Ted Thornton
History of the Middle East Database
The Middle East After September 11, 2001
2001 - 2003
Origins of Key Geographical Terms


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Osama bin Laden on al-Jazeera TV, November 3, 2001

The Gulf Wars
Iraq and Iran, 1980-1988
Iraq Occupies Kuwait, 1990-91
Toppling Saddam, 2002-03

The al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising), 2000-03

September 11, 2001  Suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington prompted fears that the disaster could pave the way toward regional war in the Middle East (see John Keegan's piece in The Daily Telegraph, September 13, 2001). Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi nationals.  The Sheikh of al-Azhar in his condemnation of the attacks typified the reaction of many Muslims.  Nearly a year later, in August, 2002, relatives of the nearly 3,000 persons killed in the attacks filed a suit against the Saudi Arabian government.  And, in November, 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah countered growing criticism of Saudi Arabia's alleged tolerance for extremist Wahhabi Islamic views by claiming that such criticisms were being uttered by those who hated Islam.  The Prince argued that Islam was a peaceful, tolerant religion and that there was no room for extremism in Islam.  While this was going on, Saudi newspapers reported that a prominent businessman, Sheikh Saleh Kamel, had earmarked $100 million for a publicity campaign aimed at discounting anti-Arab publicity in the West. (BBC, Nov. 3, 2002)  (see also)

The pattern of Arab denial of the religious extremism in its midst began to crumble following suicide attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca in May, 2003 (see also). As Saudi willingness to look at themselves self-critically grew, some began to search for reasons why well-educated Saudi youth from prosperous families had become attracted to organizations like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. Saudi terror was seen not as a response to poverty or humiliation but as the product of youthful alienation in a troubled country caught between strong tribal, traditional values and the forces of rapid modernization. Extremist interpretations of Wahhabi teachings provided religious legitimacy for their causes. A high ranking Saudi government official told writer Frank Viviano (National Geographic, October, 2003, 11), "'The hijackers were a direct product of our social failures - a generation with no sense of what work entails, raised in a system that operated as a welfare state...We allowed them to grow up in pampered emptiness, until they turned to bin Laden extremists in an effort to find themselves.'" 

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States built up its forces off the southern coast of Pakistan in preparation for an assault on Afghanistan whose "Taliban" ("Student") government was suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden's organization al-Qaeda ("the Base") was believed to have carried out the attacks in the United States on September 11. 

On September 16, 2001 at a press conference, U.S. President Bush said, ''This is a new kind of -- a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.'' Bush's rhetoric was trademark neoconservative. For his part, Osama Bin Laden, exploiting the way the highly charged word "crusade" fell on Muslim ears, turned Bush's use of the word back upon him: on September 24, the Qatari satellite news network al-Jazeera received a Fax from Bin Laden in Afghanistan expressing his sympathy for the deaths of his supporters in anti-American demonstrations in Pakistan and urging all Muslim nations to join him in a "jihad" against American and Jewish "Crusaders." (See "Wars of Words and Images") (Five years later, Bush's "war on terror" was in trouble.)

On October 2, 2001, U.S.President Bush called for the creation of a Palestinian state (more, see also).

The BBC reported on October 4, 2001  that the United States was putting pressure on Qatar's ruling emir Sheikh Hamad Khalifa al-Thani to rein in that nation's independent satellite TV news channel al-Jazeera because of its practice of giving air time to anti-American opinions.  Al-Jazeera (founded in 1996) had become the most popular news outlet in the Arabic speaking world, an independent source in a sea of mostly state-run media.

On October 5, 2001, the Qatari satellite news channel al-Jazeera reported that a sixteen member panel of Muslim ulema scholars in Morocco had published a strongly worded fatwa ("formal legal opinion") stating that any participation by their country in the anti-terrorist alliance being formed by the United States constituted ridda ("apostasy") and kufr ("blasphemy") against Islam.  By contrast, on October 12, the New York Times reported that a panel of five prominent Islamic jurists including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the best known Islamic legal authority in the Muslim world, had issued a  fatwa condemning the attacks in the United States as a violation of the Islamic injunction against harming non-combatants and stating that it was a Muslim's "duty" to join in the mission to catch the perpetrators.  The fatwa represented an abrupt change of position for Qaradawi who had said in an interview on al-Jazeera a few weeks earlier on September, 16, "'A Muslim is forbidden from entering into an alliance with a non-Muslim against another Muslim,'" and Muslims should "'fight the American military if we can, and if we cannot, we should fight the U.S. economically and politically.'" (see also) (See also "Wars of Words and Images")

On October 7, 2001, allied air attacks, led by the United States and Great Britain, were launched against Taliban and bin Laden positions in Afghanistan.  Anti-American demonstrations erupted in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

On November 7, United States President Bush sought to separate the war in Afghanistan from the Arab-Israeli conflict by saying that the war against terror would succeed, "peace or no peace in the Middle East."  The response from the Arab world was swift.  On November 8, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher warned the United States that success in the American led war on terror depended on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the United States must play a leading role.  The same day, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal, expressed the anger of his government at the failure of the U.S. to deliver on its promise to begin a new peace initiative in the Middle East.  Editorial writers throughout the Arab world castigated the United States for not doing more to restrain Israel, which that fall had reoccupied six cities in the West Bank (more) (on Israeli ccupation). U.S. President George W. Bush vowed he would not meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the U.N. that fall charging that Arafat was not doing enough to restrain extremists under his rule.

On November 13, 2001, (a little over a month since U.S. bombing of Taliban positions began), Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Northern Alliance, which was made up mostly of Tajiks and Uzbeks, as the mostly Pashtun Taliban fled southward out of the city.  Pakistan, with large numbers of Pashtuns along its northwestern border with Afghanistan, feared the Northern Alliance would exact fierce revenge upon the Pashtun people and urged the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to Afghanistan.

On November 16, the first day of Ramadan, Israeli President Moshe Katsav made a peace overture to the Palestinians.  In a message to the Palestinian Authority, Katsav said Israel affirmed its recognition of the Authority as its negotiating partner and urged the two parties begin renewed efforts to reach peace.  Katsav went on to affirm Israel's intent to protect the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem and to guarantee Muslims freedom of worship:  "We respect and esteem the Islamic holy places; we will do our utmost to safeguard the sanctity of the Islamic holy places and will not allow anyone to inflict even the slightest injury to them, especially the sacred mosques on the Temple Mount."  On the previous day, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in an address at the United Nations announced that there was broad support in Israel for the creation of a Palestinian state. Israeli political leaders reacted sharply to the speech saying that such a consensus did not exist in Israel.  Some charged that Peres' remarks did not represent the views of most Israelis or the government and called for his resignation.

