Arab world shocked, condemns attacks

Jul. 7, 2005 22:59 | Updated Jul. 8, 2005 1:08
Arab world shocked at London attacks


Some in the Arab world expressed shock at the bombings in a city for which many felt great affection and which is home to numerous Arab exile groups, newspapers and businesses.

“It’s horrifying,” said Hadil, an employee at the London headquarters of the Saudi owned Asharq al-Awsad. “We feel so terrible.”

Ashraf a young banker based in Bahrain, told The Jerusalem Post that he too was horrified.

“People are shocked. Especially here in the Gulf,” Ashraf said. “Lots of people went to school in London, lots of people spend the summers there. We go to London for business meetings, many people have homes there or rent one for the summer. So this is much closer to home than anything before. We can feel it.”

For many Arabs London was the last Western Mecca following the September 11 attacks and the Madrid bombing.

“London was the last place in the West where we Arabs were respected when we showed up at the airport,” Ashraf said. “At US airports, I get poked, prodded and asked many questions. But I could go for 24-hours to London, leave, come back three days later and no one would think I’m suspicious.”

But not anymore. After a group linked to al-Qaida took responsibility for Thursday’s string of terror attacks, Arabs across the world fear that will change.

“The [terrorists] managed to make us look bad everywhere,” Ashraf said.

Most Arabic satellite channels, like Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, aired live footage of the carnage.

Many Muslim and Arab leaders condemned the attacks.

“We condemn with the strongest possible terms these explosions, and convey our sincere condolences to the British people and government,” said Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat.

“We strongly condemn this act of terrorism,” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said.

Saudi Arabia’s Social Affairs Minister Abdulmohsen al-Akkas said, “It is a heinous act. I don’t know who did it. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms and I offer my sympathies to the families.”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, condemned the bombings in the name of Arab Americans.

“Like all Americans, we are angered by this act of terrorism and grieve with the people of Britain for their losses,” he said in a written statement. “These actions are inexcusable and nothing should distract us from our collective resolve to eliminate the threat of terror that has taken so many lives and caused too much pain.”

Now, say many Arabs, they too are in danger from the terrorists. One of the bombs blew up on a train at Edgware Road station. Edgware Road is filled with Arab and Iranian shops, restaurants and homes.

“They are hitting us in our summer spot,” said Ashraf. “The message being heard here is that no one is safe, nothing is sacred. Whether you are an Arab in London or a Londoner or an Israeli, they’ll get you. Just being an Arab won’t protect you anymore.”

No Arab who spoke to The Jerusalem Post could give a reason why al-Qaida attacked London. Zein al-Khouri, a Jordanian businesswoman, was also taken aback. “I was totally surprised,” she said. “It’s terrible. And I don’t see anything obvious about it. It could happen anywhere and you can’t predict it. You could be doing work or going on holiday with your family. I was planning to go to London next year for vacation with the kids.”

“I don’t think they targeted Edgware Road because there are Arabs there,” said Ashraf. “They just don’t care. They are just killing.”

AP contributed to this report.

(See our last post on the attacks.)