(CNSNews.com) - The United States and its foreign policies have come under fire at a conference on relations between the U.S. and Islam, with figures like suicide bombing apologist Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi accusing America of responsibility for Muslims' animosity.
Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Sunni scholar regarded as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha the U.S. had created the problem by searching for "an alternative enemy" in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse.
"The U.S. has initiated the animosity when the neoconservatives chose Islam as an alternative enemy," Gulf Times quoted him as telling the gathering, whose several hundred participants included high-level U.S. State Department officials. The three-day meeting ended on Monday.
Qaradawi said if the billions of dollars the U.S. spends on its efforts "to dominate the world" were instead channeled to needy Third World countries, Washington could easily have won over the hearts and minds of the people in those parts of the world.
"America will never be the master of the world. One day it will be replaced by new powers like India or China," he said. "America will never be able to win the world by force. Only justice and love can settle the problems. If America changed its policy, we would change our attitudes."
Qaradawi criticized the U.S.-led boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, saying Hamas was only described as a terrorist group because it remained committed to fighting against the Israeli occupation.
Hailed in the Muslim world as a leading and highly-influential scholar, the Egyptian-born cleric has come under fire for calling Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis justifiable "martyrdom operations" and for encouraging Muslims to fight against U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do," Qaradawi told BBC television in 2004, adding during a press conference around the same time that suicide bombings are "weapons to which the weak resort in order to upset the balance because the powerful have all the weapons that the weak are denied."
Other Muslim participants at the weekend forum, which was organized by the Brookings Institution and Qatari foreign ministry, included Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, who told the plenary session most Muslims do not hate the U.S. but oppose its double standards.
"Muslims cannot accept the U.S. policy of supporting Israel and its occupation of Arab and Muslim territories," he said, adding that Arabs could also not understand Washington's opposition to Iran's nuclear program while Israel's was ignored.
U.S. policies were also criticized by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani.
"If the monopolization of power on a domestic level is unacceptable, the monopolization of power on the world scene ... the policy of double standards, the absence of transparency ... and the use of force, even more, must cease," Gulf Times quoted him as saying.
Professor Shibley Telhami of Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy shared the results of a Zogby International survey of Arabs in six countries - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the UAE - which he said showed a rise in anti-U.S. sentiment.
President Bush emerged as the respondents' second-most unpopular leader, with only former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - who has been in a coma since a massive stroke in early 2006 - more loathed. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was in third place.
The survey named the U.S. as the second biggest threat to Arab people, again behind Israel, and with Britain in third spot, Telhami said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite terrorist group Hizballah, was named the most admired figure among the respondents, followed by French President Jacques Chirac, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The U.S.-Islamic World Forum is part of a Brookings' research program called the Project on U.S. Policy towards the Islamic World, "designed to respond to some of the profound questions that the terrorist attacks of September 11th raised for U.S. policy."
"In particular, it seeks to examine how the United States can reconcile its need to fight terrorism and reduce the appeal of extremist movements with its need to build more positive relations with Muslim states and communities," Brookings says on its website.
The forum "brings together American and Muslim world leaders from the fields of politics, business, media, academia, arts, science, and civil society, for much-needed discussion and dialogue."
This year's participants list included several State Department officials, including Khalilzad Zalmay, the outgoing ambassador to Iraq and ambassador-designate to the United Nations; and David Satterfield, a senior advisor to the Secretary of State and coordinator on Iraq.
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