In late November, the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch charged the Palestinian authority with human rights abuses including the use of torture in interrogations, holding prisoners without trial, and failure to do anything to stop  vigilante killings or pursue the perpetrators. The report blamed Israel's restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement for aggravating what it referred to as the "deterioration of the justice system." (BBC, Nov. 30, 2001) 

On December 1 and 2, in what Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called "one of the worst attacks ever seen" on Israel, at least 26 Israelis were killed and more than 200 injured in separate attacks by HAMAS militants.  More on the al-Aqsa Intifada.

On December 3, Israel began massive retaliatory attacks against the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, imitating the American response to 9/11,  called it "Israel's war on terror." Palestinian cabinet minister Saab Erakat said the attacks amounted to a "declaration of war against the Palestinians." The United States (through presidential spokesman Ari Fleisher) said "Israel has a right to defend itself." More on the al-Aqsa Intifada.

On December 6, 2001, there were indications that a new power-sharing agreement among Afghan factions in Bonn the day before had already begun to unravel amidst reports of Afghan civilian rage at the United States over accidental bombings (an accidental bombing by a U.S. B-52 the previous day had killed three American soldiers, five Afghans, and wounded forty others).  Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose intransigence in the early 1990s was partly to blame for the Taliban coming to power, announced he was pulling out of the new agreement and said further that he would deny any new government access to the oil and gas reserves in the north which he controlled.  A few days later, Dostum was back in the agreement.  Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai was slated to head the new interim government which formally assumed power on December 22.

On December 9, a little over two months after American air attacks on Afghanistan began, the five year rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan came to an end as anti-Taliban troops took control of the Taliban stronghold city of Kandahar.  Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had apparently fled the city. 

On December 13, 2001, an attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani militants fighting on behalf of Kashmiri separatists resulted in the deaths of thirteen people.  India demanded that Pakistan shut down two militant Pakistani groups: Lashkar-e-Taiba ("Purity Troops") and Jaish-e-Muhammad ("Army of Muhammad"). India threatened to attack training camps run by the two groups.  Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, warned of "very serious repercussions" should India carry out its threat.

On December 16, 2001, allied Afghan forces supported by U.S. special forces overran the last al-Qaeda stronghold in the mountains of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan thirty miles south of Jalalabad but failed to capture Osama bin Laden whose whereabouts remained unknown. U.S. forces continued to battle remaining pockets of Taliban and al-Qaeda resistance in Afghanistan throughout the winter.

On December 17, President Bush signed an order delaying the planned move of the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  A Congressional bill passed in 1995 called for the move, but allowed the President to sign orders postponing it for six months if the President saw fit.

Also in December, 2001, Amina Lawal, a woman in Sokoto State, Nigeria was sentenced to death by stoning for having sex outside of marriage by an Islamic sharia court. The execution was to be delayed until she gave birth to the baby she conceived during the sexual encounter. The alleged father was acquitted. She ended up being acquitted herself on procedural grounds September 25, 2003 and became active in local politics.  Muslims living in twelve of Nigeria's 36 northern states had come under the sway of sharia by 2003, while Christians in those areas remained under the civil law code. By 2007, Nigeria's brand of sharia had begun developing softer edges in response, some thought, to the benefits of development.

2002    On January 2, 2002, Egypt started pumping water from its artificial Lake Nasser behind the Aswan Dam westward through the al-Zayed canal system to begin irrigating portions of the desert in the Toshka Depression.  The Egyptian government hoped to attract at least two million people to settle in the area.

In the aftermath of the defeat of the Taliban, attention shifted to addressing Islamic militancy in other areas of southeast Asia, including PakistanIndonesia, and the Philippines.  The 6,000 to 8,000 madrassas (Islamic "schools" or seminaries) in Pakistan, some of which trained the Taliban soldiers, were coming under increased scrutiny.  Madrassas had spread throughout Pakistan under the Islamic military of rule of General Zia ul-Haq during the 1980s in response to the expansion of Soviet control in Afghanistan.  The schools received funding from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and some of the Gulf states in addition to Pakistan.  In Indonesia, violence between Christians and Muslims on Sulawesi Island had begun in 1999, a year after Indonesia's ruling military strong-man General Suharto was deposed. Indonesia, with its weaker central government, was seen as vulnerable to civil unrest whipped up by Islamic separatist militants. Demographic shifts on the island had resulted in Muslim challenges to Christian dominance there.  A group calling itself Lashkar Jihad ("Jihad Troops") sprang up in Central Java in 2000 and declared its intention to rid the Moluccas and central Sulawesi of all Christians and set up an Islamic state there.

In the Philippines, United States forces arrived to help the government fight the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf, which had a stronghold on Basilan Island. (See also U.S seizure of the Philippines from Spain, 1898, and, joint American-Philippine expedition against Muslim pirates, 1913.)

On January 24, 2002, Elie Hobeika, former leader of the Israeli-allied Christian militia which during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) had carried out the massacres of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982, was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut just days before he was to testify in a Belgian court case investigating whether to bring charges against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the commander of the Israeli forces that invaded Lebanon and were present in Beirut at the time.  Lebanese government officials were pointing the finger at Israel saying that it stood to benefit from the silencing of Hobeika, but others pointed out that Hobeika had switched his allegiance to Syria and had made many enemies over the years.  (BBC, January 24, 2002)  (more and more)

On January 29, 2002, United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address employed the phrase "axis of evil" to characterize the threat to American security he saw coming from Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.  The inclusion of Iran and Iraq in the same pot struck some observers as particularly curious given the fact that Iran and Iraq were bitter enemies of long-standing and that they had recently fought a fierce war with one another in the 1980s that ended in a stalemate in 1988.  Given the steadily growing forces of moderation inside Iran in recent years, America's new campaign of demonization was seen as counterproductive:  in a fight for their survival, moderates in Iran could lose ground and the conservative, anti-American clergy could emerge the victors.  Worse yet, some said increased American hostility toward Iran could drive it to forge a new alliance with its ancient enemy, Iraq (see Abbas Amanat, "A Risky Message to Iran," New York Times, February 10, 2002).  In short, Bush's "axis" could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On February 7, United States President George W. Bush, reacting to strong criticism from his allies abroad over treatment of captives from the conflict in Afghanistan at the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, issued a statement saying that the United States, while refusing to accord Taliban prisoners "Prisoner of War" status, would abide by the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 in its dealings with them.  However, in the cases of members of al-Qaeda it would not.

On February 16, 2002, the BBC reported that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf delivered a scathing criticism of the Islamic world at a conference of science and technology experts from a wide variety of Muslim countries.  He called for the Muslim world to begin a long overdue period of collective self-criticism.  Terming it the "real jihad," Musharraf said his call had been prompted by the realization that, "'Today we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most un-enlightened, the most deprived, and the weakest of all the human race.'"  He challenged Muslim nations to commit to a rigorous reform of education with greatly increased emphasis on training in the sciences and technology.  In January, Musharraf issued a series of new regulations on religious education in Pakistan saying, "Pakistanis are fed up with religious extremism." (BBC, January 12, 2002.  See also comments by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman below.)

