Arab view dims on Iraq rebels
Insurgent tactics are drawing rebukes from the Arab world.
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"Arabs are differentiating between the legitimate resistance against foreign military occupation troops and unacceptable terrorism that is killing Iraqis or innocent foreigners," says Rami Khouri, executive editor of Beirut's English-language Daily Star newspaper. "The differentiation is very clear and very vocal."Skip to next paragraph
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"We abhor taking hostages, particularly women and children, and we abhor killing hostages. It's against our values, whether we are Muslims or Christians," says Mohammed Aziz Shucri, professor of international law at Damascus University. Professor Shucri says resistance attacks should be confined only to foreign troops. "Attacking civilians is not resistance against occupation."
Chibli Mallat, professor of international law at Beirut's St. Joseph University, says that public perception of the resistance in Iraq "has always been nuanced between supporting genuine acts of resistance as opposed to the killing of civilians." But recently, and somewhat surprisingly, Mr. Mallat says this distinction has come to be made by stridently anti-American groups. "Some of them have been on record recently saying this is totally unacceptable," he says.
One of them is Salim Hoss, a former Lebanese prime minister, who is a staunch critic of US Mideast policy.
On Tuesday he wrote in Lebanon's leading daily An-Nahar that some militants in Iraq are defiling the name of Islam. "Islam is a religion of forgiveness," Mr. Hoss wrote. "People should not kill others in the name of Islam because they don't know how much it hurts all Muslims."
"America is an illegal occupier, but I abhor the inhuman tactics some of these groups use," he said in a phone interview.
To be sure, there are still almost daily pictures of injured Iraqi women and children hurt in US bombings, and for many, those imagines trump any excesses by groups like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad.
And while big regional newspapers like Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat were careful to point out that the 49 young Iraqi soldiers were unarmed and executed, much of the daily press in Egypt, for instance, created the impression that they were killed in a shootout.
"Many Saudis pretend that Zarqawi is an imaginary figure because they don't like a lot of what's attributed to him,'' says Mshari al-Thaidi, who writes for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which is published in London. "They don't want to pollute the image of the resistance, so they pretend he doesn't exist. They claim he's a figure created by the C.I.A."
"It's painful for people,'' says Al-Ahram's Said. "Even in the Ramadan evening talks among my family, there's a kind of annoyance and denunciation of the brutality, but they want to go over it quickly and get to talking about Palestine and America's failings in Iraq."
And though public opinion is drifting in a more critical direction, few expect it to have any impact on car bombings and kidnappings inside Iraq any time soon.
Radical Islamists in Iraq "are not in the game of winning popular approval for their actions," says the Daily Star's Mr. Khouri. "These are not people after audience share. They don't expect to get elected to office. The reality is that they don't care and they are operating on a different plane from the rest of the society."
• Reporter Faiza Saleh Ambah contributed from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.