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Warning of Backlash if U.S. Attacks

September 12, 2002

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KUALA TERENGGANU, Malaysia (AP) _ The leader of Malaysia’s Islamic opposition accused Western nations Thursday of waging a ``crusade″ against Muslims since the Sept. 11 attacks and warned that U.S. military strikes against Iraq would raise the risk of more terrorist assaults inside America.

Abdul Hadi Awang, the head of Malaysia’s largest opposition party and driving force behind a push toward a more conservative version of Islam in this Southeast Asian country, said the United States was demonizing Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein without proof, while ignoring abuses by its allies such Israel.

``We are seeing how the United States and its allies are carrying out new crusade wars against Muslims,″ Abdul Hadi said in an interview.

``The attacks against Afghanistan were cruel and without any strong reason. At the same time the West allows Israel to carry out terrorist attacks against Palestinians, and Russia in Chechnya,″ Abdul Hadi said.

Adbul Hadi said a military attack on Iraq to oust Saddam ``will make the Muslim world more angry toward the West and worsen the terrorism threat, especially inside the United States.″

He said he was saddened by the assault on the World Trade Center, but that he was not convinced bin Laden was responsible.

Abdul Hadi leads the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which is the biggest challenge to the government among Malaysia’s predominant Muslim Malay community. He has called for the introduction in the state he controls of laws that include stoning and amputation as punishments for crimes including adultery or theft.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

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