mosque, Sheik Mohammed al- Tawwash, gave a sermon that was moderate in comparison to the anti-U.S. sentiments of his worshippers. He appeared to be responding to a request from Crown Prince Abdullah who urged clerics this week to be cautious, saying they had a responsibility toward their faith and government.

"You know that we are now passing through critical days and our duty requires that we be mindful ... because you are now a target for those who are biased against the Islamic faith," Abdullah said.

Saudi Arabia is mindful of its close ties with the United States. At the same time its government has to bear in mind the strong sympathy for bin Laden, a Saudi by birth, in the street as well as the popular view that the U.S. airstrikes are an attack against Islam.

Al-Tawwash's sermon did not mention the attacks on Afghanistan, but he did call on God to "protect the innocent Muslims and give them victory over the infidels and enemies of Islam."

In the holy city of Mecca, Sheik Saud al-Sharim ignored Afghanistan in his sermon in the Grand Mosque. Instead, he concentrated on what Muslims should do during the next four weeks.

"He who doesn't read the Quran and doesn't live by it isn't alive, even though he speaks, works and comes and goes," al-Sharim said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

"A human being without the Quran is like life without water or air. His feelings and soul is certainly bankrupt and the Quran is the remedy," he said.

However, the preacher at Amman University, Abdul-Wahab Kassasbeh, had no compunction about attacking Americans, Israelis and Russians.

"God, disperse them and grant victory to the mujahadeen (holy warriors) in Palestine, Afghanistan and Chechnya," he told his congregants.

In Lebanon, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a senior Shiite Muslim cleric, warned worshippers at a south Beirut mosque that the United States was trying to crush the Taliban in order to establish a "strategic base" in Central Asia.

"Muslims, Arabs and the entire world should know that America does not care for the interests of the entire world, but it is working in the context of the international coalition against the so-called 'terrorism' to serve its interests," Fadlallah said.

Outside a Khobar mosque, a Pakistani dismissed the reports of U.S.-backed forces capturing the Afghan capital, Kabul, and other key cities this week as "U.S. propaganda."

Ridwan, 38, who declined to give his surname, said the success of the northern alliance in Afghanistan was not due to its military prowess but to the fact that the Taliban had retreated.

"Let (the American-backed forces) rejoice now. They will suffer the consequences later," he said.

In Afghanistan itself, thousands of men crowded into the main mosque in the northern town of Taloqan to hear a new prayer leader, Sadiq, promise that the northern alliance would confer good government.

"We will grant the rights of women and the rights of educated people, and bring a real Islam," said Sadiq, who was appointed by the northern alliance this week.

He urged alliance fighters to keep up the battle against terrorism. "If you are killed in this fighting, you will reap the rewards in heaven," Sadiq said.

Happy crowds of men filled markets to shop for their first fast-breaking meal on Friday evening. The only women on the streets in Taloqan, a provincial capital, still wore burkas, the head-to-foot robes imposed by the Taliban.

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