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26/02: The myth of Muslim support for terror

by Kenneth Ballen

The common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews.

Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?




Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that's an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as authentic religious practice.

Terror Free Tomorrow's 20-plus surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries not exactly the profile of hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of "protest vote" against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore, the enemy is the violence they exalt.

Our surveys show that not only do Muslims reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.

America's goal, in partnership with Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as Americans do.

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This is an opinion piece by Kenneth Ballen and was published in the Christian Science Monitor recently. You can also read it here.

About the author: Kenneth Ballen is founder and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding effective policies that win popular support away from global terrorists.

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I, for one, agree with the assessment of the author. It is high time that the West realizes that labelling all Muslims as terrorists is only alienating the Muslims who are against the extremist interpretation of Islam. One thing I would specifically like to comment upon is:

For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of "protest vote" against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

I have seen this myself when people support Osama bin Laden just to rile up Americans. They think this will, in some way, harm the people who say that all Muslims are terrorists. This instigation is only bearing negative result in support of Osama bin Laden. America is cutting its own two feet in this instance.

I have consistently pointed out that humanitarian efforts by the United States are much more helpful in improving the American image and decreasing support for Osama bin laden. I have already mentioned this in my article about Islamophobia in American society. The Chinook helicopter used to be called "Angel of Mercy" in Kashmir by the local people after the earthquake in October, 2005. Some people refer to this as the Chinook Diplomacy. Bret Stephens wrote about Chinook Diplomacy in the Wall Street Journal editorial page which is a past featured article. You can read the article by Mr. Stephens here. American help in Kashmir was a turning point in reducing dislike of America but the subsequent actions by the US administration in Iraq and other Muslim countries alongside the US support of Israel in the Israel-Lebanon conflict have negated all that effort.

What the United States needs at this time is not more military presence, it is to improve their image through humanitarian actions. Stereotypes need to be thrown aside for progress to be made in this regard. This article is the first step in realization of this fact.
Asad  Politics 
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Comments made

Thanks for the report sharing.
26/02 05:42:39
I think the only reason for this phobia is that they want to hate, what else? Besides, as far as religion is concerned I have seen every single person on this earth is violent. The reason, it all seems to stem from the human desire to be different, to be a cut above the rest.
27/02 11:56:32

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