Friday, July 27, 2007

Muslims Fear American Attack, Global Survey Finds!!!

Maybe "winning hearts and minds in the Middle East" and the rest of the Islamic world isn't the most important goal for the States.

Maybe encouraging enlightened self-interest is.

Attitudes toward terrorism among Muslims, according to a Pew Institute Global Attitudes survey, are evolving in an interesting way.

Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, has lost support in many parts of the Islamic world over the last five years.

Support of bin Laden among Muslims,
  • 20% - 01% Lebanon (suicide bombing "often or sometimes" justified from 74% to 34% in same period)
  • 56% - 20% Jordan
  • 46% - 38% Pakistan (some think bin Laden is hiding here)
  • 59% - 41% Indonesia
  • ??% - 57% Palestinian Territories
As with anything involving human beings, it's a complicated situation. Maybe it's significant that support for bin Laden is going down in Pakistan, Jordan and Indonesia, where suicide bombers have been blowing themselves up.

Being a target has a marvelously focusing effect on people's thoughts.

According to the news articles on the Pew Institute's report, many Muslims in Asia and the Middle East are concerned that, given the U.S. intolerant 'War on Terror' policies toward terrorism, their countries might be attacked by U.S. forces.

"The report says that 'Muslims in Bangladesh and Morocco are almost unanimous in their concern' about the military threat from the US, with more than 90 per cent in each saying they were very or somewhat worried. So are 85 per cent of Indonesians." (Time Online)

I didn't find that quote, but it's a big document, 133 pages, and I might have missed it.

Economic status makes a difference, but not as might be expected.

"The Pew Institute report suggested that globally, economic growth and stability were closely tied to a sense of personal well-being. But there was little evidence to sustain theories that the economy might have a similar beneficial effect on support for terrorism.

"In Lebanon, economic confidence has plummeted following the military clash with Israel but Muslims are still less likely to support either bin Laden or Hezbollah.

Palestinian support for suicide bombing appears to be fairly uniform across all income levels."
(Times Online)

In any event, I'm not sure that this report adds up to a practical criticism of the War on Terror. Here's one way to look at it:

Since 2002, many Muslims in the Islamic world:
  • Stopped approving of terrorism, or at least bin Laden
  • Became concerned that U.S. forces would attack their country
One way to interpret this information is that, faced with the prospect of the Great Satan America responding in kind to deadly attacks, "Death to America" became a somewhat less attractive slogan.

As I said before, anything having to do with human beings is complex. I'm not going to say that this proves that taking the battle to places that support terrorism is a good idea.

On the other hand, I don't think that this report shows that the U.S. policy of taking military action is ineffective.

Before 2001, U.S. policy was to treat terrorist attacks as a matter for the criminal justice system, and refrain from making a major military issue of such things. That changed after September 11, 2001.

Now, an increasing number of Muslims don't support al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and have actually become hostile toward what the Online Times called "violent extremism."

It's not so great a stretch of the imagination for me to imagine that both the jihadist's attacks on Muslim (or 'insufficiently Muslim?') targets, and the real possibility that the United States of America might do something besides assume responsibility for providing room and board to successful terrorists.

Information for this post is from the Times Online (UK) "Muslims are weary of bin Laden but still fear American attack",'s "Muslim Support for Bin Laden Falls, Poll Says, and Pew Global Attitudes Project's "Global Unease With Major World Powers" (and the 2.2 megabyte pdf-format full report The Pew GAP's report other heading is "Rising Environmental Concern in 47-Nation Survey" - Captain Planet would be proud!

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.