On Sunday, February 17, 2002, the New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah had floated a new Arab-Israeli peace proposal:  peace between Israel and all Arab countries in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories Israel had occupied since 1967 ( Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights of Syria).  The plan was formally presented at a conference in Beirut in March.  Israel would find withdrawal painful:  nearly 200,000 Israelis lived in Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands, and  nearly that many more were living in East Jerusalem. The handover would leave Israel barely twelve miles wide at the narrowest point.  Israeli control over many sites holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims would end.  According to Associated Press figures (Monday, February 18, 2002), 941 Palestinians and 273 Israelis had died in the current intifada ("uprising").

A Gallup Poll released on February 26, 2002 revealed that most Muslims (61%) did not believe the September 11, 2001 attacks had been carried out by Arabs.  Only 9% thought the campaign on Afghanistan was morally justified.  The poll indicated a much deeper reservoir of anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world than had previously been suspected. (Reported in USA Today, February 27, 2002)  Credibility was an issue in the United States, too, where in September, 2003, 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks. (see also Pew poll, 2003 and Pew poll, June, 2006)

On March 2, the biggest joint Afghan-U.S. ground campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces since the war began in October, 2001 got underway in eastern Afghanistan.

By March 6, 2002, over 600 had died in Muslim-Hindu rioting in Gujarat state in India.  The violence began February 27 when Muslims set fire to a train carrying nationalist Hindus returning from Ayodhya where they planned to erect a Hindu temple on the site of a sixteenth century Babri Masjid mosque they had destroyed in 1992.  (Associated Press, March 2, 2002) This was the worst Muslim-Hindu violence since riots in 1993 in Bombay and Calcutta in which more than 1,200 died.  Conflict between Muslims and Hindus traced back to the Mughal Muslim conquest of India which had begun in 1526.

On March 6, 2002, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman echoed voices from both inside the Muslim world and the West when he wrote that Muslim rage against the West was rooted in the dissonance between Islam's perception of itself as the final and most complete expression of divine will in the world (what theologians call "supersessionism,"  the conviction that Islam had "superseded" all other religions) and the misery of living conditions throughout most of the Muslim world:  poverty, poor education, political repression, and failure to develop economically. An individual or societal inability to admit or tolerate such dissonance was seen as the source of Muslim rage and the Muslim search for a scapegoat;  hence, Islam's tendency to blame the West for its problems.  (See Thomas Friedman, "The Core of Muslim Rage," New York Times, March 6, 2002.  See also comments by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf above and comments of Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammed below.) (See also "Wars of Words and Images")

On March 10, 2002, Saudi Professor Umayma Ahmad Jalahma of King Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia writing about the Jewish holiday of Purim in the newspaper, al-Riyadh, said:

''This holiday has some dangerous customs that will, no doubt, horrify you, and I apologize if any reader is harmed because of this. During this holiday, the Jew must prepare very special pastries, the filling of which is not only costly and rare - it cannot be found at all on the local and international markets.''  (More: "Wars of Words and Images")

On March 12, 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed a United States resolution in which for the first time the U.S. called for a Palestinian state to exist side by side with Israel.  The vote was 14-0 with Syria abstaining.  The U.S. won praise from Palestinian representatives and Israel called the resolution "balanced." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had blunt words for both Israelis and Palestinians:  he urged Palestinians to halt "morally repugnant" acts of terror against Israelis, and he called upon Israel to end its "illegal occupation" of Palestinian land.  (Associated Press, March 13, 2002).  (more on the conflict)

On March 15, 2002, Saudi newspapers, in rare open criticism of Saudi government institutions, accused religious police (the "Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," also called al-mutawa'een, "those who enforce obedience") of barring escape routes from a girls school building which burned in Mecca on  March 11 because the girls were not appropriately covered. Fifteen girls died in the blaze.  (BBC, March 15, 2002) Two weeks later, a government report absolved the religious police of any blame.

On March 17, 2002, two attackers hurled grenades into a church in a diplomatic compound in Islamabad, Pakistan during a worship service killing five (including two Americans) and wounding forty five. Muslim militant activity in Pakistan had risen sharply since President Musharraf declared his government's commitment to reining it in, and most of the victims were members of Pakistan's Shiite minority.

On March 19, 2002, the commander of rebel Islamist forces in Chechnya, a man known as "Amir Khattab," was assassinated when he opened a poisoned letter.  Khattab, whose real name was Samer Ibn Saleh al-Suveilen, was a Jordanian born Saudi citizen who came from a wealthy background.  Educated in Russia, he fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden and other "Afghan Arabs" as a jihad fighter in the struggle against Soviet occupation after 1979.  In 1992, Khattab was in Tajikistan, and from there came to Chechnya in 1995 to lead the struggle for independence from Russia and to attempt to set up an Islamic state there. (more on Chechnya; also; also)

The opening of an Arab League summit conference on March 27, 2002 in Beirut was marred by decisions of some Arab leaders not to attend (Egypt's Mubarak, Libya's Qaddafi, Jordan's Abdullah among them). Egypt's Amr Musa, head of the Arab League which sponsored the summit, had spent the previous week trying to run preemptive damage control in the Arabic press saying that Arabs had "nothing to fear" from their differences of opinion.  The night before the conference was to begin, Palestinian leader Arafat announced that he had "decided" not to attend (the reality was that Israel had been holding him a virtual prisoner in Ramallah for the previous two months).  The conference was further marred when the Palestinian delegates walked out after the conference decided to bar Arafat from speaking via satellite from his office in Ramallah. Later in the day the Palestinian delegation said it would return after it was agreed that Arafat could address the conference via satellite.

At the March, 2002 Arab League conference in Beirut, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah formally presented his proposal whereby all Arab states would agree to make peace with and have "normal relations" with Israel if Israel agreed to withdraw behind its borders at the outbreak of the 1967 war and allowed a Palestinian state to be set up with its capital in East Jerusalem. The document became known as the Arab League Beirut Declaration (Text at al-Bab.com). The initiative was essentially a restatement of the "Fez Plan" that the Arabs had proposed in September, 1982.  Prime Minister Sharon of Israel rejected the offer saying flatly that withdrawal to the '67 borders would constitute the end of Israel. (reported by al-Jazeera, March 27, 2002). The Israelis were also troubled by what they called the vagaries contained in the phrase "normal relations" and the Arab call for a "just solution" to the problem of what to do with Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli wars (Arabs wanted either repatriation or compensation according to a 1948 United Nations plan and demanded further that refugees not be resettled in the countries where they currently resided).  

In Israel, a suicide bomber from HAMAS killed 20 Israelis and injured one hundred who had been gathering to celebrate the first night of Passover.  (more on the uprising).

