SUPPORT FOR SADDAM BUILDS AT EDGES OF ISLAMIC WORLD
IMPACT ON MUSLIMS. Saddam Hussein has called the Gulf conflict a holy war and tried to enlist Muslims around the world in the battle. How are they responding? In some areas with large Muslim populations, such as Pakistan and Southeast Asia, people are in turmoil over their governments' backing of the US-led coalition. At the same time, in some Western nations, Muslims are facing new forms of discrimination.
From Pakistan to Zanzibar, Muslims are on the march in support of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and against the United States. But US officials keeping a close eye on the anti-American backlash unleashed by the Gulf war say support for the war among Washington's Arab allies is steady, and unrest in other countries is unlikely to threaten US strategic interests.
Support for Saddam was strongest in Jordan, Yemen, the Maghreb states of North Africa, and Pakistan, a US official said. As far afield as the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar, militant Muslim youths daubed historic buildings with slogans like: ``We salute Saddam,'' ``Israel must be wiped out,'' and ``Down with American imperialism.''
Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, said Islamic fundamentalists were exploiting the war to build support.
``Many Arabs apparently see us as crusaders and acting for Israel. They do not see us implementing UN resolutions, but exercising American power to protect American interests,'' he said.
But a US Information Agency study of opinion polls in the Arab and Muslim world in months prior to the war concluded that no Arab government was likely to be in serious trouble because of its stance in the Gulf crisis.
Support for Saddam, the study said, was strongest on the periphery of the Islamic world. With the exception of Jordan, Arab neighbors of Iraq tended to be suspicious of Saddam. In the Gulf states there was no sign that support for the war was crumbling.
In Egypt, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and small opposition parties have demanded the recall of about 45,000 Egyptian troops. President Hosni Mubarak's chief political adviser, Usama al-Baz, said support for Iraq was confined to 10 to 15 percent of the population.
Among traditional US allies, anti-US feeling seems strongest in Pakistan and Morocco, both of which sent small troop contingents to defend Saudi Arabia.