Bosnia War Shakes Muslim World
Many countries send aid; radicals try to blame the West
WASHINGTON AND JERUSALEM — WHEN 40,000 employees of the Palestinian self-ruled administration looked at their monthly pay stubs last week, they found 1 percent of their salaries had been donated to Bosnian Muslims.
In Jordan recently, a telethon raised $6 million for the Bosnians. In Saudi Arabia, King Fahd called on the Muslim world to supply Bosnian Muslims with arms.
Displaying a rare sense of unity, moderate Muslim nations and militant Islamic groups have joined hands in coming to the aid of Muslims in war-ravaged Bosnia. But that is not the only effect the war in Bosnia is having. The West's failure to protect Muslims and find peace may boost militant Islam and push moderate Muslim regimes into more extreme actions, say worried Western diplomats and political analysts.
''Unfortunately, what is happening in Bosnia is that the world is sitting and watching the most advanced Muslim community in the world being wiped out,'' says Adnan Iskandar, a professor of political studies at the American University in Beirut.
''If the Western world cannot tolerate this kind of Muslim - the most secularized and Westernized on earth - how will they manage the Hizbullah?'' Mr. Iskandar asks, referring to the Iranian-backed insurgency fighting Israeli forces in south Lebanon.''I think the West is committing a monumental blunder.''
The militant Islamic world was first in seizing on the Bosnian issue. But they quickly turned it from a humanitarian issue into a showdown between Muslims and non-Muslims..
''The catastrophe of the whole Bosnian issue is that it has become a conflict between civilizations,'' says Iyyad Barghouti, an expert on radical Islam at An Najeh University near Nablus on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. ''To Islamists, it is a conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, and in the more secular Muslim world, it is seen as one between Christians and Muslims.''
Armed with videotapes of atrocities, literature, and emotion-stirring invective, Islamic hard-liners are fanning outrage in the Islamic world at the Christian West's failure to halt the Serbian assaults on the Muslims of Bosnia's United Nations-declared ''safe areas.''
''For the extreme Islamists, the violent movements, it really confirms their sense that we are an enemy, and that we just do not care about Muslims...,'' says Tom Mattair of the Washington-based Middle East Policy Council.
But what alarms some experts even more is that the Islamists are trying to turn Muslim anger over Bosnia against their own governments. They accuse their governments of betraying the Bosnian Muslims and not doing enough to end the UN arms embargo on Bosnia.
This appeal, many experts say, is striking a popular chord and may well boost support for the fundamentalist movements now regarded as the greatest political threats to the pro-West governments of Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and moderate Arab states in the Persian Gulf.
''The anger over Bosnia is at a white-hot stage,'' warns Richard Curtis, editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. ''The depth of the outrage took longer than I expected. It certainly is strengthening opposition to particular governments, especially those perceived as being close to the West.''
Khalid Duran, editor of the Washington-based journal TranState Islam agrees: ''For the Islamists, there could not have been a greater boost than this.
''The peasants in Tunisia and Egypt see things being done in the name of Christianity to Muslims, and this really affects them. Things like the Serbs carving a cross in the back of a Muslim refugee,'' he says.
Western intelligence reports have for some time said that some weapons supplies are slipping through the embargo to the Bosnian Army. The reports say that they have been provided by Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and Malaysia, among others.
But the amounts and types of weaponry have not been sufficient to turn the tide of the war.
That, however, may now be changing because, some experts say, the Islamists' exploitation of Bosnia may be galvanizing moderate regimes in the Islamic world to more concerted action.
In reaction to the UN's failure to protect the ''safe areas'' of Srebrenica and Zepa, the Organization of the Islamic Conference met in Geneva on July 21 and declared the UN arms embargo ''invalid.''
Some experts say that declaration was probably reinforced by the recent votes by the US Senate and House of Representatives to require the US to unilaterally lift the embargo. ''They've given a green light,'' the Middle East Policy Council's Dr. Mattair says of the congressional votes.
Two Muslim countries are openly signaling their intentions to flout the embargo. After returning from a visit to Bosnia and Croatia, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati on Aug. 1 declared that ''no obstacle exists'' to arms shipments for Bosnia.
Malaysia, meanwhile, in talks held Aug. 3 in Kuala Lumpur, informed Secretary of State Warren Christopher of its intentions to ignore the embargo. ''We have already given the UN a chance to do something, but it has failed so far,'' Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said after the meeting. Malaysia has a battalion of troops in the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia.
Saudi Arabia announced that it is donating more than $225 million in public and government contributions to the Bosnian government to spend as it desires. Similarly, Kuwait is expected to give $33 million.
At the end of last month, the United Arab Emirates held a 12-hour radio and television drive to raise $50 million. UAE President Sheikh Zaid Bin Sultan al-Nahayan appeared to be referring to the growing rage among Muslims against the Christian West when he told UAE TV: ''The negative attitudes of the big powers over what is happening in Bosnia is causing suspicions.''
While much of this activity reflects the moderate regimes' own anger, ''All of this is an attempt by the moderate Islamic states to distance themselves from Western policy and not to allow the Islamists to gain the high ground,'' says David Steele of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Mohammed Sid-Ahmed, veteran columnist of the weekly Cairo newspaper al-Ahram, noted that Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa had taken the initiative in urging Islamic states to break the arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims.
''The question is: How far are the Islamic states prepared to go at the risk of jeopardizing their relations with the West over this issue?''