[Homestead] Perspective in foreign affairs

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 14:23:43 EDT 2004


It is easy to misjudge the course of current history when we are 
inundated with conflicting views.  Some of the worst current news may be 
resolved with a whimper instead of a crash of civilizations.  While I 
have a jaundiced view of institutionalized religion, and know for 
acertainty the world is worse off because of them, it is quite possible 
the Jihadists are losing their war with more moderate Muslims against 
whom their threats are primarly focussed. We don't see that, being 
absorbed in the immediate effect against us and our reaction to it.


   
washingtonpost.com
Are the Terrorists Failing?

By David Ignatius

Tuesday, September 28, 2004; Page A27

Looking at the gruesome images of beheadings and suicide bombings in 
Iraq, it's easy to think that the Islamic holy warriors are winning. But 
a new book by a distinguished French Arabist named Gilles Kepel argues 
the opposite case. For all the mayhem the jihadists have caused, he 
contends, their movement is failing.

Rather than waging a successful jihad against the West, the followers of 
Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction in the house of 
Islam. This internal crisis is known in Arabic as fitna: "It has an 
opposite and negative connotation from jihad," explains Kepel. "It 
signifies sedition, war in the heart of Islam, a centrifugal force that 
threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and 
ruin."

Kepel was in Washington last week promoting his book, and his comments 
provided a useful antidote to the political debate surrounding the visit 
by Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The struggle against 
Islamist terrorism is neither the rosy success story painted by Allawi 
and President Bush nor the disastrous free-fall described by John Kerry. 
Instead, it is one unresolved battle in the long-term struggle 
summarized by the title of Kepel's new book, "The War for Muslim Minds."

The French scholar argues that the West has been misreading the 
aftermath of bin Laden's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He cites a December 
2001 pamphlet, "Knights Under the Prophet's Banner," written by al 
Qaeda's key strategist, the Egyptian doctor Ayman Zawahiri. The 
jihadists should attack the "faraway enemy" in the United States, 
Zawahiri urged, because it would help mobilize the Muslim masses to 
overthrow their rulers in the "nearby enemy."

Kepel believes that the United States has stumbled badly in Iraq, and 
he's sharply critical of U.S. policies there. But that doesn't mean the 
jihadists are winning. Quite the contrary, their movement has backfired. 
Rather than bringing Islamic regimes to power, the holy warriors are 
creating internal strife and discord. Their actions are killing far more 
Muslims than nonbelievers.

"The principal goal of terrorism -- to seize power in Muslim countries 
through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity 
-- has not been realized," Kepel writes. In fact, bin Laden's followers 
are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; 
the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides 
more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in 
retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. 
And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under 
foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.

Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq -- the 
kidnappings and beheadings, and the car-bombing massacres of young Iraqi 
police recruits -- are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses. No 
sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled 
by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that 
most of the dead from post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda bombings in Turkey and 
Morocco were fellow Muslims.

A perfect example of how the jihadists' efforts have backfired, argues 
Kepel, was last month's kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq. 
The kidnappers announced that they would release their hostages only if 
the French government reversed its new policy banning Muslim women from 
wearing headscarves in French public schools. "They imagined that they 
would mobilize Muslims with this demand, but French Muslims were aghast 
and denounced the kidnappers," Kepel explained to a Washington audience. 
He noted that French Muslims took to the streets to protest against the 
kidnappers and to proclaim their French citizenship.

Kepel believes that the war for Muslim minds may hinge most of all on 
these European Muslims. In countries such as France, Britain and 
Germany, large Muslim populations are living in secular, democratic 
societies. All the tensions and contradictions of the larger Muslim 
world are compressed into the lives of these European Muslims, but 
they're free to let the struggle play out in open debate. Thus, it's in 
Europe that Islam may finally find its accommodation with modern life.

Perhaps it takes an outsider -- a Frenchman, even -- to help Americans 
see the war on terrorism in perspective. Saturated in terrorism alerts 
and images of violence from Iraq, Americans may miss the essential fact 
that the terrorists are losing. And because we see this as a war against 
America, rather than one within Islam, we may miss the real dynamics.