The following day, March 28, 2002, the Beirut Arab Summit formally endorsed the Saudi peace proposal.  The summit culminated with the reading of the "Beirut Declaration":  a statement reflecting the unanimous endorsement of the Saudi peace plan plus a call for the lifting of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq as punishment for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Some observers argued that the absence of the Jordanian and Egyptian heads of state from the summit meant that the Beirut Declaration would carry little real clout.

Efforts to rebuild Afghanistan were hampered by a strong earthquake in the north which left more than 1,000 dead.

On March 29, 2002, in the wake of Israel's siege on Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1402 (the vote was 14-0) calling upon Israel to withdraw its forces from all Palestinian cities, but also expressing "grave concern" over the practice of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis. On March 30, 2002, the normally pro-Israel New York Times in its lead editorial called upon Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian lands and move toward implementing a Palestinian state.  (click for more)   The following day, anti-Israel demonstrations erupted in many parts of the Arab world amid furious denunciations of Israel in the Arabic press, and an influential Muslim cleric called for a jihad against Israel. In its lead editorial on April 1, al-Hayat condemned Ariel Sharon calling him "the Israeli Hitler."

On March 31, 2002, James Reston, Jr. published excerpts from a recent interview with the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi.  Tantawi dismissed bin Laden as "no specialist in religious affairs," and went on to say, "Islamic law banishes anyone who issues an untrue fatwa." ("religious opinion")  Referring to the September 11 hijackers' claims that they were martyrs and would achieve paradise, Tantawi said, "They are not martyrs but aggressors. They will not achieve paradise, but will receive severe punishment for their aggression."  He said Islam teaches that,. "Whoever shall kill a man or a believer without right the punishment is hell forever. Allah will be angry with him and give him a great punishment." Murder by surprise, or "from the back," as he put it, is especially damnable because "it is against morality and good honor."  Tantawi went on to distinguish between jihad, a defensive measure which may only be waged when Muslims are attacked and only according to strict rules, and irhab ("terror"),  violence against innocent and defenseless civilians.  Such violence was said to be explicitly forbidden by the Qur'an as was the harming of captives and the destruction of buildings and civil centers.  (Washington Post, March 31, 2002)

In March, 2002, Russian daily oil production (7.28 million barrels a day) surpassed that of Saudi Arabia.  Relations between the United States and Russia were warming as quickly as they were cooling between the United States and Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia's vast reserves continued to give it much more flexibility in the marketplace.  Saudi oil, at two dollars per barrel remained the cheapest to produce (New York Times, August 4, 2002)

On April 1, 2002, an international conference of Muslims on terrorism in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia began with a denunciation of Israel, which was accused of dragging the Middle East into war.  Delegates were split, however, on whether or not they supported suicide operations.  Palestinian Foreign Minister Farouk Kaddoumi favored the operations. Deputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic of Bosnia-Herzegovina weighed in against suicide:  "I don't care about race or religion," Ivica said. "I agree that if a person kills or harms a civilian he is a terrorist, no matter how noble his struggle may be."  Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said, "Muslims everywhere must condemn terrorism, once it is clearly defined...Bitter and angry though we may be, we must demonstrate to the world that Muslims are rational people when fighting for our rights and we do not resort to acts of terror."  (Associated Press, April 1, 2002)  The conference ended in failure to agree on how to define "terrorism."  A poll conducted throughout the Arab world in March by al-Majalla, a leading Arabic weekly news magazine, showed that 80% of those surveyed approved of suicide bombings against Israel, 18% disapproved, and 2% had no opinion one way or the other.  Those who approved considered the deeds acts of "martyrdom" (istishad), not acts of suicide (intihaar). (al-Majalla, March 17-23, 2002, 14-17)

In 2002, in western regions of China bordering Afghanistan where intense economic development was taking place and large numbers of eastern Han Chinese were moving in, Uighur Muslims were turning to Wahhabism in increasing numbers according to an NPR report on April 1.

The price of oil on April 1 surged on the open market to its highest level in six months ($27/barrel) in the wake of rising tensions in the Middle East and a demand by Iraq that OPEC agree to use oil prices as a tactical weapon to pressure the U.S. and Europe to rein in Israel.

On April 3, as "Operation Protective Wall," Israel's campaign to destroy the Palestinian "terrorism" network widened, some observers (New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman among them) argued that the only way open to establish peace was to introduce a U.N. or N.A.T.O. force to separate the warring parties coupled with Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories it had occupied since the end of the 1967 war. British journalist Robert Fisk on May 8 predicted the coming of an alliance of  the E.U., Russia, and the U.N. that would support the introduction of a multinational force (American and N.A.T.O. troops included) into both Israel and the Palestinian territories (The Independent, May 8, 2002, http://argument.independent.co.uk).

Also on April 3, 2002, in the wake of rising tensions along Israel's border with Lebanon, Syria and Lebanon announced an agreement to have Syria redeploy 20,000 troops inside Lebanon in line with the Taif Accord signed in 1989, which brought an end to Lebanon's fifteen year civil war and stipulated a role for Syria's military in supporting Lebanese security.

On April 4, 2002, the Sheikh of Egypt's al-Azhar in his weekly sermon described Jews as "the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs." (MEMRI, Nov. 1, 2002 and April 23, 2003) (More: "Wars of Words and Images")

On April 17, Germany arrested a man suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. The man was alleged to have helped plan a suicide attack involving a gas truck on the historic El Ghirba synagogue located on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba.  The April 11 attack killed six.

On April 21, a series of bombs went off in various parts of the Philippines killing fourteen. The Muslim militant groups Abu Sayyaf (with ties to bin Laden) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

On April 25, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah met with President Bush in Texas and warned him that there would be "grave consequences" for the United States in the Arab world unless America took a more balanced position in the region (i.e. moderated its support for Israel).  At the same time, he pledged that Saudi Arabia would not use oil as a weapon against the U.S.

The New York Times in its lead editorial on April 26, 2002 wrote, "Just as terror is the greatest Palestinian threat to Middle East peace, so are settlements on territory captured in the 1967 war the greatest Israeli obstacle to peace."  (Click for details on the current uprising.)

On April 30, 2002, Pakistan's General Pervaz Musharraf won a nationwide referendum on five more years of his rule.  Voter turnout was 50% and Musharraf's share of the vote was 98%. His was the only name on the ballot. International criticism of the process was widespread.  Musharraf maintained he was fighting for eventual democracy and believed the referendum was necessary to meet this goal.  (New York Times, May 5, 2002) (see ahead)

On April 30, the Israeli cabinet voted to defy the United Nations and refused admittance to the U.N. team commissioned to investigate the Israeli operation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin. (Click for details on the current uprising.)

Also on April 30, 2002, Libya's leader Muamar Qaddafi offered to pay compensation to victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 in which 270 people died and for which a Libyan national, Abdelbasset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi had been convicted.  The offer was confirmed in May, 2002. 

