OPINION

Commentary

The US and NATO are on a war footing while many Middle Eastern and Arab African countries are anxious as to whether they have been classified as potential military targets. The confrontation, whose military extent is still unknown as Washington has not announced the list of target countries, has already begun in the ideological sphere. The New World Order is a clash of civilizations, said the International Herald Tribune recently. The hundreds of Arabs in the US who have been hauled in for questioning on the basis of their race or religion, the repeated assaults on American Muslims, which culminated in the murder of an unfortunate Indian, forced US President George W. Bush to visit a mosque in an attempt to make it clear that he is opposed to the above view of the world that seems to be influencing a considerable number of US citizens in the wake of the recent tragedy. From a political perspective, it would harm Washington’s interests to present this clash as a Western crusade against Islam. Unfortunately, the belief in the clash of civilizations is also gaining momentum inside the rival camp as Osama bin Laden is portrayed as the number one enemy. Apart from being a ruthless terrorist and deeply obscurantist, bin Laden is also a political leader and his interpretation of Islam is an ideological, revolutionary and international social movement, as a comment in the International Herald Tribune mentioned yesterday. These characteristics and other factors have enabled his organization to spread its network in dozens of Muslim countries, well beyond the boundaries of the Arab world. In the eyes of the plebeian Muslim masses, he is often a Nasser of Islam. If bin Laden’s elimination is accompanied by military strikes and attacks on Islamic states, there is a clear danger that these states may actually believe that they have been caught up in this clash of civilizations, which could create a chasm between the populations and the governments of the Muslim world. This could undermine many pro-Western regimes, which will be called upon to take a position in a conflict that will have acquired the characteristics of a confrontation between the West and Islam. Following reports that 2,000 Afghanis were apprehended trying to leave the Turkish coast, the Greek coast guardhas reportedly taken extra precautions to guard the sea lanes, channels and islands near the Turkish coast.