updated 7/8/2005 7:15:18 PM ET 2005-07-08T23:15:18

Islamic leaders condemned the London bombings, though many on Friday insisted the United States and Britain, with their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are ultimately to blame for fueling militant violence. Increasing voices, however, say the Arab world has to stop adding "but" to its denunciations of terrorism.

Thursday's attack came as a double shock in the Middle East, occurring the same day that al-Qaida militants announced they had killed Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq after kidnapping him and judging him an "apostate" for his country's support of the United States.

The bombings also targeted a city with enormous influence in the Arab world: London is home to some of the most widely read Arab-language newspapers and to many Arab exiles — including Islamic fundamentalists.

"This is a disaster, but even disasters can bring good things. It's a chance for Muslims to show they want to live together" peacefully with Westerners, Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi, who lives in exile in London, told Al-Jazeera, one of the Middle East's most popular satellite channels. "Extremism and violence cannot resolve any issue."

"If the British government committed crimes in Afghanistan or Iraq, that doesn't mean the British people are fair targets," he said.

Denouncing terrorism while explaining militancy
The chain of blasts in central London, claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group, once again had Arabs walking a fine line: denouncing bloodshed and terrorism while trying to explain the growth of Islamic militancy.

"We are not trying to justify, only to analyze," wrote Abdel-Bari Atwan, who lives in London and is editor-in-chief of the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. "We or any of our family members or friends could have been among the victims in London."

"But we must emphasize that the wars being waged now against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine are the best way to recruit more terrorists and to expand the circle of armed attacks in the entire world," he said.

That stance was exactly what Khaled al-Huroub, a Palestinian writer living in Cambridge, England, said Arabs must avoid.

"It's wrong even to say this is a crime we condemn but we must understand the reasons behind it — this could be seen as a justification," he wrote in the London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat.

He called for "a clear-cut position, with no 'buts,' calling a crime as it deserves to be called."

The mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik, condemned the attacks, saying the bombings violated the tenets of Islam forbidding the killing of innocents.

"The family of Islam must act and show the truth ... that Islam is the religion of reform and goodness," said al-Sheik, the highest religious official in the kingdom.

However, the Friday prayer sermons at Saudi Arabia's main mosques in Mecca and Medina made no mention of the bombings.

In Jerusalem, prayer leader Yousef Abu Sneineh urged the West to "rethink their policies toward Islam and toward the issues of the Islamic people."

"Where was the American civilization — and that of its allies — when they attacked Iraq and Sudan? Where was the Russian civilization when it attacked Chechnya?" said Sneineh at the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest shrine in Islam.

Others were more direct with their condemnations and sympathies for the victims.

In Gaza City, worshippers left the Ze Noran mosque after hearing a sermon decrying violence in the name of their faith.

‘Nothing can justify random killings’
"God taught us to be wise and He teaches us that Islam is a religion of mercy and wisdom," said Khaled Salah, a 45-year-old teacher. "No doubt that many (British) committed crimes against us, but nothing can justify random killings."

Egypt's biggest newspaper, the state-run Al-Ahram daily, ran a banner headline proclaiming a "black day of terrorism," with lead stories on the London bombings and the slaying of diplomat Ihab al-Sherif, who was abducted in Baghdad late Saturday.

During a prayer sermon at Cairo's Sayeda Zainab mosque, Egypt's mufti Ali Gomaa called al-Sherif a "martyr," saying those who killed him were "thugs" who will "spend eternity in hell."

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