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Pew Poll Says Support For Bin Laden Is Down But Is No Reason To Gloat

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It’s beginning to look like we’re making progress. The tide may be turning against the terrorists but there’s no reason to gloat.

An encouraging survey reveals support for Osama bin Laden has dropped significantly in pivotal Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has also “declined dramatically”.

“Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam,” the poll concluded.

That’s good news but should also be a wake-up call for policy makers. The reason that bin Laden and his ilk became popular was because of perceived injustices by the western superpowers.

He became their champion against the bullies. A sort of warped version of the Robin Hood syndrome. Public opinion, as fickle as it may be, will generally swing in favour of the “perceived” downtrodden victim.

“The one exception is attitudes toward suicide bombings of U.S and Western targets in Iraq, a subject on which Muslims were divided. Roughly half of Muslims in Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco said such attacks are justifiable, while sizable majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia disagreed. Yet, support for suicide bombings in Iraq still declined by as much as 20 percent compared with a poll taken last year.”

The “liberators” were caught in a quagmire and soon became “occupiers” in the eyes of the Iraqi populace and sympathizing nations.

But Muslims and non-muslims alike are suffering at the hands of the terrorists. Muslims are being targeted in their own neighbourhoods, as evidenced by the recent London bombings. Or the car bombing of a soldier handing out candy to children.

The combatants use palatable words such as “collateral damage” or a “necessary sacrifice for the greater good of the whole”. But in the public’s view it’s all bullshit.

The simple fact is you make friends by being nice, not by blowing them up, and that will be the fatal undoing of al Qaeda.

The results, which also reveal widespread support for democracy, show how profoundly opinions have changed in parts of the Muslim world since Pew took similar surveys in recent years. The poll attributed the difference in attitudes toward extremism to both the terrorist attacks in Muslim nations and the passage of time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In May 2003, many Muslims “saw a worldwide threat to Islam and [bin Laden] represented opposition to the West and the United States,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center and project director. “Tempers have since cooled.”

It is all about perception of grievances, the realities of war and perhaps most importantly, who claims the moral high ground. Ironically, bin Laden has been so successful as a terrorist that he is now looking like the big-bad wolf in the eyes of the Muslim world.

Accordingly if we play our cards right, instead of unifying the Muslim world in a jihad it could all backfire on him. Because the simple fact is most Muslims are intelligent and decent people.

Augustus Richard Norton, a Middle East specialist at Boston University goes on to say:

“These are eye-catching results, but not surprising”. “Muslims, like non-Muslims, are plugged into the world. . . . It is one thing to be caught up in the supposed glamour of attacking the superpower or global bully, but it is quite another to have to pay the consequences economically, politically — not to mention personally. This is what has happened in places like Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey, where many people now see extremist Islam as a threat to their lives, not a fantasy game of kick Uncle Sam.”

Some will argue this is proof positive the Bush administration policy of brute force is beginning to work. But we can see there are other forces in motion.

Everybody loses in war. People are beginning to understand the insanity of it all, and to that end the platitude “violence begets more violence” rings even more loud and true.

This is not an opportunity for the Bush administration to gloat. It is an opportunity to show grace under fire. That will be a tough pill to swallow for those who believe force is the only answer. But when everyone knows you have the big club and can wield it, which do you think will have the bigger impact?

Teddy Roosevelt said it best — “speak softy and carry a big stick”. In the end the real victor will be the side that wins the hearts and minds of the people, and that takes time, patience, tolerance, education and perhaps most important of all – forgiveness.

This article also appeared at Political Football.

Edit: LM

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About BB

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Amazon LINK PL.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    While it’s nice to see Osama’s support in the Muslim World declining, the fact remains that literally tens of millions of Muslims still support this terrorist lunatic.

    Until we get that number down MUCH further, we will still have to fight a Global War On Terror. And it could take decades of unflinching resolve to win it.

