Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good news for a change: WaPo says bin Laden "Sinking in the Polls"

According to yesterday's column in the Washington Post:

  • Currently, bin Laden is unpopular with over 90% of Afghanistan and Iraq
  • "... polling in Turkey two years ago found that 90% of citizens believe the al-Qaeda bombings in London, Istanbul, Madrid and Egypt were unjust and unfair; 86% thought that there was no excuse for condoning the Sept. 11 attacks; and 75% said bin Laden does not represent Muslims."
  • Support for "justifiable" suicide bombings has fallen from 74% to 34% in Lebanon, with similar declines in other Muslim-majority countries
  • Majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, and Morocco agree: "Groups that use violence against civilians, such as Al Qaida, are violating the principles of Islam. Islam opposes the use of such violence."

Now, perhaps this should be taken with something of a grain of salt, since the author is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She also conflates one problem--popular support for terrorism--with an unrelated issue--the lack of popular support for the US.

While it is good that many Muslims are recognizing that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are a common threat, many polls show that much remains to be done to improve foreign perceptions of the United States. The drop in support for violent extremists presents an opportunity to expand our efforts to nurture common interests with people overseas and work with them to counter al-Qaeda's attempts to radicalize young people.

Al-Qaeda's growing Internet propaganda activities glorify violence and seek to exploit local grievances, from political oppression to a lack of economic opportunities. In contrast, America's public diplomacy programs are engaging young people constructively, through English-language teaching, educational exchanges, music and sports diplomacy.

While I truly feel Ms. Hughes's heart is in the right place, two years of critical theory being pounded into me at Oz definitely makes my scrunch up my nose at some of these statements. I find the first statement (underlined, above) more than a little patronizing. ("While it is good that Susie has learned to use her words, she must be more patient and wait for her turn to speak in class.") I'm also amused/perturbed by the unexamined promotion of cultural hegemony contained in the last statement. And she states that al-Qaeda is exploiting "local grievances" without acknowledging that these "grievances" are sometimes as severe as crimes against humanity, and are often perpetuated by the US or its erstwhile allies.


...oh dear. I do believe law school has made me cynical.

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