On May 3, the United States committed itself to join Russia, Europe, and the United Nations in a peace conference on the Middle East to be held early that summer.

On May 6, 2002, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated in Hilversum (Netherlands) by a native Dutch leftist named Volkert Van de Graaf. Fortuyn had lobbied for curbs on immigration of Muslims into the Netherlands fearing the growing influence of Muslim conservativism in his country (Muslim hostility to same sex marriage, for example, which Fortuyn favored). The murder shocked the Dutch and highlighted the growing tensions in the country over multiculturalism.

On May 8, 2002, the lead editorial in the New York Times, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stated, "What they must negotiate could not be clearer: dividing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean so that the states of Israel and Palestine can coexist in dignity and security." (see also)  Also on May 8, in Karachi, Pakistan, a suicide bomber blew up a bus carrying French workers associated with Pakistani military projects killing at least fourteen.

By May 9, momentum mounted in the Arab world in favor of boycotting American goods because of American support for Israel.

On May 13, 2002, the BBC reported that a woman in Jordan, taking advantage of a new law, had won the right to divorce her husband.

On May 14, 2002, three members of a militant separatist group killed 35 people (among them women and children) in an Indian Army camp in Indian administered Kashmir.  On the 16th, India and Pakistan began exchanging artillery fire with one another across the line dividing Indian from Pakistani controlled Kashmir, and on the 18th India expelled the Pakistani High Commissioner.  The following week, Pakistan conducted missile tests.  On May 31 as fears grew of a new war possibly including a nuclear exchange, foreign nationals began leaving India and Pakistan. Some Indian and Pakistani military officers began referring to the tensions that had grown steadily since the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 as their "Cuban missile crisis" (see Steve Coll, "The Stand-Off," The New Yorker, Feb. 13 and 20, 2006, 126ff.). Pressure mounted on Pakistan's President Musharraf  to reign in Muslim insurgents crossing the border from Pakistan to stir up trouble in Kashmir. 

On May 15, 2002, Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat responded to charges of corruption by calling for new elections and sweeping reforms in Palestinian governing institutions. 

Echoing remarks made by Pakistan's President Musharraf in February, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a speech in early May that the Muslim world had only itself to blame for its problems: chief among them poverty, misery, violence.  He said, "To be very crude the fate of the Muslims of today is of their own making."  Muslims, he went on, "missed the Industrial Revolution completely. And now they are going to miss the Information Age." Mahathir Mohamad made headlines in April by denouncing Palestinians suicide bombings as "terrorism."  (Middle East Times, May 10, 2002, http://metimes.com/2K2/issue2002-19/methaus.htm)

On May 18, 2002, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations clashed over a report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture which claimed that floggings and amputations of limbs, practices prescribed by Muslim sharia law, violated an international treaty banning torture which Saudi Arabia had signed (1987 Convention Against Torture).  Saudi Arabia protested that sharia law was religious law and as such was not subject to regulation by secular powers including the U.N.  (New York Times, May 19, 2002)

On May 20, 2002, East Timor became a nation in its own right, independent for the first time in nearly five hundred years since the Portuguese established colonial rule there in 1695.  Indonesia had invaded in 1975 and annexed it.  With the downfall of Indonesia's strongman General Suharto in 1998, momentum built toward a 1999 U.N. sponsored referendum favoring independence.  The new president was Jose Alexandre Gusmao, who had spent seven years in Indonesian custody (1992-1999).  (New York Times, May 20, 2002)

In Tunisia on May 26, a referendum was held on proposed constitutional amendments that would abolish the current three term limit of five years per term and allow President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to remain in office.  Ben Ali had held power since 1987 when he deposed previous President Habib Bourguiba in a bloodless coup.  Tunisia's Interior Ministry reported that more than 99% of the electorate approved the changes which would also raise the age limit of a sitting President from 70 to 75.  Ben Ali had been due to retire in 2004 when he would have been 67.  (BBC, May 27, 2002)

During the Week of May 26 as Pakistan and India continued to edge closer to open conflict over Kashmir (see May 14 above), word came from two former senior officials in the Taliban who were hiding in Pakistan that both Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden  were still alive and hiding in Pakistan.

On May 27, 2002,  Russia was admitted to NATO.

On May 29, U.S. officials dismissed as "outrageous" Libya's offer to compensate families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie Scotland airplane terror bombing $2.7 billion in return for lifting sanctions imposed against Libya.  270 died in the plane and on the ground in the incident.  The U.S. insisted Libya must claim responsibility for the incident before any discussion of lifting sanctions could begin.  A Libyan agent was convicted the previous year of planting the bomb.  (Libya's leader Muamar Qaddafi had made the offer the previous month.)  Hours after reportedly making the offer, Libya was denying that it had.

On May 30, parliamentary elections in Algeria, tainted by violence and low voter turnout, returned the National Liberation Front to power.  The FLN had ruled Algeria single-handed from independence in 1962 until 1991, then in coalitions after that (BBC, May 31, 2002).  The victory of the Islamic Salvation Front in 1992 sparked a long and bloody civil war in Algeria.

On July 1, U.S. air support units accidentally bombed a village in eastern Afghanistan where a wedding was being celebrated.  Forty died.

On July 2, 2002, in a report released in Cairo, a U.N. commission of Arab intellectuals warned that Arab societies were being held back from reaching their true economic and social potential because of their failure to establish political freedoms, to improve the status of women, and to be open to creative thinking and progressive education especially that which challenged prevailing religious and traditional beliefs. This report was followed in 2003 by a similar report and again in 2005.  (New York Times, July 2, 2002. Click for more information and access to the 2002, 2003, and 2005 reports)  See ahead.

On July 10, 2002, Iran was rocked by the resignation of a senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri who leveled harsh criticism against Iran's religious hardliners accusing them of egging on the vigilantes ("louts and fascists," as he described them) who regularly interrupted his sermons in Isfahan and accusing them of propping up a corrupt and repressive regime.  (BBC, July 10, 2002)  Political tensions were rising rapidly in Iran where since 1997 reformists had won all major elections enjoying on average victories of 70% , but where reform initiatives had been regularly blocked by religious leaders.

