Sunday, July 24, 2005


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics

From The Pew Global Attitudes Project, co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and by former Senator John C. Danforth.

Support for Terror Wanes Among Muslim Publics

Concerns about Islamic extremism, widespread in the West even before this month’s terrorist attacks in London, are shared to a considerable degree by the publics in several predominantly Muslim nations, most notably Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia. Most Muslim publics are also expressing less support for acts of terrorism in defense of Islam and less confidence in Osama bin Laden.

Yet, the latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted this spring among more than 17,000 people in 17 countries, finds that Muslim and non-Muslim publics have very different attitudes with regard to the impact of Islam on their countries.

While publics in predominantly Muslim countries voice concerns that Islamic extremism can lead to violence, fewer personal freedoms, internal divisions, and retarded economic development, the balance of opinion is that Islam is playing a larger political role in their nations, and most welcome that development. Turkey is a clear exception: there the public is divided about the desirability of a larger political role for Islam.

In non-Muslim countries, fears of Islamic extremism are closely associated with worries that Muslims living there do not want to adopt their nation’s customs and way of life. There is also a widespread perception, including among Americans, that resident Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity—a development that is viewed especially negatively in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Other findings detailed in this, the second release based on the survey, include:

* Large and growing majorities in some predominantly Muslim countries—notably Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia—continue to say that democracy can work well in their own countries. Yet, except in Indonesia and Jordan where views are divided, Muslims in these countries are far more likely to think of themselves first as a Muslim rather than as a citizen of their particular country.

* Further ambivalence with respect to the role of Islam in political life is seen in the tendency of Muslims who see Islam’s role increasing also to be more likely to say that Islamic extremism poses a threat to their home countries.

* Support for acts of terrorism in defense of Islam has declined significantly in all majority-Muslim countries surveyed. Only in Jordan does a majority (57%) still find such acts justified. But opinion is divided over suicide bomber attacks on Americans and other Westerners in Iraq: Substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia find such attacks are not justifiable, but nearly half of Muslims in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56% in Morocco say they are. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has also fallen to low levels in most of these countries with the exception of Jordan and Pakistan.

* Among predominantly Muslim countries, nearly three-quarters of Moroccans, who witnessed a devastating terrorist attack two years ago, and roughly half of Pakistanis, Turks and Indonesians, see Islamic extremism as a threat in their own countries. Views are mixed on the causes of such extremism with U.S. policies and influence most frequently cited in Lebanon and Jordan, poverty and lack of jobs in Morocco and Pakistan, immorality in Indonesia and lack of education in Turkey.

* In the non-Muslim world, concerns about Islamic extremism—both within their own borders and around the world—is most intense in Russia, India, Spain and Germany. However, worry also runs high in France and the Netherlands. Before this month’s terrorist attacks in London, Britons and Americans expressed more concern about extremist attacks around the world than in their home countries.

* Europeans attitudes toward the admission of Turkey into the European Union appear to be associated to some degree with concerns about Islamic extremism but even more strongly with negative views about immigration. Opposition is strongest in Germany and France as well as the Netherlands, while support for Turkey’s admission is strongest in Spain and Great Britain.

* Despite concerns about Islamic identity and extremism, majorities of the publics of most countries in Europe and North America hold favorable views of Muslims; only in the Netherlands and Germany do opinions tilt to the negative. However, people in predominantly Muslim countries hold mixed views of Christians and strongly negative views of Jews.

* Bans on the wearing of head scarves by Muslim women are heavily opposed in majority-Muslim countries (including Turkey), but are favored by large majorities in France and India and small majorities in Germany and the Netherlands.

* While majorities in five of the six Muslim countries surveyed still hold unfavorable views of the U.S., a majority of Moroccans now report having a favorable opinion. In Morocco, as well as in Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey, young people are more likely to give favorable marks to the U.S. than are older people. In most Muslim countries, women are also somewhat more likely than men to look positively on the U.S. although they are also less likely to offer an opinion.

View Report

Monday, July 11, 2005

They Do Not Need To Win

The terrorism that struck London last week is not some attack on 'the Western way of life'. It is not because of Big Macs, Reality TV, and beach thongs that hoards of terrorist recruits are lining up to join this new multinational criminal enterprise or global insurgency, if you prefer. Yet, almost four years after 9/11, we continue to hear the same old garbage from the same old people. They just don’t get it or don't want to get it and as long as they don’t, we shall continue to fail on this issue. The same terrorists that struck London, also struck major Muslim centers since 9/11, namely Casablanca, Istanbul, Cairo, Doha, Karachi, Jeddah, and Riyadh- not to mention their killing spree in Baghdad. They have attacked far more Muslim cities than they have Western cities. So, why is it that only when these murderers attack a Western city that Sam Huntington’s washed-out theory of clashing civilizations becomes gospel again? Were those civilizations clashing when innocent Moroccans, Turks, Egyptians, Qataris, Pakistanis, Saudis, and Iraqis were maimed and killed? I am tired of false theories and flat-out incompetence on this issue, and there is plenty of blame to go around, believe me.

