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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 16:40 GMT
Friday prayers Jihad calls

While religious leaders in several countries across the Muslim world used the occasion to call on Friday prayers worshippers to contribute to a jihad, or holy war, against US-led forces in Iraq, some imams took a more cautious line.

"Come to jihad, come to jihad", said the Iraqi imam at Al-Gaylani Mosque in Baghdad, urging Muslims around the world to join in the war.

"We say to them: today is the day of jihad and jihad has become a mandatory duty for all Muslims," he told worshippers.

"Evil has come. The infidels have gathered," the imam said, adding "criminal [US President George W] Bush acts rashly once again, bringing back all the tyranny to the world, all the arrogance, all these crimes and inhumanity."

'Hideous face'

The sentiment was echoed in sermons delivered at the Al-Safa mosque in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

This jihad is to end cruelty and exploitation
Friday prayers - Lahore

"America and its ally Britain are now showing their hideous face and their fangs to swallow a dear part of the land of Arabism and Islam," the Friday imam said.

He blasted the UN Security Council for its inability to prevent the war, saying that it "terrorises only Arabs and Muslims and provides security for the Jews and the Crusaders".

"It is now a tool in the hands of America and a sword threatening its enemies," he said.

Israeli connection

In Lahore, Pakistan, the Friday imam stated that "this jihad is to end cruelty and exploitation".

This war is fought so that Israel could become the biggest military and economic power
Dr Islam Ahmad al-Bashir Sudan's Minister of Guidance & Endowment

"Whenever there is an infidel rule, no matter how beautiful, polished and civilized it may look from outside, it is actually very cruel from the inside."

"The target is to establish a Greater Israel."

In Algeria, the Friday prayer imam agreed. "This brave people is confronting the first Crusade-type and Zionist attack," he said. Algerians viewed Iraqi resistance with "a great deal of content, because this Muslim Arab people has not bowed to this empire that wants to plunder its resources".

In Sudan, the Minister of Guidance and Endowment, Dr Islam Ahmad al-Bashir, expressed the same thought. In his Friday prayer sermons in Khartoum, he stated that "this war is fought so that Israel could become the biggest military and economic power".

In Syria too, Shaykh Nadhir Naftali said in his sermon at the Al-Hamzah and al-Abbas Mosque in Damascus that the "treacherous and evil alliance" of US and British forces was planning "to occupy the Arab and Islamic countries, divide them into weak statelets, and destroy their centres of power in order to ensure the security of the treacherous Zionist entity".


However, prayer leaders in some countries took a more cautious line.

Can freedom and democracy be imposed on a country by force?
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi Member Iran Guardian Council

At the holy mosque in Mecca, Shaykh Salih Bin-Humayd said in his sermon that the absence of "reason and justice" had brought on "sad days and difficult times". He urged "the so-called civilized world, which sets out the benchmarks of progress, to refine its feelings and to promote its human vision".

He warned, however, that "the tragedies and disasters" now taking place in Iraq would only increase hatred.

A low profile was adopted in Tunisia, where the imam at the Al-Husna mosque in Sfax devoted his sermon entirely to the concept of family and family life, and made no reference to the war in Iraq.

Similarly in Morocco, the imam's Friday prayers relayed live on Moroccan TV warned that those in charge of world affairs would be punished by God if they did wrong, but he did not refer directly to the war.

A member of Iran's Guardian Council, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, also questioned the US objectives, asking "can freedom and democracy be imposed on a country by force?" "It is obvious that the answer is negative," he suggested.

He told worshippers in Tehran that the US-led attack against Iraq was "a war of arrogance, an illegal and illegitimate war".

Suggesting that the US-led forces had underestimated Iraqi military resolve, he said that they "imagined that they could finish the problem within 24 to 48 hours... but now they are proved wrong".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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