On July 14, following public outcry the Israeli cabinet backed away from its initial support for a bill that would have barred Israeli Arabs from buying houses on state-owned land. Debate over the bill in Israel focused on the question of whether Israel could be both Jewish and at the same time democratic with equal rights for the one million Arabs who were Israeli citizens.  (New York Times, July 15, 2002)

On July 18, 2002, Solidarity International filed a lawsuit in U.S. District court in Washington, D.C. against Israel, the United States, their leaders, and American arms manufacturers.  The suit sought damages for Palestinians affected by what was described as a "'decades-long pattern of extra-judicial killing, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and other violations of customary international law and the laws of the United States.'"  (The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October, 2002, 20).  (more on the current conflict)

On July 29, 2002, the original court sentence of seven years hard labor was upheld in the case of Egyptian-American professor Saad al-Din Ibrahim. Ibrahim had been charged with defaming Egypt in his writings and in a film he had made for the Egyptian government.  Human rights organizations inside and outside Egypt were  deeply troubled by this event.  It came amidst a general crackdown on dissent currently underway in Egypt.  On the same day, a military court handed down jail sentences for sixteen accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, officially outlawed since 1954 but often tolerated.  Under Egyptian law, sentences in military courts could not be appealed; only the President could waive them. Those convicted were charged with planning an anti-government demonstration in al-Azhar University.  On August 15, the Bush administration announced it would withhold from Egypt any new aid this year (an expected $130 million) to protest Egypt's jailing of Ibrahim.  In early December, Ibrahim was again released from jail and scheduled for a new (third) trial to begin in January, 2003. Ibrahim's three year ordeal came to an end on March 18, 2003 when Egypt's highest court fully acquitted him of all charges brought against him by the government.  The outcome was reassuring to many Egyptians who had harbored doubts that the judiciary could act independently of the government.

On July 31, during a bad spell for freedom of speech, a watchdog group at Harvard announced that Saudi Arabia had blocked access by their citizens to 2,000 websites, most of them dealing with explicit sexual content or religion.  Two days later, Israel threatened to cut off access to CNN by Israeli cable viewers when contracts expired in October, accusing the network of biased reporting in favor of Palestinians (who for years had complained that CNN was biased toward Israel).  Israeli grumbling about CNN became more outspoken after the network's founder Ted Turner branded both Israelis and Palestinians "terrorists" in remarks he made in June.  (New York Times, August 2, 2002) Then, on August 7, word came that Jordan had banned Qatari satellite channel al-Jazeera for criticizing King Abdullah's Middle East policies.  (see related story from October 4, 2001)

The New York Times (August 4, 2002) reported that approximately 90,000 Americans were living in Israel and Palestine (evenly split between the two areas) making it increasingly likely that a Palestinian-American from New Jersey could have been arguing at a checkpoint with an Israeli-American from Brooklyn.

On August 5, 2002, in Pakistan, six were killed and three wounded in an attack on a Christian missionary school northeast of Islamabad, the third such attack on a Christian facility since September 11 (BBC, August 5, 2002).  Then again, on August 9, three nurses at a Presbyterian Hospital in Taxila, Pakistan were killed in a grenade attack.

On August 21, 2002, Pakistan's ruler General Pervez Musharraf unilaterally imposed 29 amendments to his country's constitution expanding his control over the country (he seized power in 1999).  (See also.  See Pakistan.)

On August 25, 2002, al-Jazeera reported that Palestinian militant leader Sabri al-Banna ("Abu Nidal") had been assassinated in Baghdad during the past week on orders of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

On August 27, Britain's Chief Rabbi, Professor Jonathan Sacks, charged that Israel's behavior toward Palestinians had been incompatible with Judaism.  (BBC, August 27, 2002) (more on the current conflict)

Also in August, 2002, relatives of the nearly 3,000 persons killed in the 9/11 attacks filed suit against Saudi Arabia for $1 trillion dollars in damages charging that prominent members of the Saudi royal family, including Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdelazziz al-Saud and Prince Turki bin Faisal, the new ambassador to Great Britain, helped fund al-Qaeda through Saudi banks and Islamic charity organizations. Fifteen of the nineteen suicide hijackers had been Saudi nationals. The United States government, alarmed that the suit could damage U.S.-Saudi relations, claimed it knew of no evidence linking the Saudis to the 9/11 attacks (New York Times, Oct. 25, 2002)

On September 3, the BBC reported that Israel's Supreme Court had approved the proposed practice of expelling relatives of Palestinian militants. Palestinians planned to appeal to the United Nations and to international human rights organizations.

On September 5, 2002, interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped unhurt from an assassination attempt in Kandahar while a car bomb in Kabul killed 25.

On September 11, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that Lebanon's diversion of waters from the Wazzani River, a tributary of the Hasbani River that flowed  into the Sea of Galilee could lead to war. The Wazzani accounted for roughly 10% of Israel's water needs.  (BBC, Sept. 10, 2002)  (more on water shortages)

On September 18, the BBC reported that Saudi Ambassador to Great Britain Ghazi Algosaibi would leave his post to return home to Saudi Arabia, several months after provoking anger in Great Britain by publishing a poem in praise of a Palestinian suicide bomber.

U.S. President George Bush's policy statement of September 20, 2002 - already being dubbed the "Bush Doctrine" - called for unilateral preemptive American strikes on enemy nations found to be developing weapons of mass destruction.  It was part of a series of measures designed to build up domestic and international support for a U.S. led attack on Iraq. (click for more)  Israel's latest siege on Arafat's compound in Ramallah (beginning September 19) was seen by American officials as making it more difficult for the U.S. to build this support. 

On September 24 in the Indian town of Gandhinagar (Gujarat State, where violence between Hindus and Muslims broke out earlier this year), gunmen opened fire in the Hindu Swaminarayan temple killing 31 people.

In the United States, debate heated up in Congress and in Pentagon circles on the wisdom of attacking Iraq.  Some argued that before going after Saddam, the United States should finish the job it had begun in Afghanistan, in particular neutralizing al-Qaeda.

On September 25, two gunmen killed seven employees of the Institute for Peace and Justice, a Christian charity in Karachi, Pakistan.  (See also August 5 and 9 attacks and March 17 attack).  

Also in September, Islamist parties in Morocco allied with the government made significant gains in the legislature.

On October 2, one U.S. soldier and two Filipinos were killed in a nail bomb attack blamed on the militant Islamic group Abu Sayyaf. The incident occurred in the city of  Zamboanga, which had been a center of tension between Muslims and Christians for more than a hundred years.  (click for more -- see also ahead Oct. 17) Also on October 2, Israel expressed concerns over remarks made by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair in which he stated that United Nations resolutions pertaining to the need for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories applied just as much as those requiring Iraq to disarm.

On October 4, 2002, Palestinians in Gaza demonstrated against a resolution attached to a Congressional funding bill for the State Department that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (not a new idea).  President Bush signed the bill into law earlier in the week, but stated that he would continue to observe a long-standing American practice of not acting upon such resolutions which, he said, represented attempts by Congress to dictate American foreign policy.  On October 6, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responded by signing into law a bill proclaiming Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine.

On October 6 in the Yemeni port of Ash Shihr, an explosion occurred aboard the French oil tanker Limburg after it was hit by a small craft traveling at high speed.  The cargo of oil was set afire and the crew abandoned the ship in what was regarded as an act of sabotage reminiscent of the USS Cole attack two years before.

