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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Indian Muslims oppose US action
Muslims at Delhi's Jama Masjid
Indian Muslims fear more innocent people could die
By Frances Harrison in Delhi

There is growing concern among India's 120 million Muslims about the degree of support the government is offering the United States for its campaign against Osama Bin Laden.

One of India's religious leaders, the Imam of the Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Buhari, has said an attack on Afghanistan cannot be called a war against terrorism but merely revenge.


We are with him because he is fighting those who have trampled on our religion

Shopkeeper Rau Siddin Abasi
In the bustling streets of old Delhi, the heart of traditional Indian Muslim culture, there are people who openly support Bin Laden as a defender of Islam.

"We are with him because he is fighting those who have trampled on our religion," says shopkeeper Rau Siddin Abasi.

But this hardline approach is by no means typical.

Unaware

In the Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in India, there are hundreds of pilgrims from all over the country gathering for prayer.

Sheltering in the red-stone pavilions built by their mogul forefathers, the discussion here is not about Bin Laden or the World Trade Centre attack.

Syed Ahmed Bukhari
Religious leaders have warned against attacks
"We don't know anything about the attacks in America," says a woman from Bihar in eastern India - her husband adds that they do not listen to the news.

It seems incredible that an event which threatens to reshape the whole world has simply passed these people by, and they are not alone.

Several Muslims in the mosque are equally ignorant of recent developments.

Powerless

Outside on the streets, people are listening to the news on the radio, still digesting the events of the last week.

Many say they are fearful that more innocent lives will be lost.

"There shouldn't be any bombing. A plan should be drawn up to capture Osama Bin Laden. If they bomb them now, innocent people will get killed," says one.

There seems to be growing demand for restraint matched by a sense of powerlessness, accentuated by the knowledge that Muslims in this country at least are a minority.

"Indian Muslims feel hurt but what can they do about it? They - the USA - are a powerful government, and they can do anything they want," says another.

Indian Muslims do not appear to speak with one voice.

But they do all agree that there should be more caution that targeting Bin Laden and Afghanistan, and that may well act as a break on Indian support for United States action in the future.

See also:

19 Sep 01 | Media reports
Text: Musharraf rallies Pakistani nation
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan exodus gathers pace
20 Sep 01 | South Asia
India angered by Musharraf 'tirade'
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