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Bosnia War Shakes Muslim World

Many countries send aid; radicals try to blame the West

By Jonathan S. Landay and John BattersbyStaff writers of The Christian Science Monitor / August 9, 1995


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.

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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.''