POLITICAL ISLAM TAKES CENTER STAGE SINCE 9-11
In the five years since the September 11 attacks, U.S. intervention abroad has fed the extremism it seeks to destroy and cemented the rise of political Islam as the ideology of choice for millions in the Middle East, experts say.
Today, political Islam -- a diverse movement with moderate as well as hard-line elements -- has been widely embraced in the Arab world, where many feel alienated by corrupt rule and foreign policies seen as serving the interests of the United States and its ally Israel.
"Since September 11, I have worked on massive public opinion polls in the Muslim and Arab world. You can see the animosity between September 11 and now. It's growing and it is worrying," said Jihad Fakhreddine, a Lebanese analyst based in Dubai.
"The line between religiosity and extremism has become thinner. In the time of colonialism, the antagonism was not perceived in terms of the West and Islam. Independence movements in the Arab world were driven by nationalist feelings."
Radicals hitching themselves to the al Qaeda banner are now fighting U.S.-allied governments in
Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and have staged attacks in Morocco, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist group which espouses non-violence, made a strong showing in elections last year, while Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, born in 1988 during the first Intifada against Israeli occupation, won polls in January.
Islamist discourse dominates in the pan-Arab media, where both nationalists and Islamists revere
Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader seen as the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, as "Sheikh Osama."