A step in the right direction. Better late than never:
Greg Sheridan The Australian
* “The reason we are losing the battle of information and ideas is because the coherent religious and ideological position that al-Qa’ida represents has an extraordinary degree of support within the Muslim world”
SIX years after the 9/11 terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York and killed almost 3000 people, a majority of American Muslims do not believe the attacks were carried out by Arabs. And more than one-quarter of young US Muslims believe suicide bombings can be justified in some circumstances.
These shocking and tragic findings, which come from the Pew Research Centre, tell us much about why the war against Islamist terror is going to last for generations.
The West is losing the information and propaganda war against Islamist extremism. It is not losing because it is being insufficiently kind to Muslims at home or in the Middle East.
As Britain’s Tony Blair wrote in The Sunday Times: “Extremism will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it … pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it.”
Blair confronted the argument that Muslims hate the West because it has taken military action in Afghanistan and Iraq: “Tell me what exactly they feel angry about? We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a UN-supervised democratic process. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims. Why aren’t they angry about the people doing the killing?”
The reason we are losing the battle of information and ideas is because the coherent religious and ideological position that al-Qa’ida represents has an extraordinary degree of support within the Muslim world. Even sentiments that don’t finally endorse al-Qa’ida often adopt a similar world outlook that embraces much of al-Qa’ida’s historical narrative and paranoid world view.
Most Muslims are moderates and abhor terrorism. But the minority that is extremist is a big one.
* Actually, the ‘tiny minority of extremists is a myth. The ‘moderate Muslim’ is a Western invention by appeasers, PC multiculturalists and clueless polit props. There is absolutely no proof that ‘most Muslims are moderates and abhor terrorism.
The flipside of al-Qa’ida’s success in the information war is our own dismal effort in this field. This does not mean endlessly telling Muslims how much we love them. Although in principle a bit of that is OK, as Blair implies it can be counterproductive by feeding an unjustified sense of grievance.
A better guide to the roots of our failure comes in a new report from US think tank the Rand Corporation, Building Moderate Muslim Networks. Rand recommends that the US, and by implication allied governments such as Australia’s, should consciously support, materially and morally, and where necessary create, networks of moderate Muslims across the world who reject Islamist extremism.
What is insightful about the report is its comparison of the shambles in the information war today with the effective information and political strategy the US and its allies ran during the Cold War.
To be sure, the Cold War is different from the war on terror. In the Cold War we confronted a central state enemy, the Soviet Union, which had state interests and could be deterred. But the similarities are also instructive: the West faces a confusing geo-strategic environment with new security threats and is involved, among other things, in an ideological conflict.
Moreover, moderate Muslims are being outmuscled. As Rand comments, Saudi funding has greatly enhanced religious extremism all over the world (which raises again the question why nobody, in the Labor Party or the Government, has followed up this newspaper’s revelations of Saudi embassy funding of extremists in Australia).
In many nations, moderate Muslims have been intimidated or even killed.
During the Cold War, the US created or supported democratic institutions to fight against totalitarianism in civil society all over the world, especially in any margins of free space in communist societies.
The US acted as a foundation, evaluating projects, funding them, then adopting a hands-off approach. In the war on terror, the US has a freedom agenda but no coherent idea of how to support it.
It often cannot distinguish moderates from extremists.
* How true is that!
The Danish imams who campaigned successfully to turn a few cartoons into a worldwide jihad had previously been wrongly identified as moderates and benefited from state travel grants and the like.
* Whipping up jihad against the host country on infidel taxpayers generosity, mind boggling…
Rand sets out a template for the US to follow in trying to build networks of moderate Muslims to help them stand against the extremists. I’m not sure its suggestions would work, but it recognises the nature of the problem and the fundamental fact we are, whether we like it or not, locked in a profound ideological struggle.
One of the many disturbing features of the US Pew survey on the attitudes of American Muslims is that younger Muslims are substantially more extreme than their parents or grandparents. This reflects the experience in Europe, and probably Australia, that far from the second generation being more integrated, as has happened with every other migrant group, it is becoming more prey to the appeal of extremist ideologies and more alienated from its host society.
It is important to emphasise that the US survey does show that most American Muslims are moderate and reject extremism, and that American Muslims tend to be more moderate than European Muslims or Muslim populations in most majority Muslim nations.
* Once again: Where is proof for this claim?
But the US poll is merely the latest from across the world to show that the extremist minority is a very big, and therefore dangerous, one. A poll by the British think tank Policy Exchange showed similar results. Although most British Muslims are moderate, among 16 to 24-year-olds, 37 per cent would prefer to live under sharia law than British law, while 36per cent believe a Muslim changing their religion to something else should be punishable by death and 13per cent support al-Qa’ida.
Similarly, a joint Asia-Europe Foundation and University of Malaya poll found that 98 per cent of Malay Muslims believe Muslims should not be allowed by law to change their religion, 31 per cent want sharia law to replace the Malaysian constitution, 12 per cent support suicide bombings and a clear majority dislike or hate Europe, the US and Australia.
And in Australia, Taj Din al-Hilali, after all his extremist statements, remains the mufti. After everything, the national imams council still has not dismissed him. To equate this with Christian fundamentalism is utterly absurd. The widespread presence of extremist views in large minorities among Muslim communities poses acute dilemmas for a liberal society that no one has yet begun to face up to.