    And I believe it would only take electing the wrong person as President ONE TIME to lose it…

  • Nancy

    And again, we also get down to the basic fact that Islam is NOT a ‘religion of peace’, much as I hate to have to say it; but I’ve been re-reading my Quran & trolling some online sites Aaman directed me to, and in spite of apologists, it still is not a friendly religion, nor was Mohammed a peaceful man, altho I grant we must consider him in the context of his barbaric & primitive times, society, culture, & the attacks made on him when he tried to keep it peaceful…but a dedicated pacifist a la JC or Gautama B. he wasn’t. The Quran contains an awful lot of directives to violence & intolerance of non-muslims, including other ‘people of the book’, & really only advocates righteousness etc. towards other muslims. Sorry, but there’s no way around what’s in black & white, altho some give it a really good try.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    The problem isn’t Islam. Yes, their holy book is filled with hate and violence. But so is the Bible! (At least the Old Testament…)

    The problem is that millions upon millions of Muslims are hard-core, die-hard fundamentalists, whereas hardly any Christians or Jews is going to live their lives according to the portions of the Bible that demand the immediate public slaughter of homosexuals, for instance.

    So. We must defeat those who follow the fundy belief in Islam, not ALL Muslims…

    Of course, actually doing that is incredibly difficult to do, in the real world…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “hardly any Christians or Jews is going to”

    ARE going to…

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    I would point out to Nancy that much of the Muslim world may currently be in the “darkages”. Where as the darkages of the Christian world were circa 700 to 1200 AD.

    There was a point in time when Christians waged war against Muslims strictly on religious grounds without provocation (the Crusades).

    Also, the early Ottoman Empire was very tolerant of non-muslims and was the center of intellectualism and academic thought during that time period.

    Portions of Islam are really fucked up now, but so are portions of every religion… especially if we look across sufficient quantities of time.

    – RBP

  • http://www.political-football.com/ BB

    “tens of millions of Muslims still support this terrorist lunatic”

    And you have facts to back up these inflammatory remarks?

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    Why have two comments, one from Nancy, and one from me been removed from this page? Both were far from offensive and neither were off topic.

    – RBP

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Ruh roh. It’s possible I screwed up while deleting some spam comments a short while ago. If so, I apologize!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “tens of millions of Muslims still support this terrorist lunatic”

    And you have facts to back up these inflammatory remarks?

    Yep. Try reading the original post one more time… :-/

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “There was a point in time when Christians waged war against Muslims strictly on religious grounds without provocation (the Crusades).”

    Oh, there was plenty of provocation. Many consider the Crusades to be, if not truly a defensive war, at least a counter-offensive…

  • Tao Jonez

    yo RJ, share yer knowledge man.
    now the folks in Jerusalem was gonna invade where in europe befo’ the first Crusade?

  • BB

    That’s no answer RJ.

    I recommend that you take your own advice and give us the “facts” or tone down the rhetoric a little.

  • http://geocities.com/rpb0554 rbp0554

    RJ:

    I’d be happy to read any hyperlink that you send me. However, I would prefer if it ended in .edu

    – RBP

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    re: “tens of millions of Muslims still support this terrorist lunatic”

    Link here:

    Quote here:

    “The survey found only 2 percent of the people polled in Lebanon and 7 percent in Turkey expressing confidence that bin Laden would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” The proportion that expressed confidence in the al Qaeda leader dropped from almost half to about a quarter in Morocco, and from 58 percent to 37 percent in Indonesia. Bin Laden’s standing went up slightly in Pakistan, to 51 percent, and in Jordan, to 60 percent.”

    So. 2% in Lebanon plus 7% in Turkey plus 25% in Morocco plus 37% in Indonesia plus 51% in Pakistan plus 60% in Jordan equals TENS OF MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS.

    Get it?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    re: The Crusades as a war of defense/response, please read this:

    He wrote a book on it. And he’s a professor.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    RJ, you lazy mo-fo: put your urls in links!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Sowwy, bhw… :-/

  • Tao Jonez

    ya RJ, thanks fer the link. so this Prof is sayin that it all came out cuz the Turks got back Turkey, then Crusades, and then they fought all over da place. Now Turkey ain’t europe, but wuz conquered by da Romans way before this. So case made fer both sides, and i dig what yer sayin.
    deep shit here, messy shit in all da history.
    what goes around comes around.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    37% in Indonesia alone is 10s of millions.

    Dave

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    That is a good source RJ, and Madden seems like a credible source. However, I agree with Tao that history is often pieced together on scant documentation and evidence and is opened to considerable interpretation.

    Nevertheless, you kept your end of the bargain with a credible and interesting hyperlink.

    – RBP

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Thanks, ya’ll. :)

    See, I don’t talk outta my ass! ;-P

  • http://www.dailyfisk.com/ BB

    Yeah, thanks for the link RJ, er… should I say MY link.

