Muslims condemn Mumbai attacks, worry about image
Muslims around the world, from the Middle East to communities in Britain and Austria, on Sunday condemned the Mumbai shooting rampage by suspected Islamic militants as senseless terrorism, but also found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion, AP reported.
Intellectuals and community leaders called for greater efforts to combat religious fanaticism.
The gunmen's motives were still unknown Sunday, four days after they unleashed their grisly attacks on 10 targets, including a Jewish community center and luxury hotels in Mumbai, India's commercial hub. More than 170 people were killed in the three-day assault.
But regardless of whether assailants were part of al-Qaida's global jihad or of the India-Pakistan dispute over the Kashmir region, many Muslims said they are worried such carnage is besmirching their religion.
"The occupation of the synagogue and killing people in hotels tarnishes the Muslim faith," said Kazim al-Muqdadi, a political science lecturer at Baghdad University. "Anyone who slaughters people and screams 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) is sick and ignorant."
In Britain, home to nearly two million Muslims, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala, said that "a handful of terrorists like this bring the entire faith into disrepute."
Initial reports suggested that British citizens might have participated in the attacks, but the British Foreign Office said there is no evidence of that.
A previously unknown Muslim group, Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the Mumbai shootings, with the name suggesting origins in India.
However, Indian police said Sunday that the only surviving gunman told them he belongs to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group is seen as a creation of Pakistani intelligence to help fight India in the disputed Kashmir region. Another group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, has also operated in Kashmir. Both are reported to be linked to al-Qaida.
Pakistan denied involvement, demanding that India provide proof. In Pakistan, Jamaat-ud Dawa, an Islamist group believed to have ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, denounced the killing of civilians.
In Islamic extremist Web forums, some praised the Mumbai attacks, including the targeting of Jews.
A man identified as Sheik Youssef al-Ayeri said the killings are in line with Islam. "It's all right for Muslims to set the infidels' castles on fire, drown them with water .... and take some of them as prisoners, whether young or old, women or men, because it is one of many ways to beat them," he wrote in the al-Fallujah forum.
In the Gaza Strip, the territory's Islamic militant Hamas rulers declined comment. Hamas has carried out scores of suicide attacks in Israel, killing hundreds of civilians in recent years. However, Hamas has said it does not want to get involved in conflicts elsewhere.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to the attacks as terrorism, but added that the violence is rooted in "unjust policies" aimed at destabilizing the region. He did not elaborate.
India is seen by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a Western ally. For example, Israel has become an important arms supplier to India, angering Muslim Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia said in a statement carried earlier this week by the Saudi Press Agency that it "strongly condemns and denounces this criminal act." An editorial Friday in Saudi's English-language Arab News said that "no civilized person ... can be anything but revolted and sickened by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai."
However, Jonathan Fighel, an Israeli counterterrorism expert, said that Saudi organizations have been funneling money to Muslim militants in Kashmir.
"This demonstrates exactly the double game and, I would say, the hypocrisy of the Saudi regime," said Fighel of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
Fighel said the Mumbai attacks bore some of the hallmarks of a global Islamic extremist operation, but that there were no clear leads. Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on Islamic extremists, said the perpetrators could be Islamic fundamentalists, but that the attack also fits the political agenda of India's neighbors. He did not mention Pakistan by name.
"The Mumbai attack was carried out by an organization that is bigger than an extremist group, an organization that has vital intelligence access, massive planning capabilities and scheming that is very sophisticated, coming out with such a high level of precision," he said.
Throughout the Muslim world, the attacks set off soul-searching.
"I think that Muslims should raise their voice against such actions. They should forge a coalition to fight such phenomena, because it harms them and damages their image," said Ali Abdel Muhsen, 22, a Muslim engineering student in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Muslims and Arabs must confront the violence "that is taking place in our name and in the name of our (Islamic) tenets," wrote Khaled al-Jenfawi, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Seyassah daily.
"Unfortunately, we have yet to see a distinguished popular condemnation in the traditional Arab or Muslim communities that strongly rejects what is happening in the name of Islam or Arab nationalism," wrote al-Jenfawi.