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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Bush seeks Muslim support
A BBC re-enactment of the 1st crusade
Using the term "crusade" may prove misguided
By BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

The United States is keen that Muslim countries should support its war against terrorism in response to last week's devastating attacks on New York and Washington.

There has been remarkably broad support for the United States from the governments of Muslim countries.


If Islamic militants are to blame for the attacks, the conviction that the United States is the enemy of Islam is the core of their motivation

That is in part due to the horror and sympathy felt around the world at last week's attacks.

Another motive for governments accused by Washington of supporting terrorism may be a fear of the consequences for themselves.

Colonel Gaddafi of Libya says the United States has the right to take revenge, though he questions whether it will do any good.

Iran and Syria have condemned the attacks, something cautiously welcomed by the Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

In trying to build support, senior American officials have stressed that it is not a conflict with Arabs or Muslims.

A Palestinian woman receives celebratory sweets after Tuesday's attack
Some in the Middle East celebrated the attacks on the US

It is a tricky but necessary argument to make: if Islamic militants are to blame for the attacks, the conviction that the United States is the enemy of Islam is the core of their motivation.

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wrote to the the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, reportedly referring to the need to prevent a war between religions or civilisations.

President Bush has therefore caused some surprise in describing the war on terrorism as a crusade.

It is a word full of historical resonance in Europe and the Middle East: the mediaeval crusades were wars against Muslims to seize control of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Bush bloomer

One diplomat in London commented that Mr Bush needed a crash course in European history.

The word crusade is often used loosely in the West; another official said he was sure there was no intention to offend or implicate Muslims.

The British government is anxious to get the message across that those responsible for the New York and Washington attacks are not seen as representing Islam.

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visits Jackson Heights' ethnic communities
See also:

16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
16 Sep 01 | Middle East
Bin Laden divides Arab opinion
16 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran weighs up its options
15 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan 'will comply' on terror
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
17 Sep 01 | Americas
More arrests in US terror probe
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