Thursday, September 11, 2003

From combined dispatches

A radical British Muslim group, which had planned to celebrate the September 11 attacks at public meetings across Britain, was forced to cancel the events yesterday when four chosen venues refused to make space available.

Instead, the Al Muhajiroun group held a news conference where it displayed portraits of the hijackers — labeled the “Magnificent 19” — with Osama bin Laden’s face superimposed over an image of the New York’s World Trade Center in flames.

The gloating by militant Muslims in London and elswhere was in sharp contrast to somber memorial services throughout the world.

Australians remembered loved ones and U.S. embassies across Asia lit candles and laid wreaths.

Australian environmental group Planet Ark joined Americans to plant 3,000 native trees in a Sydney park in memory of those killed when suicide hijackers flew airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

In Tokyo, yellow-robed Buddhist monks led a group of 20 persons to pray for peace outside the U.S. Embassy and to protest against the war in Iraq.

These were sentiments echoed around Asia, and served as a reminder of U.S. military actions that have divided the world.

At the U.S. Embassy in Manila, prayers followed the laying of a wreath while Philippine special forces patrolled the perimeter.

But in Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation that quickly allied with Washington in the war on terror, more recent attitudes were reflected in an opinion column in the New Straits Times.

“No bells toll for the victims of unbelievable Israeli savagery,” wrote Shad S. Faruqi.

Editorials were more outspoken about the fallout from the response by the United States that has bogged down its army in Iraq and Afghanistan and has failed as yet to net bin Laden, the September 11 mastermind.

“The goodwill of America’s allies has been squandered,” Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald said. “The threat represented by the terrible attacks of two years ago remains.”

In Indonesia, site of the world’s worst post-September 11 attacks when bombs killed 202 in Bali nightclubs last October, the Jakarta Post took a similar tone.

“There is also the fear that, unless it is carefully managed, the war against terrorism is likely to be perceived in the Islamic world as a crusade against them,” it said.

France’s Le Monde ran a headline after September 11, 2001, saying everyone felt American.

Yesterday, its editorial on Washington ran: “Compassion has given way to the fear that ill-considered actions are aggravating the problems and that the fight against terrorism is a pretext to extend U.S. hegemony.”

And in London, where militant Muslims have generated headlines, many ordinary Britons mourned at memorial services. Some planted trees to remember fallen compatriots. Others laid wreaths. Some simply mourned quietly at memorial services.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Cabinet stood to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the more than 3,000 victims.

Later, Princess Anne planned to open a garden of remembrance near the U.S. Embassy dedicated to the 67 British persons who died in New York’s World Trade Center. A twisted metal girder recovered from the Twin Towers is buried beneath the garden.

“It’s particularly important to us because many families, my own included, had no remains returned to us,” said Jim Cudmore, who lost his 39-year-old son, Neil, in the attacks.

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