Yugoslav war angers many Arabs U.S. called biased on Bosnia's woes

November 09, 1992|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Staff Writer

CAIRO, Egypt -- In his office here, physician Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar is framing a poster-size photo of a man in Bosnia whose throat has been slit, complete with a close-up of the gash.

Dr. Ghaffar says the United States is responsible for the crime.

The conflict in what was Yugoslavia is deepening distrust of the West by some Arabs who say the United States will act to save JTC oil, as it did by going to war against Iraq, but not to save Muslims, who are dying by the thousands in Bosnia.

They say the United States and other Western countries are to blame for the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The West is tacitly allowing non-Muslim Serbs to slaughter Muslims, they contend.

"They give a free hand to the Serbians to kill, destroying Bosnia in an attempt to throw all the Muslims out of Sarajevo," Mustafa Mahmoud, a popular newspaper and television commentator, said in the newspaper Al-Ahram.

"The United States is trying to wash its hands of this butchery, but it is too late now." Its efforts to solve the crisis is just "to fool their Arab friends," he said.

So far, this view has not been openly embraced publicly by Arab governments. It is fodder mostly for harangues by Iran and speeches by Islamic groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood to which Dr. Ghaffar belongs.

But complaints of a double standard in the West have put into an uncomfortable spot those Arab governments that sided with the United Nations' coalition in the Gulf war.

"All the people in our country who trusted in America now know well that the U.S. and the Western world hates Muslims," said Dr. Ghaffar, who is organizing Bosnian relief efforts for the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, a union of doctors.

"For Kuwait, they send fighters, airplanes, everything in 24 hours," he says. "Why did you did not apply all these things to the Bosnia problem?"

Arab governments have not acted on their own, he said, because they are just "children of the U.S. and the U.N."

Egypt and Jordan have sent token forces to the United Nations' peacekeeping force, and the Gulf oil states are said to have sent financial aid Bosnia.

Pakistan, a non-Arab Muslim state, is expected to ask Islamic-country foreign ministers meeting in Saudi Arabia Dec. 1 to push the United Nations for an end to the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims.

But none of the Arab governments appears enthusiastic about heeding the recent call by Sheik Abdel-Aziz bin Baz, the highest Muslim religious authority in Saudi Arabia, to rally to send "men, money and weapons" to Bosnia.

The anti-Muslim theory ignores Muslim violence against Serbs, as well as the indiscriminate aggression by Serbs against both non-Muslim Croats and Muslims.

The complaint also gives little acknowledgment to the difficulty of ending the internecine violence in the region.

"When the United States and the United Nations want to prevent something, they can. But they don't want to prevent this," Dr. Ghaffar said. Western nations have given "a little amount of aid" and "every now and then they will stop the relief" on a pretext, he said.

Such complaints strike a chord here. Private Arab donations to aid Bosnian Muslims amounted to about $5 million. But efforts to collect for starving Somalis, who also are Muslim, reaped only $7, according to Fahmy Howeidi, writing in Al-Ahram.

The ancestors of today's Muslims in Bosnia embraced Islam centuries ago after the Turkish conquests of parts of Bosnia and Serbia.

Today, Muslims have rallied to the Bosnian cause because they see it as an attack on their religion, Ms. Howeidi said. "Human beings are the victims in Somalia, whereas Islam is the victim in Bosnia."

"There is a feeling of bitterness about the U.S. in the Islamic World," agrees Abu el-Ela Madi, an engineer who also is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The aggression is Bosnia is with the approval of the West."

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