January 2003 News

Muslim politicians in Kashmir oppose attack on Iraq

19 January 2003
The Daily Times

SRINAGAR: Politicians, separatists and militants in Indian Kashmir said Sunday they were against a US-led attack on Iraq.Separatist and militant leaders in the insurgency-racked region, the only Muslim-majority state in India, are walking a diplomatic tightrope over the issue.They do not want to annoy the United States, whose diplomacy they see as indispensable to their cause, but they are mindful of a potential backlash among the public.'As in other parts of the Muslim world there will be strong reaction in Kashmir too if Iraq is attacked,' said Maulvi Abbas Ansari, a senior leader of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.Ansari, also a leading Shia cleric, said Iraq housed many prominent Islamic shrines and places of worship.'Muslims will not tolerate the desecration of their religious sites and killing of their innocent brothers,' he said. 'An attack on Iraq I fear can spark a civilisation war.'Separatists in Kashmir, where an anti-Indian insurgency has killed more than 37,500 people since 1989, condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.They offered only tempered criticism of the military campaign in Afghanistan, and said they were not supporters of the Taliban or Osama Bin Laden.'Contrary to Afghanistan, the US has no reason to attack Iraq as UN inspectors are doing their job and nothing has been hidden from them,' Ansari said.Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to give his much-anticipated update to the UN Security Council about progress made in tracking down Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction on January 27.Some 150,000 US ground, air and naval forces are expected to be poised to attack Iraq by mid- February. Militants engaged in the armed fight against Indian rule in the Kashmir region also oppose any military action.'An attack would increase hate against the US,' said Jamil Ahmad, spokesman for the pro-Pakistan Jamiatul Mujahideen. He appealed to the United States to stop seeing Muslims as 'enemies.'If Iraq is criminal by accumulating chemical weapons, why is Israel being spared?' asked Shaheen, who lost a leg in a mine-explosion by militants.'Muslims are bound to react if Baghdad is attacked. How they do it, only time will tell.'The local press has also been airing anti-US sentiments and Srinagar newspaper editorials and columnists have demanded unity among Muslims to resist a US-led attack on Iraq.Analyst Shaukat Ahmad said Muslim-Christian relations all over the world would be strained if US-led forces attacked Iraq.'The September 11 attacks have already damaged the relations between the two communities to a large extent,' he said. 'An attack on Iraq would be seen as a revenge attack on Muslims.'Ahmad urged the United States to realise that September 11 was an act by a group of individuals and not by Muslims as a whole. 'Now is the time for the US to shed its anti-Muslim stance and act only when the United Nations gives the green signal.' -AFP


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