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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 08:01 GMT
Delhi Muslims voice Iraq anger
Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC correspondent in Delhi

The war in Iraq has cast its shadow over India. For many, it is like a conflict in the neighbourhood.

Delhi has always had friendly relations with countries in west Asia and Baghdad is no exception.

Millions of Indians work in the Gulf, supporting not just their families back home but also earning precious foreign exchange for the country.

Jama Masjid mosque
At the Jama Masjid mosque opinion is unanimous
The war casts a shadow on these close links and the Indian establishment finds itself walking a tightrope - between old ties with the Arab world and its new friendship with the US.

In the Indian capital Delhi, Muslims gather for prayer at the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the city.

They pray for peace.

For them, it is not just an issue of empathising with fellow Muslims.

Many have close relatives in the region. For them, it is a war too close to home.

On the surface life goes on as usual. Not many big anti-war demonstrations and peace rallies.

But ask them and the response is near unanimous. A majority accuse the Americans of being trigger happy.

'Wrong'

In one of Delhi's oldest and most popular restaurants, opinion is mixed.

"This war is absolutely wrong," says one man.

But a woman sitting across has a slightly different view.
Muslims protest in Delhi
Activists of the Shia-Sunni Front make their views known

"Both sides are wrong but I find Saddam Hussein to be more at fault," she says.

Her companion is more forthright.

"Mr Bush should not have attacked Iraq," he says.

The western alliance appears to have lost whatever few friends it had amongst Muslim clerics.

In a country which is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world, US bashing is now the norm.

The more charitable see the allies as being unfocussed.

Others say its the US which is a bigger terrorist.

"It's not just we Muslims. Everyone thinks America is the biggest terrorist in the world," says Mehmood Madani general secretary of the radical Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind.

"The actions of America will lead to the destruction of the world," he adds.

But it is not just the fear of something happening to a dear one which make people wary of this war.

There is also a growing concern about the impact a long drawn out conflict may have on the Indian economy.


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