- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan As the Taliban reports ever higher civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Pakistan's journalists, intellectuals and public are increasingly accepting the argument that the U.S. bombardment is a display of anti-Muslim hatred.

Each day, Pakistan's leading newspapers publish news reports, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, cartoons and other commentary that spin truth, sensationalism and invective at readers who are trying to decide what to believe.

While plenty of pro-U.S. and anti-Taliban views are printed alongside accurate, objective news about America's Afghan war, propaganda and startling outbursts appear on nearly every newspaper page.

Islamic Pakistan packs a population of 140 million more than half the United States into a land slightly double the size of California.

Tens of thousands of them, essentially a hard-core minority, have protested in the streets against the U.S. and British bombing raids on Afghanistan, which began Oct. 7.

But as the war continues and Taliban claims about the civilian body count mounts, many more Pakistanis may be ready to agree with the America-versus-Islam statements published in their newspapers despite the fact that more than 5,000 American civilians died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

An editorial cartoon in the Nation newspaper, for example, showed a list that read: "Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan." The caption explained the six entries as, "Nothing new, periodically the U.S. attacks an Islamic country."

Four days later, the same cartoonist showed a dead and dismembered Afghan child in the bombed wreckage of his home.

The caption read: "No, not innocent. According to Americans, he was going to become another Osama."

Writing in the more respected Dawn newspaper, Muhammad Siddiqi said "Muslims do not belong in [the United States]."

Referring to the rhetoric and behavior of Americans after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he added, "For Muslims in general, America will never be the same again. As years pass, there may be a lessening of hate, but the rancor will never go away."

Advising all Pakistanis who emigrated to the United States that they should immediately evacuate, Mr. Siddiqi said, "America was never ours. It could not be, for America is Western and Christian. Period."

In the Literati section of the News on Sunday newspaper, Kazy Javed's A Word About Letters column reviewed books on Islam.

Mr. Javed suddenly noted: "Even U.S. President George W. Bush has not hesitated to refer to 'this crusade.'"

"The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz has gone further. He observed that 'the whole civilized world has been shocked and even portions of the uncivilized world' a clear reference to the Muslim world in this context," Mr. Javed added.

Pakistan's Urdu-language newspapers, meanwhile, attract a much wider readership.

"On any given day, you may go through the pages of any Urdu newspaper published in Pakistan and it is unlikely you will come across many voices of moderation," said Dawn columnist Khalid Hasan. Referring to violent, anti-American protests by thousands of demonstrators in several cities, Mr. Hasan added, "The hysteria that you see in the streets today has been nurtured by what you read in print here.

"The language [in Urdu newspapers] is belligerent and the appeal is directed at our most primeval instincts," Mr. Hasan said.

"If there are any balanced and liberal voices in the Urdu press, they are few and far between."

Letters to editors, published in various newspapers, are also often pointed. Abdul Khan of Karachi wrote that America was "lashing out at Muslims, being blinded with hate and ego."

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