    If you read the “link” more carefully you would have also noted that it says the following:

    If only 1/10,000 of 1 percent [of the Muslim world] is inclined to terrorism, that is still 1,200 potential mass killers.”

    The catch word here is “If”, meaning that the writers of the “poll” aren’t sure of the numbers themselves. Hence, the reason they used arbitrary figures and they made that perfectly clear.

    Likewise, please note the figures that you quote are based on only a very small portion of the population that were in fact interviewed. To make the arbitrary leap to “millions upon millions” is nothing short of conjecture, inflammatory and hardly conclusive. But then again that’s nothing new for some people who will go to any extreme to interpret whatever suits their bias.

    Furthermore, using your logic that would mean (assuming that there are indeed a purported 1 billion Muslims in the world), even “millions” of fanatics would be very small number when kept in its proper perspective.

    The point I have tried to make RJ is that your comments are inflammatory and designed to inflame readers into believing that there are laterally hoards of fanatics out there that want to indiscriminately kill you.

    We should be focussing on the fact that there are ‘relatively’ few extremists in comparison to the vast majority of decent Muslims out there instead of fanning the flames of discontent.

    I hope that clarifies things and nighty-night.

  • http://www.political-football.com/ BB

    For further clarification:

    Polls can only at best demonstrate “trends”. The numbers provided cannot be taken literally as representative of an entire population.

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    BB:

    I’m all for not pre-judging people, and I agree that the majority of the muslims in the world are honest, hardworking people (many in very poor and oppressed countries).

    However, accurate polls that are conducted according to solid statistical principles (random sampling with respect to the factors of interest) DO represent the populations from which the samples are taken.

    This is not to say however that a sample from one or a few muslim countries represents all of Islam. However, it does represent the countries of interest so long as the sampling is of sufficient sample size and conducted properly. It will not be 100% accurate b/c of
    sampling error.

    I’m not going to debate how many extreme, terrorism-friendly muslims there are in the world b/c I don’t think anybody really knows. However, with close to 7 billion people in the world now it would not shock be at all if there were several million.

    – RBP

  • Nancy

    Well, possibly AIDS & SARS is going to take care of future hostiles anyway; I think a good part of all this warfare is that we humans are way overpopulated anyway, & we really do need a good thinning out. Overdue for one, in fact. Something along the lines of 1 in 5 or 6.

  • http://geocities.com/rb0554 rbp0554

    Damn Nancy, you sound like Jay Hanson at
    dieoff.org

    – RBP

  • Nancy

    No, just logic: like a cancer, we have metastasized the planet, wiping out everything in our path. When a species overruns like that, generally nature kicks in to cull it out. The harder the organism resists, in the end, the more ruthless the culling.

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    I don’t know about all the “the harder an organism resists” stuff, but I think that we both agree that there can’t be indefinite exponential grown in a finite world (funny I just wrote this exact phrase or something very similar in another thred).

    – RBP

  • Nancy

    I hear ya. I remember listening to TV commercials & even as a little kid thinking they couldn’t continue to sell cars forever; eventually would come a day everyone would have one. Then what? The infinite expansionist theory is unworkable.

  • http://www.political-football.com/ BB

    RBP: Pew et al will be first to tell you NOT to take their numbers as gospel or in a literal sense as truly representative of an entire population. We could also debate all night about “polls” whose numbers were proven to be completely off the mark.

    The point is at best they are merely random “samplings” for determining “trends”. That is all.

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    < <<<"The point is at best they are merely random "samplings" for determining "trends". That is all.">>>>

    random samples from populations that the samples represent.

    Here we’re getting into semantics. However, where do these “trends” reside… I would argue within the population from which the samples are taken.

    Also see my comments about 100% accuracy and sampling error. I’m pretty sure were talking past each other.

    – RBP

  • http://www.political-football.com/ BB

    Yes… and no. If any pollster were foolhardy enough to guarantee their numbers an accurate representation of an entire populace they would be sued into receivership forthwith.

    The numbers are published to justify Pew’s conclusions – i.e. the “trends”, not for spinning an argument to justifying our prejudice and/or whipping the masses into a paranoid frenzy.

    We are getting way off topic here. The point of the post is the “trends” are favorable and that is something to cheer about. Here, here.

  • http://geocities.com/rbp0554 rbp0554

    True that.

    – RBP

  • Dr Dreadful

    Is anybody else out there about ready to strangle Mr Good Site Thanks You?

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