On October 8, one U.S. Marine was killed during a training exercise in Kuwait and another Marine was wounded by civilian gunmen believed to be associated with al-Qaeda. Anti-Americanism was on the rise in Kuwait as it had been throughout the Muslim world since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the fall of 2000 in spite of the fact that the U.S. had liberated Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion of 1990 that led to the first phase of the Gulf War.  Three days later, national elections in Pakistan resulted in increased power for pro-Taliban anti-American Muslim parties who, it was predicted, would make President Musharraf's commitment to supporting the presence of American military forces in the region more difficult.

On October 9 in Chicago, the U.S. indicted the head of a Muslim charity, Enaam Arnaout, an American citizen, for funneling funds to Osama bin Laden. His supporters countered that Arnaout sent the monies during the 1980s when Osama bin Laden was an ally of the United States in the war to liberate Afghanistan from Communist rule.

On October 12, 2002, a massive bomb in a night club on the Indonesian island of Bali blamed on Jemaah Islamiyya (the "Islamic Community"), an organization associated with  al-Qaeda, killed nearly 200 people.  The group's leader Abu Bakar Bashir denied involvement. Bali was 90% Hindu. Five days later (Oct. 17), two explosions in Zamboanga (Philippines) killed five and injured 144.  (see also)

Late October, 2002 brought setbacks and gains for political Islamists in two parts of the world.  On October 24, forty or more Chechen guerillas whose leader Movsar Barayev described them as a "suicide" unit, took over a packed theater in Moscow and held approximately 800 members of the audience hostage. Two days later, Russian troops stormed the theater killing Barayev and 50 of the kidnappers putting an end to the siege. Most of the hostages were rescued, but at least 116 were killed almost all during the Russian attack on the theater. The decision to send in the troops was made after the guerillas killed two women hostages.  (more on Chechnya)   On October 25, parliamentary elections in Bahrain attracted more than 50% of the electorate in spite of appeals by Shia Islamists to boycott them.  The majority Shia were protesting plans to split power between the legislative branch and a consultative (shura) council to be appointed by the Sunni ruler Sheikh Hamad.  These elections were the first time in Bahrain that women had been able to vote and run for office.  Sheikh Hamad took over as Emir in 1999 pledging to modernize the country.  In spite of the boycott, though, Islamists made serious gains garnering about half the seats in the new legislative assembly.

On October 28, Laurence Foley, an official with the American development agency USAID, was shot to death in Amman, JordanAl-Qaeda was suspected of being involved in the shooting.

On October 29, 2002, Saudi Prince al-Waleed Ibn Talal, citing the U.N.'s latest Arab Human Development report that pegged real per capita income growth between 1975 and 1998 at a dismal .5%, called on the Middle East to embrace globalization.  (BBC, Oct. 29, 2002) (see also, and also, and also, and also)

On October 30, Israel's ruling coalition collapsed when the Labor Party pulled out, the result of a budget dispute.  The move was seen by analysts as a further shift to the right in Israeli politics.  Prime Minister Sharon called for early elections (set for January 28, 2003). A power struggle ensued between Sharon and his rival in the Likud Party, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (see 1996) whom Sharon appointed as his new Foreign Minister. Netanyahu vowed that if elected, his government would expel Palestinian leader Arafat.  On Nov. 29, Sharon trounced Netanyahu in Likud's primary.

On November 1, 2002, Human Rights Watch condemned Palestinian suicide attacks as crimes against humanity and advocated criminal prosecution of those responsible.  Two days later, Amnesty International charged Israel with war crimes against Palestinians in Jenin and Nablus during the previous spring's offensive.

In early November, 2002, Egypt was criticized by the United States and Israel for a TV series slated to be shown during Ramadan based in part on the anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.   (click for more)  In December, President Mubarak's chief advisor, Osama el-Baz, strongly rebuked anti-Semitism in the Arab world and called for tolerance among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.  (more on possible origins of anti-Semitism) (More: "Wars of Words and Images")

On November 3, 2002 in Turkey, the Islamist party "Justice and Development" won a landslide victory in national elections (34.2% of the vote) ending fifteen years of government by coalition (BBC, Nov. 4, 2002).  Party leader Recep Erdogan, who as mayor of Istanbul in the mid 1990s had outlawed alcohol in city restaurants and who had said in a speech in 1995, "You cannot be secular and a Muslim at the same time," (New York Times, Oct. 31, 2002, A3), pledged that his party stood for democracy and would not seek to impose Islam on anyone.  The new Prime Minister for the time being was Abdullah Gul. However, in early March, his eligibility to hold office restored, Erdogan won a seat in the parliament and assumed the office of Prime Minister. These events took place in a country that was in deep economic recession and where the army had a history of intervening in civilian political affairs when it thought religion was gaining too much influence (see coups of 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997; see also Oct. 2002; see reforms, July, 2003) Just ten days before the elections, on October 23, 2002, prosecutors had moved to bar "Justice and Development." In September, the party chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan was disqualified from running for office stemming from his conviction in 1998 for reading a poem judged to incite religious violence ("The mosques are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, and the believers our soldiers.").  (New York Times, Oct. 24, 2002)

On November 7, 2002, Iran's clergy controlled judiciary sentenced a university professor convicted of apostasy, Hashem Aghajari (also a close ally of President Mohammed Khatami), to death, 74 lashes, and a ten year ban from teaching for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a speech by saying that Muslims should not obey religious leaders "blindly." (New York Times, Nov. 8, 2002) Aghajari was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war and had lost a leg in the conflict known for his criticism of the regime and for his call for the separation of state and religion in Iran.  The sentence prompted a storm of protest from inside Iran and abroad. (See also "Wars of Words and Images")

On November 21 in the northern predominantly Muslim Nigerian city of Kaduna, at least 200 people were killed, more than 200 are injured, and at least four churches along with some mosques were destroyed in rioting sparked by a newspaper article claiming that the Prophet Muhammad might have chosen a wife from among the contestants at the Miss World beauty pageant to be hosted next month by Nigeria. Muslim groups in Nigeria had been protesting against the pageant. Two years ago, more than 2,000 were killed in Muslim-Christian rioting in Kaduna. Sharia law was introduced into Zamfara state in early 2000.  (more on Islam in Nigeria; more)  By the 23rd, the Miss World contest had decided to move to London. The following week, an Islamic fatwa ("opinion") issued by Islamic clerics in Zamfara called for the death of the female journalist who wrote the inflammatory article.  The Nigerian government declared the fatwa null and void. Nigeria's propensity for political radicalism was seen by some to be related to vast economic inequalities: extreme wealth (much of it from oil) for a few but extreme poverty for many among its population of 130 million (more people than the rest of West Africa combined:  New York Times, Nov.24, 2002).