First, I blame us. When I say us, I mean the Muslim world. Whether we like it or not, these murderers are our responsibility. They are our cockroaches and they are infesting the world with poisonous murder. We allowed them to take charge of our future while we were busy sipping coffee at the corner store. These criminals can never prosper without a “cause” and we allowed them to shape that “cause” to their liking and usher our children into the battlefields of hate and murder. Thomas Friedman recently wrote a column in the New York Times calling for the Muslim world to shame the terrorists. He is right to suggest that the likes of Al Qaeda can only be defeated by “the Muslim village”, because Friedman, I suppose, has gotten to understand what others in the West continue to ignore: It’s the cause, hence recruitment, stupid. That’s what allows these organizations to thrive and the only group that would be able to choke the ideological lines that lead to terrorist recruitment are Muslims. Muslims have to pry their grievances from the clutches of the terrorists and claim ownership of Muslim advocacy. Where Friedman falls short is in his apparent failure to recognize the generation gap that now exists in the Muslim world. Condemnations by "village elders", so to speak, are no longer enough because the al-Zarqawis of the world do no give a hoot what the old scholars at Al Azhar say or do. It will take the whole village.

Second, I blame us again. This time by us I mean the West, most particularly the US. We have become in this new era of Paris Hilton TV stubbornly selfish and decidedly stupid. See, the 'way-of-life' argument I raised in my opening paragraph is grossly misplaced; it is not a causal component at the source but rather a problematic element of the response. We have outsourced our intellectual capacity to the guy on the TV screen and allowed the politics of fear, incompetence and arrogance to dictate the course of policy in this country. It is still the Policy Stupid. We sit and listen to mouth-foaming ignoramuses like O’Reilly and company and never take the time to research, analyze, and construct – hence, denying our brain its most basic functions. It’s whatever that guy says!! In the meanwhile, new recruits are being trained in urban terrorism in Iraq and it is a matter of time before the Al-Zarqawi brigades, which are a whole lot stealthier and far more dangerous, reek havoc around the world (so much for "fighting them over there so that we don't fight them here" nonesense). With our vulgar mismanagement of post-war Iraq, we have handed Al Qaeda a second base there and a new cause to expand their recruitment. We have not yet come to understand that the likes of Al Qaeda do not need to win. Their whole existence is predicated on conflict and terrorism. They feed off military responses like maggots on rotting flesh– that’s their fuel, their best recruiting tool. You bomb Iraq, they say: “Thank you very much, we’ll take that. What else have you got for me? Abu Ghraib? Fallujah? have you considred bombing Tehran or Damascus?”.

Global attitude surveys (see my previous post) show widespread resentment of American policy including in countries considered to be this nation's closest allies. Such mounting resentment can provide fertile ground for terrorist recruitment (providing unity of purpose for anger). As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: “Shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.” Secretary Rumsfeld has acknowledged in a leaked memo last year that there was no way to measure Al Qaeda recruitment across the globe. Have you asked why that is?

When we do try to answer that important question fully and honestly then maybe, and just maybe, demands for correct attitudes, sound policies and more accountability on the issue of terrorism would become the new fashion, or shall I say "the new fad". In the meanwhile, turn that TV off, would ya?

An Update on Al Qaeda From A Field Researcher

The first I heard of the London bombing last Thursday morning was at a speaking event in downtown Washington DC. The speech that morning was delivered by a friend who had just returned from Pakistan where he was investigating the trail of Bin Laden and his sidekick, al-Zawahiri. I was looking forward to his presentation because when I spoke to him a few days earlier, he had promised that he would share some new facts and details on Al Qaeda movements in and around the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I listened very carefully to the findings presented that morning as a result of the investigative work done by the presenter and his team in Pakistan and along border areas in Eastern Afghanistan. Many of the details shared that morning did not shock or surprise me, although I found some to be rather peculiar.

