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Terror shifts Muslim views

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When the American invasion of Iraq began, Adel al-Mashad and his activist comrades sprang into action.

The next day they helped organize an antiwar protest in Cairo that brought tens of thousands of Egyptians onto the streets; it evolved into the biggest public attack on President Hosni Mubarak's rule since he came to power in 1981.

Mr. Mashad says that protest, which tied the anger at the US invasion to the aspirations for democratic change at home, is one of his proudest moments.

But that was March 20, 2003. Today, the voices of Mashad and activists in other Arab capitals are largely mute when it comes to Iraq.

They still fervently oppose the US presence. But they are increasingly put off by the brutal tactics used by the insurgency against civilians. Similarly, many Muslims are angry over the tactics used by terrorists in the name of Islam.

Among the manifestations of this shift in public attitudes:

• On Sunday, about 1,000 Egyptians, mostly hotel workers, marched through Sharm el-Sheikh, where a weekend bombing killed scores of people, chanting: "There is no God but God; terrorism is the enemy of God."

• In Pakistan, an Islamist call for nationwide protests against a crackdown on militants fell flat Friday with rallies drawing just a few hundred people.

• A recent Pew poll showed a decline in public support for suicide bombings in Muslim countries (see chart).

Mashad says he's been appalled by recent incidents in Iraq, such as the suicide attacks that killed 25 children receiving candy from US soldiers two weeks ago, and more than 50 Iraqis in a separate incident near a Shiite mosque.

And with suicide attacks on civilians spreading to places like Egypt, with 88 killed in the country's worst terrorist attack Saturday, he and many others are asking how one can honorably oppose American foreign policy without lending support to brutal tactics.

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