David Kendon and Kevin Holton ("Notes on Church-State Affairs," Journal of Church and State, vol. 44, no. 3, p.599ff., Waco, Summer, 2002), warned that the spread of sharia law in Nigeria could provoke a civil war pitting Muslims against Christians.

Also on Nov. 21, 2002, an American Christian evangelist was shot dead in the Lebanese town of Sidon.  She had been involved in a public dispute over her proselytizing in the weeks leading up to her death.  Sensitivities over proselytizing were running high in Lebanon, a country where political power had traditionally fallen along religious lines. (see 1975 Lebanese civil war)

On November 24, Saudi Arabia denied a member of the royal family (also wife of the country's ambassador to the U.S., Bandar bin Sultan) had paid part of the expenses for two of the Saudi hijackers on September 11, 2001.  On Nov. 26, the New York Times reported that American dependence on Saudi oil remained heavy, standing at approximately 17%.

On November 28 in Mombasa, Kenya, a suicide bombing at an Israeli-owned hotel killed at least 16, and an attack utilizing a shoulder fired missile narrowly missed an Israeli owned airliner.

On November 29, an anti-American Islamist coalition took power in Peshawar, Pakistan.  The coalition included pro-Taliban elements.  Its leaders announced a ban on alcohol, gambling, and the playing of music on buses.

Also in November, 2002, Jordan's Queen Rania (a Palestinian) ignited a storm of protest among Bedouin Arabs when, at a summit of Arab women in Amman, she called for Jordanian women to have the same rights as men in passing Jordanian citizenship on to their children, a measure designed to confer Jordanian citizenship on hundreds of thousands of stateless Palestinian residents. The ruling Hashemite minority and their associated tribes had long been nervous about the fact that 60% of Jordan's population was Palestinian. (Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 17, 2002)

Finally, in November, 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in an interview with the British magazine The New Statesman, said that many of the conflicts in the contemporary world were the direct result of Britain's imperial and colonial past. He singled out the Arab-Israeli conflict (and the Balfour Declaration in particular), Iraq, and Kashmir. (BBC, Nov. 15, 2002)

On December 10, 2002, former American President Jimmy Carter accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. In his remarks, Carter criticized the "Bush Doctrine" and its new policy of preemptive unilateral attacks arguing that only a multilateral approach to problems like disarming Iraq (gaining United Nations approval) could accomplish the goal in the long term. He also said that were Israel to implement U.N. Resolution 242 (1967) and withdraw from Palestinian territories a huge impediment to bringing about peace in the Middle East would dissolve.

On December 11, Spanish and American Naval forces temporarily seized a cargo ship from North Korea in the Arabian Sea carrying a load of 15 SCUD missiles bound for Yemen. Following protests from Yemen, the ship was released and allowed to complete its journey.

On December 12, the United States announced the formation of the United States Middle East Partnership Initiative, a new funding program that intended to funnel more than $1 billion toward expanding economic, political, and educational opportunities throughout the region.

Disturbances were reported in India's Gujarat state on December 16, 2002 following elections the previous week in which the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a landslide victory. Tensions between Hindus and the minority Muslim population in Gujarat had been running high since riots the previous March.  Pravin Togadia, international general secretary of the nationalist World Hindu Council, declared, "Gujarat is the graveyard of secular politics." He went on to predict that, "the graveyard will extend to Delhi." (New York Times, Dec. 16, 2002).

On December 17, 2002, the New York Times reported that more than 50% of Saudi Arabia's 16 million people were under age 20. Unemployment estimates for those under 30 ranged from 10-28% making them, some Saudi officials feared, vulnerable to extremist ideologies.

A Christmas day bombing in a church near Lahore, Pakistan left 3 girls dead.  40 had died in attacks on Christians in Pakistan up to this point in 2002.

On December 27, 2002, fifty two were killed in a suicide bombing in Grozny, Chechnya that destroyed the headquarters of the pro-Moscow government (more).

On December 30, three American Christian missionary doctors were shot to death in Jibla, Yemen.

2003 Between January 4 and 9, more than 100 people died in a series of massacres in Algeria.  Two groups of Muslim militants were suspected of being behind the attacks:  the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

On January 20, 2003 in London, police raided the Finsbury Park Mosque, headquarters of militant Muslim preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, arresting six individuals alleged to be linked to a group of four Algerians arrested on January 5 on terror charges stemming from small quantities of the deadly chemical ricin found in their flat. Finsbury Park was where alleged would be 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Mousaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid (both then in U.S. custody) had worshipped and had been a center for recruiting mujahideen ("holy warriors") to fight jihads in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.  The raid was part of a stepped up campaign by British police to thwart acts of terror following the death of a policeman in Manchester on January 13.  Al-Masri, an Egyptian wanted in Yemen on terror charges, supported Osama bin Laden, had praised the 9/11 hijackers as martyrs, considered Prime Minister Tony Blair a "legitimate target" for terrorists, and had called for a holy war against the West. (New York Times, Jan. 21, 2003) (see also)

Also in Jaunary, 2003, Germany banned the Muslim group Hizb al-Tahrir for violating that country's ban on anti-Semitism.

On January 22, 2003, Lebanese Hizbullah militiamen clashed with Israeli forces across their border near the disputed Shebaa Farms area occupied by Israel.  On January 30 and 31, Israeli fighter jets staged mock dive bombing runs deep inside Lebanon.

On January 28, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon posted a strong victory as his ruling Likud party increased its number of seats in the 120 member Knesset from 19 to 37. (more)

On February 12, 2003, Belgium announced it would seek to indict Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes after he left office (New York Times, Feb. 13, 2003).  In 2001, the BBC had aired a report charging Sharon with involvement in massacres at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982.  (see also)

On February 17 with the departure of Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert for a cabinet post, Uri Lupolianski, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, became acting mayor. Two thirds of Jerusalem's 600,000 residents were Jewish and half of those were Orthodox Jews.  The Orthodox population was the fastest growing segment of Israeli population with more than half the children starting school in Jerusalem coming from the ultra-Orthodox groups.  Some Israelis feared the growing influence of theocrats in the secular approach to politics favored by Israel's majority.  (BBC)

On February 22, 2003, gunmen on motorcycles attacked Pakistani Shiites entering a mosque for evening prayers in Karachi killing ten.

In March, 2003, the conservative Muslim Indonesian province of Aceh instituted a Sharia court to enforce orthodox Muslim law. By 2006, public canings for such offenses as drinking were being carried out and a religious police force was in place to enforce restrictions on dress and behavior. Aceh had been granted partial autonomy by the central Indonesian government in 2001, a deal that led to an eventual ceasefire between the government and the rebel "Free Aceh Movement."

On March 19, 2003, the third "Gulf War" began as the United States and Great Britain launched attacks against Iraq.

The Gulf Wars
Iraq and Iran, 1980-1988
Iraq Occupies Kuwait, 1990-91
Toppling Saddam, 2002-03

The al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising), 2000-03

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