• Print Reaction: "Even before it's begun, the siege of Fallujah is getting bad press in the Arab world," reports Dan Murphy (see story). "City under Siege," was the caption in Al-Ahram, Egypt's major government-owned daily, next to a photo of a bloodstained Iraqi man injured "as a result of an American raid."
Egypt's English-language Al-Ahram weekly carried an open letter to Kofi Annan written by Fallujah citizen groups alleging US "genocide" in Fallujah.
The Voice of the People weekly, in conspiratorial tones, hints a Fallujah assault is inevitable because "President Bush's reelection was ensured by the nation's arms dealers." And in Saudi Arabia, 26 clerics issued a religious edict urging Iraqis to take up arms and fight US forces inside their country.
"Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able," says the text of a letter posted by the clerics on the Internet. "Of course this isn't that much of a surprise," says Dan. "But it shows how polarizing events in Iraq have become for many in the region."
• Changing Times: Frank Renout, a Dutch contributor who recently relocated to Paris, says the Netherlands - or at least its politicians - have lost their innocence (see story). "It used to be a lovely quiet country where nothing really happened," he says. "Now the country's confronted with two 'political/religious' murders in two years, and there was Sept. 11."
Those events, says Frank, have had an effect on attitudes. "For years, multicultural society was seen by the political elite as something to cherish," he says. "Now the government says it has declared war on Muslim extremism. And the leader of the right-wing VVD Party says jihad has reached Amsterdam. Three years ago, such comments would have sparked an enormous row."
Deputy world editor