Terrorism: July 24, 2005


Osama bin Ladens popularity is declining. The Pew Research Center recently conducted an public opinion poll in Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Jordan and Lebanon, with people polled by telephone or face-to-face. In most countries, support for bin Laden and his terrorist tactics declined by about half. There were two exceptions. In Jordan and Pakistan, it went up. In Jordan, where there have been few al Qaeda attacks, support for bin Laden went from 55 percent (two years ago) to 60 percent now. In Pakistan, where terror attacks have been directed against the government and non-Moslems, it went from 45 to 51 percent. In contrast, in Morocco, support went from 49 to 26 percent. In Lebanon, it went from 14 to two percent. In Turkey it went from 15 to seven percent. In both Jordan and Pakistan, Islamic radicalism has caught on in a big way. This extremist approach to religion and politics promises a quick solution to ancient problems. All you have to do is get behind spectacular terrorist attacks and blind hatred for non-believers. This has a certain appeal. It worked for communists and fascists eighty years ago, its working for al Qaeda today. What goes around, comes around. But the corruption and economic backwardness that afflict most of the Islamic world are not being solved by Islamic terrorism. The clean government that Islamic radicals offer doesnt last long. Look at what happened in Afghanistan and Iran when the Islamic radicals took over. These zealots also put the poorly performing economy into reverse. But the Islamic radicals have learned how to manipulate a poorly educated and informed population, and use the mass media (especially radio and television) to their advantage. Journalists in the Moslem world are also attracted to sensationalistic stories. However, these stories follow an arc, and have an unpleasant ending. When the Islamic radicals take over, or engage in heavy combat in a country, their popularity falls steeply. Thats what happened in Afghanistan and Iran (where elections and polls show about 80 percent of the population against the Islamic radicals). In Iraq and Egypt, where the Islamic radicals are still setting off bombs, the terrorists have even less support. The lesson in all this is that, while blowing people up will get you on TV, and attract some favorable attention to your cause, it doesnt last. Eventually people see you for what you really are; a murderous fanatic with illusions for solutions and murder for motivation. 


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