ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Phyllis Oakley, wife of the U.S. ambassador here, reportedly walked into the bar at the American club the other night, stared at CNN for a few minutes and announced, "It must have been just like this in 'Casablanca.' "

She was overstating somewhat. Although anxious expatriates are fleeing this city and the United States has evacuated 400 embassy workers and dependents, nobody is worried about Saddam Hussein's sympathizers taking over the best table at the club and loudly singing their national anthem. Instead, what is driving people in the American community of 1,200 are visions of religiously inspired mobs tearing them limb from limb, or some lone guerrilla blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren.

Nobody seems likely to fall in love in Islamabad this week. The dread is too heavy, too deadening.

By all accounts, Americans are feeling this way across much of the Islamic world. In countries where there is no immediate prospect of armed conflict -- Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan and Yemen -- thousands of Americans are being whisked away from Moslem populations who are being urged to see Iraq as a heroic underdog and the United States as evil incarnate.

In a radio address broadcast Thursday, Saddam spoke of "the defeat of that Satan in the White House, Bush." On the streets of Jordan, a Palestinian told CNN, "It is a war between God and the Devil. We believe in God. They are the Devil."

Such evocations of religious apocalypse mingle with rumors and fragmentary news on the streets of Pakistan. A radio network set up by the U.S. Embassy to track anti-American demonstrations crackles with news of sporadic gunfire and clashes between police and protesters in the capital. In truth, in the main the streets so far are calm and orderly. But the prospect of attacks provokes a profound unease among the Americans.

"I'm getting tired of being the great Satan," says Cindy Pavlos, an administrator at the International School in Islamabad who has declined to join the evacuation of U.S. nationals. "It must be nice to have two or three passports. You could be something else for a while."

"It's been a rolling crescendo {of anti-American feeling} during the last few days," says a U.S. Embassy official coordinating the evacuation here. "We're recommending that you keep a low profile around town. Don't go into any of the major markets unless you're like surrounded by a lot of Pakistani friends. If you go by yourself, they might see you as the odd Westerner and do some slashing."

People here don't think Americans are crazy for thinking and saying such things. In 1979, a rumor swept Pakistan that U.S. armed forces had taken over the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. A mob burned down the U.S. Embassy, killing four people inside. In 1989, an Indian-born British citizen, Salman Rushdie, published in London a novel that Moslems deemed blasphemous. As a consequence, a mob here attacked the American center. Five people, all Pakistanis, died from police bullets. If these things happen when the United States has not done anything, it is perhaps reasonable to fear what could happen now that U.S. forces have actually gone to war in the Middle East.

"The biggest problem is a feeling of isolation," says Bill Lenderking, chief of the U.S. Information Agency in Pakistan. "There's a feeling that we're a little island in a sea of hostility."

Among the Americans, Lenderking continues, the unspoken source of fear is incomprehension of the absolutist powers of Islam in its revivalist and militant forms. "I think it makes people very uneasy. Most of the foreigners I know here, even though they don't talk about it, feel an underlying sense of unease in the face of it," he says.

Moslem intellectuals such as Mushaid Hussein, a Pakistani writer who lived in the United States for several years, say such fears are stoked by Israel's sympathizers who want to "evoke a certain image of Islam as the crusades against the West. There are certain images -- Khomeini, fires burning -- that evoke 'oh my God' in the American mind, and these images are peddled by some to the American people... . "

Another Moslem writer, who asks not to be further identified, offers that the problem with Americans abroad in the world of Islam -- diplomats, teachers, aid workers, military men -- is that they neither understand Islam nor accommodate themselves to it. "They expose themselves so much more. They're all over," he says. "It's very unlikely that a British diplomat would try to date a good Moslem girl. An American would gladly do it."

In the polarizing confusion of war, the gap in communication and understanding between Americans and Moslems seems likely to grow wider. "We've spent a lot of time developing relationships that are not so easy to develop," says an American aid worker who may leave this weekend until the war is over. "If we have to go, I don't know how easy it will be to pick up the pieces. That will always be in the back of their minds -- that these people cut and run when the going gets tough."

When the Americans hurriedly closed the International School here to facilitate the evacuation of U.S. nationals, American and Pakistani students had 30 minutes to say goodbye. Two American students showed up that day wearing U.S. flags on their T-shirts and were sharply reprimanded for "provocation" by the school administration. The rest of the American students mingled with their friends briefly and then rushed home to pack. Says school administrator Cindy Pavlos: "It's been a time of tears and anxiety."