Monday, October 08, 2001

Tristate Muslims hope for swift war




The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Local Muslims say they support efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, but hope that military action is “swift, precise and well-calculated” to be as bloodless as possible.

        “I wish they chose a different option rather than just start attacking,” said Majed Dabdoub, president of the Cincinnati Arab American Association. “A war is not going to help. A war is not going to solve the problem. I think we need to be a lot more patient.”

        In addition to Sunday's airstrikes, the American response to terrorism should include diplomatic and economic steps as well, he said.

        “I think that the Arab countries are very careful now, because they will not support the United States publicly. They want to support fighting terrorism, but at the same time they see a contradiction here — for example when it comes to the Arab-Israeli

        conflict, they see the United States supporting one side,” he said.

        “If the Palestinian situation were resolved, they would see 100 percent support of the Arab world overseas.”

        Those steps could help neutralize the short-term support that Mr. bin Laden's al-Qaida organization receives from the Arab world, said Muthar Al-Ubaidi, an Iraqi-born professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

        “There are two kinds of people: people who are suffering from these causes, and people who use that suffering to gain power,” Mr. Al-Ubaidi said.

        “They're labeling it as a religious war, to get people to support them. I don't believe any war is a religious war. It's a power struggle,” he said.

        Mr. bin Laden's attempts to portray the American response as an attack on Islam may garner him some short-term sympathizers, Mr. Al-Ubaidi said.

        But if the United States takes the moral high ground, it can turn those same people into a force for peace and democracy, he said.

        “In the long run, people are politically very savvy, even the average people in the Arab world, and they are going to realize what's going on.”

        To make the American case, the U.S. government should release the evidence it has against Mr. bin Laden, Mr. Al-Ubaidi said.

        Despite a Taliban ban on television and the Internet, the Voice of America and the BBC are “very well-respected” news sources in the Arab world, he said.

        Inayat Malik, a Montgomery physician of Pakistani descent, said the humanitarian aid that U.S. planes are dropping in Afghanistan should also help stabilize the situation.

        Droves of refugees fleeing Afghanistan have put tremendous pressure on Dr. Malik's homeland, he said.

        “It's a front-line state in this war. There's a significant number of Afghani refugees in Pakistan, and there is a very vocal — albeit small — Muslim extremist minority that can cause problems for the Pakistani government,” Dr. Malik said.

        He said the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan should be as short as possible, with the aim of creating an Afghan government that can bring stability to the region.

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