Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"God grant us victory over Israel. God grant us victory over America and its allies"

Just another Friday at the local Syrian mosque:

A central problem faced by President Bashar Assad, and to an extent by all Arab leaders, is that the anti-American fighting in Iraq enjoys wide public support. Taking steps against it could make unpopular governments even more suspect.

During the noon sermon in Abu Kamal on Friday, the prayer leader called on God to help Muslims defeat their enemies and return all usurped land. But at a much more ardent, private prayer sermon in Aleppo a week earlier, the venom aimed at Syria's foes was far more potent.

"God grant us victory over Israel. God grant us victory over America and its allies," bellowed one worshiper at a prayer service, before a religious sheik rose to deliver a sermon condemning Zionists and their American allies for killing children.

Sentiments like those are repeated in thousands of mosques across the region and help speed the flow of insurgents through Syria. In several major cities this week, the Syrian government even allowed rare street demonstrations in support of Palestinian and Iraqi resistance.

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