In the aftermath of war in the Persian Gulf, expect a new surge of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, said an Islamic scholar in this country.
"There's no question about it," Riffat Hassan, professor of religious studies at the University of Louisville, said in a phone interview last week."Religion is always enormously important when people are in a state of suffering," she said.
Moreover, military attacks by the United States against Iraq could be seen by Shiites as threatening historical, Islamic sites in that nation, including the towns of Karbala and Kufa, she said.
Shiites, who trace their heritage to Ali, one of the earliest followers of the 7th-century prophet Mohammed, constitute 55 percent of Iraq's Islamic population. An estimated 45 percent are Sunni. The remaining 5 percent of the Iraqi population is Christian.
"I've talked with Iranians who hate Iraqis, but they don't want to see Iraq attacked," she said of Iranians, who are predominantly Shiites.
"It's because of the land, like it is for Israel."
Hassan, a native of Pakistan, said many Muslims in the Middle East are unhappy with Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, but they also resent the United States because of what they see as its "selective morality."
"For example, if South Africa violates sanctions against it, no one declares war on it," she said is their view. "America is not very popular in that part of world for all sorts of reasons."
At the same time, issues such as the rise of feminism in the Arab world also may affect Islamic cultures, she said.
"Women are rebelling against the idea of confinement," she said. "Once women have gone through a revolution, and are taken out of the home, they can't be the same again."
Hassan said cultures and values of Muslim nations and of Western nations have clashed for centuries.
Now with passions inflamed in the Middle East, she said, "It's like the rage of centuries is coming to some sort of conclusion."