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ARAB VOICES

Islamic leaders condemn, debate

CAIRO -- Islamic leaders condemned the London bombings, though many yesterday insisted the United States and Britain, with their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are ultimately to blame for fueling militant violence. Increasing numbers of voices, however, say the Arab world has to stop adding ''but" to its denunciations of terrorism.

The attacks Thursday came as a double shock in the Middle East, occurring the same day that Al Qaeda militants announced they had killed Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq after kidnapping him and judging him an ''apostate" for his country's support of the United States.

The bombings also targeted a city with enormous influence in the Arab world: London is home to some of the most widely read Arab-language newspapers and to many Arab exiles, including Islamic fundamentalists.

''We are not trying to justify, only to analyze," wrote Abdel-Bari Atwan, who lives in London and is editor in chief of the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. ''We or any of our family members or friends could have been among the victims in London."

''But we must emphasize that the wars being waged now against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine are the best way to recruit more terrorists and to expand the circle of armed attacks in the entire world," he said.

That stance was exactly what Khaled al-Huroub, a Palestinian writer living in Cambridge, England, said Arabs must avoid.

''It's wrong even to say this is a crime we condemn but we must understand the reasons behind it -- this could be seen as a justification," he wrote in the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat.

He called for ''a clear-cut position, with no 'buts', calling a crime as it deserves to be called."

The mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik, condemned the attacks, saying the bombings violated the tenets of Islam forbidding the killing of innocents. ''The family of Islam must act and show the truth . . . that Islam is the religion of reform and goodness," said Sheik.

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