Thursday, April 26, 2007

Be prepared

This, as reported in Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor, is something I'm sure will be appearing in the right wing blogs and in the ammo belts of wingnut trolls
One of the most alarming findings of a new poll of attitudes in four Muslim countries is that a majority of respondents say they support two of Al Qaeda's chief goals: They want strict Islamic law, or sharia, in Muslim countries and to "unify all Islamic countries into a single state, or Caliphate."
Sounds ominous and likely will be filed right next to that quote from Osama bin Laden, something about getting the US out of Iraq is not the end of the struggle (with which I actually agree but on a dramatically different basis), that gets tossed up whenever the idea of pulling out of Iraq is raised. But, as is often the case, reality lies just beyond the wingers' grasp. (Well, actually, it's well within their grasp, they just refuse to close their hands around it.)
[A] closer look at attitudes in Egypt and Pakistan, two of the countries surveyed, reveals a more nuanced perspective that also welcomes democracy and freedom of religion.
The survey by for the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) revealed widespread support for the idea of Sharia, but a wide range of ideas of what that meant. Stephen Weber of PIPA said
[a] useful analogy ... is to consider the fact that many Americans support Judeo-Christian values and the Ten Commandments, "but few would endorse stoning an adulteress."
More specifically, in one of the countries studied, Indonesia, the group found 53% "strongly" or "somewhat" agreeing
that the sharia should be followed in every Muslim country.

But a more in-depth poll of Indonesian opinions by the Asia Foundation in 2003 found that most Indonesians did not want Islamic law to replace the civil legal system, force women to cover their hair, or permit the mutilation of thieves and the killing of adulterers. Instead, they saw sharia as an admonition that Muslims abide by the five pillars of Islam: prayer, belief in God, pilgrimage to Mecca, giving alms, and fasting during Ramadan.
In addition, more than 75% in all four countries (the fourth was Morocco) called attacks on civilians un-Islamic and majorities in three opposed al-Qaeda's attacks on the US. (In the other, Pakistan, a heavy majority declined to answer that question, "rendering it difficult to gauge attitudes there.")

What all this comes down to is that most Muslims in the four countries studied - one in north Africa, one in the Middle East, one in south-central Asia, and one in southeast Asia - reject not only the violence of such as al-Qaeda but also the theocratic vision of the mullahs of Iran. Rather, they are looking for a way to integrate their religion with their civil lives into a coherent whole. That doesn't mean I'd like the end result of such a blending any more than I would like the results of our homegrown religious fanatics achieving their goal of a "Christian nation." It does, however, provide proof that contrary to the politically-useful paranoia of the putrid pundits, the people of the Muslim world are not interested in, as someone famously and similarly said, invading our countries, overthrowing our leaders, and forcibly converting us to Islam.

Footnote: There was one significant exception to the opposition to violence:
The poll also found that most respondents want US forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on US troops there. Large majorities also say that undermining Islam was a key goal of US foreign policy.
Now, I actually am convinced that those responsible for our attack on and occupation of Iraq don't give a flying damn if somebody's religion focuses on Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They only care if you're ready to play ball with us on our terms. However, I strongly suspect that the former of those convictions among Muslims is to a significant extent driven by the latter one. And every time one of our jackass wackos refers to Islam as a "religion of hate" or whatever, it just gives them more reason to believe it.

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