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The following article was taken from the Associated Press, September 11, 2001.

U.S. Sympathy Sours in Mideast

Wed Sep 11, 3:48 AM ET

By MORT ROSENBLUM, AP Special Correspondent

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - In a Middle East that has seen it all, the images from Manhattan still electrify. But after a year, the sympathy has soured, often to hatred, as many accuse America of seeking blind revenge.




A sampling across the region shows hostility toward U.S. policy growing even among people who decry the innocent blood spilled a year ago.

From ancient souks to McDonald's, many see themselves headed toward war forced upon them by an angry superpower pursuing a limited number of religious fanatics.

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, many Arabs see Washington tilted sharply toward Israel. And now, as U.S. threats build against Iraq, they worry about what might happen if American forces again invade their volatile region.

"I fear the Americans will turn Saddam Hussein from a criminal into a victim bathed in glory," said Ali El Samman, a religious adviser who has counseled Egyptian leaders since the 1960s.

As adviser for interfaith affairs at Al-Azhar Mosque, El Samman has urged Muslims to understand the Americans' anguish at an extremist attack.

But El Samman finds widening repugnance. George W. Bush, he said, is closer to Israel than any previous U.S. president at a time when Arabs are incensed at what many call genocide against Palestinians.

"People respond predictably," El Samman said. "They say Bush helps those who kill their brothers." As for Saddam, he added, even Muslims who despise him would see any unprovoked assault on Iraq as an injustice.

Since the days of Anwar Sadat, Egypt has championed moderation, facing sanctions by neighbors and battling its own Muslim extremists to seek peace in the region.

These days, words on Cairo streets have grown harsh.

"We feel hatred, anger and hatred, toward the American government and American companies that support it," said Abdel Aziz el-Husseini, a Cairo engineer behind a grass-roots boycott of U.S. products.

Rana Ashraf, a 20-year-old English literature major at the American University in Cairo, called the Sept. 11 attacks "a good thing" in retrospect, although she regretted the deaths.

"For years, we had to face our terrorists alone, and nobody cared," she said, referring to hundreds of Egyptians killed by fundamentalists since 1992. "At least now they know and can get involved."

In Saudi Arabia, from where troops sent by the elder George Bush pushed Iraqis from Kuwait in 1990, some people said they were stunned when some Americans blamed Saudi Arabia for the attacks after its long cooperation with Washington to fight terrorism.

"Now we are worried that there is a joint American-Israeli conspiracy to weaken Arab and Muslim countries in the name of the war on terror," said Abdulaziz al-Debeikhi, a Riyadh high school principal.

Feelings are mixed in Jordan, the small kingdom between Israel and Iraq that has long sought to ease regional tensions.

Michael Qura, a 24-year-old Amman accountant, said he felt sorry for the innocent civilians killed on Sept. 11. But, he said, "I felt America was getting paid back for its bias against Arabs and Muslims."

Yemen, a tradition-minded nation with a troubled past in the shadow of Saudi Arabia, finds itself caught in the conflict.

Gaafar al-Ahdal, a 51-year-old Yemeni businessman, said Washington's reaction cost Americans the sympathy they deserved.

"The U.S. has accused everybody of terrorism, pressured the Yemeni government to jail more than 200 people, and many of them are innocent. A year after the attacks, we are all against America and its policies."

Hostility is deepest in the West Bank and Gaza.

"George Bush has all the Arabs under his control, the whole world under his control," said Nizar Jamil, 29, a salesman in Ramallah.

Still, some across the region expressed an opposite view.

"We sympathize with the Americans, before and now," Ahlan Assy, a Cairo television production worker.

Mohammed Jaafar, 50, a Lebanese farmer with relatives in the United States, said, "We can't even think about this criminal act. A war should be fought as a war, between armies, not in people's homes."

Many thinkers and activists say the United States must re-evaluate its foreign policy in the wake of the attacks. Others say nothing will change until America does more than talk about promoting democracy in the Middle East.

The impression in the region, said Negad Borai, an Egyptian human rights lawyer, is that American policy-makers are more comfortable with dictators.

"They'll have to rethink this," Borai said, "because one day they'll lose the authoritarian regimes and the people as well."

At 66, playwright Ali Salem sips coffee in the heart of Cairo. In a Time magazine essay entitled, "An Apology from an Arab," he blamed terror on pathologically jealous extremists. "They feel like dwarfs," he wrote, "which is why they search for towers and those who tower mightily."

If Sept. 11 did not represent a broad threat, he said over yet another coffee, it changed the world forever.

"We became closer to each other," he said. "You could see in America that the Middle East at any moment could cross deserts and mountains and oceans and settle in your neighborhood. Now we are neighbors, all of us."

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