When Americans ponder the right strategy for Iraq, they need to ask, 
with Kepel, whether U.S. policies will help those seeking to modernize 
Islam or hurt them. A precipitous withdrawal, leaving the field to the 
jihadists, would be a disaster. But so would a bloody and unending 
occupation. Kepel reminds us, too, that the best counterattack against 
the jihadists would be to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

davidignatius at washpost.com

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

   
washingtonpost.com
Are the Terrorists Failing?

By David Ignatius

Tuesday, September 28, 2004; Page A27

Looking at the gruesome images of beheadings and suicide bombings in 
Iraq, it's easy to think that the Islamic holy warriors are winning. But 
a new book by a distinguished French Arabist named Gilles Kepel argues 
the opposite case. For all the mayhem the jihadists have caused, he 
contends, their movement is failing.

Rather than waging a successful jihad against the West, the followers of 
Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction in the house of 
Islam. This internal crisis is known in Arabic as fitna: "It has an 
opposite and negative connotation from jihad," explains Kepel. "It 
signifies sedition, war in the heart of Islam, a centrifugal force that 
threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and 
ruin."

Kepel was in Washington last week promoting his book, and his comments 
provided a useful antidote to the political debate surrounding the visit 
by Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The struggle against 
Islamist terrorism is neither the rosy success story painted by Allawi 
and President Bush nor the disastrous free-fall described by John Kerry. 
Instead, it is one unresolved battle in the long-term struggle 
summarized by the title of Kepel's new book, "The War for Muslim Minds."

The French scholar argues that the West has been misreading the 
aftermath of bin Laden's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He cites a December 
2001 pamphlet, "Knights Under the Prophet's Banner," written by al 
Qaeda's key strategist, the Egyptian doctor Ayman Zawahiri. The 
jihadists should attack the "faraway enemy" in the United States, 
Zawahiri urged, because it would help mobilize the Muslim masses to 
overthrow their rulers in the "nearby enemy."

Kepel believes that the United States has stumbled badly in Iraq, and 
he's sharply critical of U.S. policies there. But that doesn't mean the 
jihadists are winning. Quite the contrary, their movement has backfired. 
Rather than bringing Islamic regimes to power, the holy warriors are 
creating internal strife and discord. Their actions are killing far more 
Muslims than nonbelievers.

"The principal goal of terrorism -- to seize power in Muslim countries 
through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity 
-- has not been realized," Kepel writes. In fact, bin Laden's followers 
are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; 
the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides 
more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in 
retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. 
And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under 
foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.

Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq -- the 
kidnappings and beheadings, and the car-bombing massacres of young Iraqi 
police recruits -- are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses. No 
sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled 
by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that 
most of the dead from post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda bombings in Turkey and 
Morocco were fellow Muslims.

A perfect example of how the jihadists' efforts have backfired, argues 
Kepel, was last month's kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq. 
The kidnappers announced that they would release their hostages only if 
the French government reversed its new policy banning Muslim women from 
wearing headscarves in French public schools. "They imagined that they 
would mobilize Muslims with this demand, but French Muslims were aghast 
and denounced the kidnappers," Kepel explained to a Washington audience. 
He noted that French Muslims took to the streets to protest against the 
kidnappers and to proclaim their French citizenship.

Kepel believes that the war for Muslim minds may hinge most of all on 
these European Muslims. In countries such as France, Britain and 
Germany, large Muslim populations are living in secular, democratic 
societies. All the tensions and contradictions of the larger Muslim 
world are compressed into the lives of these European Muslims, but 
they're free to let the struggle play out in open debate. Thus, it's in 
Europe that Islam may finally find its accommodation with modern life.

Perhaps it takes an outsider -- a Frenchman, even -- to help Americans 
see the war on terrorism in perspective. Saturated in terrorism alerts 
and images of violence from Iraq, Americans may miss the essential fact 
that the terrorists are losing. And because we see this as a war against 
America, rather than one within Islam, we may miss the real dynamics.

When Americans ponder the right strategy for Iraq, they need to ask, 
with Kepel, whether U.S. policies will help those seeking to modernize 
Islam or hurt them. A precipitous withdrawal, leaving the field to the 
jihadists, would be a disaster. But so would a bloody and unending 
occupation. Kepel reminds us, too, that the best counterattack against 
the jihadists would be to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

davidignatius at washpost.com







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