Moderate Islamic leaders all over the Middle East "are between a rock and a hard place right now," says John Esposito, who heads the Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "President Bush has given them a polar choice - they are with us or they are against us. Many of them are totally against what happened on Sept. 11, but they are not going to be thrilled if the war against terrorism is broadened to attacks on other countries," such as Iraq.
A one-page flyer, stacked in a pile on a shoe rack at the London mosque, made the same point. "Bin Laden and Bush have both called on the world to be 'either with us or against us' " read the anonymous protest, titled "Bombing and killing and assassination do not win hearts and minds."
"The free-thinking citizens of the world reject both these simplistic calls," it continued. "We condemn the loss of innocent lives, wherever it occurs. We appeal to our leaders to stop this mad war immediately and instead make a stand for diplomacy, justice, and the rule of law."
Even in Paris, where the mood is calmer than in many Middle Eastern capitals, the director of the Great Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, has judged it wiser to instruct his imams not to speak out too bluntly against the radicals just yet. "The train is still going at 120 miles an hour," he says. "We have to wait for things to cool down. For the time being, our sermons are calling on people to reflect and to be vigilant."
That is not a terribly dramatic or appealing message when set against the stirring calls for jihad that Dr. Boubakeur says "are ravaging our young people." The devil, he says, has all the best tunes.