1. Al Qaeda is not a centralized operation. It relies on autonomous and semi-autonomous groups to plan and execute terror attacks around the world. Attacks such as those executed in London last week do not require the approval nor the knowledge of Bin Laden and his Lieutenants. The Al Qaeda leadership has completely decentralized its decision-making to local terrorists after having provided blanket approvals for a wide range of attacks on a large number of targets.

2. Al Qaeda is still very successful at moving both information and money around. They rely on human intelligence and couriers to transport messages, supplies, and money in and around their areas of operation.

3. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri do not travel together. In fact, they move separately, each with his following of terrorists, through various networks of safe houses and camps depending on time of the year. They both have a winter and a summer itinerary, which on second thought is expected given the fact that weather conditions in remote areas of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border require serious adjustments.

4. The Arab regiments of Al Qaeda, who have nurtured blood ties to local tribes through marriage since the Jihad days of the 1980s, are more or less centered around Bin Laden, while the Uzbek/Chechens are under the control of al-Zawahiri.

5. The Pakistani political party Jamaat-e-Islami and elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence services (ISI) continue to provide significant logistical support to Al Qaeda, including information, safe houses and a host of communication equipment. In fact, many of the safe houses where AlQaeda operatives like Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Khaled Sheikh Mohamed were captured were owned and/or operated by Jamaat-e-Islami officials.

6. Searches of safe houses used by Al Qaeda in Pakistan turned up a variety of sophisticated media and communication equipment. The findings from a raid conducted recently into a safe house in a remote area of Pakistan included high quality video and audio equipment, computer stations, communication gear and propaganda equipment. Al Qaeda also obtains weapon supplies from a wide number of local manufacturers in the area (small Pop&Mom shops of death). These shops make everything from mines, mortars and IEDs to refurbished rifles and stingers.

7. There appears to be an ideological or tactical rift between Bin Laden, supported by the Arab militias, and Al-Zawahiri who mostly commands Uzbek/Chechen rebels. The former allegedly favors a strategy that focuses on attacking the West first and not to provoke Arab regimes into the fight. The latter reportedly believes that the fight should be waged from within Arab and Muslim Lands. They believe in two different sides of their own version of the Domino effect.

8. Precision-guided bombing is conducted within Pakistan against suspected Al Qaeda targets. This may sound like a fact of very little value, except that Pakistan does not own or operate precision-guided ammunition.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pew Global Attitudes Survey 2005

The Pew Research Center has recently released a 16-nation Global Attitudes Survey that gave America mixed reviews amid what still remains a very negative world view of U.S. policy. Among the many interesting findings of the survey, I would like to make the following observations:

1. India is the most pro-American nation in the survey sample. Almost three out of four (71%) Indians expressed favorable opinions of the U.S. The majority of Indians (63%) believe that U.S. policy considers the interests of other nations.

2. Opinions of the U.S. in Indonesia have improved significantly since 2003 (from only 15% in 2003 to 38% in 2005). This improvement is undoubtedly linked to the relief efforts conducted by the US following the Tsunami. Although the majority of Indonesians still hold negative views of the US, it is clear that US efforts to provide relief to Tsunami victims in that country have been of significant value.

3. Strong majorities in Indonesia (59%), India (63%), and China (53%) believe that U.S. foreign policy considers others' interests. Note that only 25% of Indonesians believed that to be the case in 2003. This is clearly a vote of confidence for U.S. humanitarian relief in the case of Indonesia and trade/globalization in the case of China and India.

4. Strong majorities in the surveyed countries of Western Europe and the Muslim World (except Indonesia) believe that U.S. foreign policy does NOT consider the interests of other nations. This is clearly an expression of distrust and frustration with U.S. efforts in Iraq and post 9-11 policies.

5. Favorable ratings of the US have been steadily slipping in both Canada and Britain. Although majorities there (59% and 55% respectively) still have positive views of the U.S., note that those ratings were much higher only five years ago (71% and 83% respectively in 2000).

6. Favorable ratings of the U.S. in Lebanon have improved since 2003 (from 27% in 2003 to 42% today). One can only speculate about the contribution of US pressure on Syria to this unexpected improvement. The survey also shows that Lebanon remains a very sectarian country with deep divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

7. Favorable ratings of the U.S. in Morocco have plunged from 77% only five years ago (2000) to a miserable 27% in 2004 (data for 2005 was not yet ready for publication). However, the Pew Research Center explains that preliminary results from Morocco suggest significant improvements in the U.S. image there.

8. Most surveyed Western European countries (except Poland) find the US to be too religious. All surveyed Muslim countries find the U.S. not to be religious enough. Americans (58%) agree with the assessment of Muslims on this issue.

