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June 22, 1990 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-22

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Islamic Fundamentalism's Rise
Forcing Rethinking Of Strategy


Foreign Correspondent


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FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 1990

hen PLO leader
Yassir Arafat rose
to speak at last
month's Arab summit in
Baghdad, he was filled with
righteous indignation. The
immediate cause of his
anger was not Soviet im-
migration to Israel, Jewish
settlements in the West
Bank or the treatment of Pa-
lestinians in the Israeli-
occupied territories.
The subject that incensed
Arafat was money: The an-
nual grant that Kuwait had
pledged to the Palestinians.
Why, he demanded, had the
Gulf emirate delivered just
one-eighth of the $80 million
it had promised?
The Emir of Kuwait,
Sheikh Jabber al-Ahmed al-
Sabah, had a swift response.
Brandishing figures, he
revealed that his country
had honored its pledge to the
Palestinians in full.
True, the PLO had receiv-
ed a relatively small propor-
tion of the grant. The rest,
the emir announced, had
gone to Hamas, the burgeon-
ing Islamic fundamentalist
movement which has gained
a firm foothold in the Gaza
Strip and is now making
significant inroads into PLO
support in the West Bank.
Another sign of the times
came from Lebanon, where
Arafat loyalists have again
established themselves in
Palestinian refugee camps
around the southern port
cities of Sidon and Tyre.
PLO fighters are enor-
mously frustrated that they
are not allowed to mount
cross-border raids into
Israel, and PLO officials in
Beirut are openly fearful
that if Arafat cannot — or
will not — deliver political
or military gains, control of
the Palestinian movement
in Lebanon will be seized by
the more daring fundamen-
They point to one of the
PLO's senior brigade com-
manders in Sidon, Jamal
Suleiman, who advocates
military assistance to
fighters of the Lebanese
fundamentalist Hizbollah
movement. "Suleiman
regards Islam as more im-
portant than his nation-
ality," said one PLO official.
"He is not alone. Islamic
graffiti, often attacking
secular leftist movements,

Artwork horn Newsday by Gary Vokop. GOOYO9 18 ° 1989 . Nawarhol.

can be found on walls
throughout the refugee
Western intelligence
sources believe that a clutch
of Arab states are ready, like
overripe plums, to fall into
the laps of fundamentalists
—from Egypt and Jordan,
where Islamic extremists
are confidently predicting
that "victory is in sight," to
Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.
They point to fundamenta-
lists' success in Jordan's re-
cent semi-democratic elec-
tions and note that last mon-
th's riots by Palestinians in
Jordan — the "little in-
tifada" — was inspired and
led by Islamic fundamenta-
Nor is the Islamic tidal
wave confined to the Middle
East. As the curtain falls on
the Cold War, Islamic fun-
damentalism is emerging as
a potent challenge to the
evolving new international
"Every month, the threat
from the Warsaw Pact
recedes," noted one Euro-
pean source, "but every
month the challenge of
Islamic fundamentalism is
rising up to greet us. It is a
trend that will intensify
throughout this decade and
will continue well into the
next century. The West will
have to learn to contain it,
just as it learned to contain
Not only the West. Com-
peting factions among the 60
million Muslims in the six
Central Asian republics on
the southern rim of the
Soviet Union have recently
engaged in a series of bloody

tribto ad by Los Angel. Tana, Syndicate.

internecine clashes in the
Muslim holy city of Osh.
Casualties are conservative-
ly estimated at 500.
Intra-communal rivalries,
however, are overshadowed
by the inhabitants' contempt
of their Russian masters in
Moscow. As the Muslim re-
publics explode in national
and religious fervor, Soviet
specialists believe that Pres-
ident Mikhail Gorbachev
will find their demands for
secession irresistible.
This may produce a net
gain for Iran, the region's
southern neighbor and the
cockpit of fundamentalism.
According to Professor
Martin McCauley, a spe-
cialist in Soviet and East
European affairs at London
University, Muslims in the
USSR are increasingly look-
ing to Teheran for their in-
spiration. "Each day," he
said, "Iran becomes a more
powerful pole of attraction.
"Do not imagine that it is
only a Soviet problem," cau-
tioned McCauley. "There is
a knock-on effect in China,
too, where Muslims want
their independence. The city
of Osh, after all, is only 130
miles from the Chinese
border, and just as Uzbeks in
the Soviet Union want in-
dependence, so do the
Uzbeks in China."
"A whole collection of
Irans," he adds, "is too
daunting to contemplate."
Yet, that is what political
analysts and military
planners must contemplate.
The West — and the Soviet
Union — must prepare for
an Islamic fundamentalist
wedge stretching from the

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