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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bin Laden's Soft Support: How the next president can win over the world's most alienated Muslims. By Kenneth Ballen

Kenneth Ballen is the president of Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which has conducted international polling in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Turkey and elsewhere. The results of the surveys are at

[Here is an excerpt: please also read the last three paragraphs - How We Can Help al-Qaeda Ruin its Own Reputation. While he rightly points out the reasons for Muslim angst at the US policies, he fails to spell out clearly how it would dissipate. In his essay he mentions "Israel" only once. "The prospect of the United States brokering a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians is distant, but if it became a reality, our surveys suggest that this would significantly change perceptions of America in the Muslim world, especially among Palestinians and Syrians. But right now in Saudi Arabia, less than a quarter of Saudis believe that a successful peace process would improve their opinion of the United States a great deal."

This is skimping over geo-political reality in an un-scholarly fashion. The Muslim perception of the US Administration as a knee-jerk supporter of Israeli occupation and intransigence towards Palestinians is the corner stone of this angst.

That it needed to built on Islamophobia after the demise of the USSR is not lost on Muslims either. 9/11 reinforced the perception on both sides.

The first steps this or any US Administration can take is to show its neutrality in mid-east. And then build on it. It will be a long journey. But if there is a genuine will it can be done. t]


Significantly, however, our polling indicates that there are steps that the United States can undertake that could dramatically reverse anti-American attitudes born of this sense of disrespect—if we ask first, rather than thinking we know what’s best. Indeed, these steps are relatively easier to take than more fundamental changes, such as an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan.

For instance, six out of every ten Pakistanis who have a favorable view toward bin Laden and al-Qaeda said their opinion of America would significantly improve if the United States increased educational, medical and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, as well as the number of visas available to Pakistanis to work or study in the United States. In fact, more bin Laden and al-Qaeda supporters said their opinion of the United States would improve with such American policies than did non-bin Laden supporters. Not everyone would change their mind: One in ten bin Laden and al-Qaeda supporters said that their opinion of the United States would not change no matter what America does. This is al-Qaeda’s real, far smaller core of fervent and intractable support.


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