9. Majorities in all surveyed nations, except Russia and Poland, believe that the problem with the U.S. is “mostly Bush”. Only in Poland and Russia (49% and 58% respectively) believe that the problem with the U.S. is “America in general”. Remember that the majority of Poles (56%) find the U.S. not to be religious enough. President Bush is very unpopular in all surveyed countries except in India where 54% of those surveyed view him favorably.

10. Strong majorities in all of the countries surveyed believe Americans are “Hardworking” and “Inventive”. Majorities also believe that Americans are “violent” and “Greedy”. In fact 70% of surveyed Americans think of themselves as “Greedy”. The French and Germans are the least likely to associate that term with Americans.

11. The majority of surveyed Canadians believe that Americans are “rude”, “violent”, “dishonest”, and “greedy”. But, they also find their neighbors to be “Hardworking” and “Inventive”.

12. France and Germany love each other more than they love themselves. 89% of the French think highly of Germans (they only gave themselves a 74% favorability rating), whereas 78% of the Germans think highly of the French (they only gave themselves a 64% favorability rating). Get a room you two!! :)

13. Most surveyed countries including Canada, Britain, and Russia expressed markedly higher favorability ratings for France and Germany than for the U.S. Majorities in the surveyed Muslim countries give markedly higher marks to Western Europe, Japan, and China than they do the U.S. Only India reserved its highest favorability rating (71%) for the U.S.

14. Of all the surveyed nations, Indians are the only ones who still view the US as the land of opportunity. Australia has become the land of opportunity for most Western Europeans and China and Japan have become attractive destinations for Pakistanis and Indonesians respectively.

15. The Chinese are very happy with the way things are going at home. 88% of Chinese rated their country favorably, which is possibly an endorsement of pro-growth strategies in China – also reflects high hopes among the Chinese regarding their economic and political future.

16. Majorities in the U.S., Turkey, and Russia believe that they are disliked by the rest of the world. Strong majorities in all other surveyed nations believe that they are liked.

Favorable Opinion of the U.S. (Click on image)

Source: The Pew Global Project Attitudes, June 23, 2005.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Last Night With Cheb Khaled

Last night, I attended a diplomatic reception honoring the Algerian pop star Cheb Khaled. The Party was held at the Jordanian Embassy, which I thought was a very kind and generous gesture by the Jordanian government in general and the Jordanian Ambassador in particular. But, I could not help but ask: Why the heck was the party not held at the Algerian Embassy? Khaled is only one of the biggest artists to ever come out of Algeria. It appears that the Algerian Embassy was asked to host the event but turned it down. To be fair, though I remain skeptical, there may have been logistical or scheduling conflicts that made it impossible for the Algerians to host the party. But, again I remain unconvinced as to the explanations I received so far.

At any rate, it was good fun and the hundred or so people in attendance were treated to some great food from a local Algerian restaurant and an upbeat speech by Khaled. Tonight, Khaled will be singing at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium.

World Bank To Support Morocco In Developing The Housing Sector

World Bank Announcement:

The World Bank's Board of Directors approved today a US$150 million loan to support the efforts of the government in the process of reforming an enabling environment for the housing sector and significantly expanding the access of the urban poor to decent housing.

The Housing Sector Development Policy Loan (HSDPL) supports the implementation of the Government of Morocco policy reforms and programs in the housing sector. It seeks to contribute to the improvement of the overall functionality of the housing sector, reducing the current market distortions and enabling private sector companies to participate more fully in the production and commercialization of housing goods. At the same time, the new project will assist the Government with the definition and implementation of specific policies and programs targeted to the urban poor, and especially the slum-dwellers, that would continue to benefit from public subsidies.

The reforms supported by the Loan aim to Strengthen the institutional, regulatory and fiscal environment of the housing sector, through :
  • modernizing urban planning standards and regulations;
  • restructuring and refocusing public sector housing agencies and enterprises; and
  • rationalizing and simplifying real estate taxes and subsidies.
The project aims also to increase access of low income households to more affordable and higher quality housing, through :
  • expanding urban slum upgrading and social housing programs;
  • improving the efficiency of the residential rental market; and
  • expanding access of informal sector and low-income households to housing finance.

The proposed operation supports the second strategic objective of the new Morocco Country Assistance Strategy (CAS 2005-2009), recently approved by the board of directors last May 19, of providing improved access to quality services for the poorest and most marginalized parts of the population. It directly supports the CAS specific goal, under the second strategic objective, of reducing slums and increasing access to affordable housing for the poorest segments of the population.