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Pervez Hoodbhoy The United States and Islam: Toward Perpetual War? When the banner is unfurled, all reason is in the trumpet —Ukrainian proverb TRAPPED BETWEEN THE SCYLLA OF AMERICAN IMPERIAL ARROGANCE and the Charybdis of Islamic religious fanaticism, citizens of Planet Earth have entered an age of unprecedented insecurity and fear. They are frequently blown to bits both by bombs launched from hundreds of miles away, as well as bombs in backpacks. To be a noncombatant brings no security. Reason and compassion have been ambushed in the Century of Terror. Four years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, global sympa­ thy for the United States has all but vanished. Relations between the United States and Muslim populations—including those governed by pro-US regimes—have never been worse. Nor have Muslims around the world ever felt more inadequate. Crippled and powerless, a billion of them watched “shock and awe” of the US invasion of Iraq on television. It confirmed the imperialist caricature: an America that invades and occupies an oil-rich Arab nation, violates human rights at will, thumbs its nose at the world, and condones the dispossession ofthe Palestinians by Israel. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, followed by reported instances of Quran desecration, lit fires that drove millions to one unanimous conclusion: it must be a fight to the finish. social research Vol 72 : No 4 : Winter 2005 873 Animosities lead to blind spots, and delusions among the public have become ever more dangerous and fantastic. According to a Gallup Poll, 40 percent of all Pakistanis still think that Israelis were actually behind the September 11 attacks. Their argument: “How come 3,000 Jews did not turn up for work that morning?” I would be willing to call my countrymen excessively stupid but for the fact that nearly half of all Americans continue to think that Saddam Hussein was behind these attacks. Some in Washington, including those who launched a war on false pretexts, also live in fantasyland. They think that the United States has a mere image problem in Muslim countries and that hearts and minds will eventually be won over by exercising “soft power” through aid and technology, as well as slickly produced media broadcasts and magazines by overseas US information services. But they could not be more wrong. “The U.S. could have the prophet Muhammad doing public relations, and it wouldn’t help,” argued Osama Siblani, publisher ofthe weekly Arab American News in Dearborn, Michigan. “I don’t believe that people hate movie stars and Burger King. They hate what the U.S. is doing to their lives.” At least in the near future, the relationship between Muslims and the West is likely to continue its downward descent. Muslim terrorist groups will continue to recruit successfully as long as large numbers of Muslims feel that they are being unfairly targeted. Unless this changes and there is a perception that there is some measure ofjustice in world affairs, this trend must be considered irreversible. Moreover, static and declining economies will allow for an abundant supply of terror­ ist recruits. Unless mitigating economic strategies, skill development, and job-creation mechanisms are seriously addressed, the situation will deteriorate as Muslim populations expand. TERRORISM STRIKES AGAIN AND AGAIN In 2005 London joined th at chain of cities—from New York to Mombasa, Madrid to Istanbul, Casablanca to Riyadh, Islamabad to Bali—whose ordinary citizens have suffered indiscriminate, violent, 874 social research and cruel assaults by Islamists. Terrorism returned to center stage, and had scarcely moved off before it returned squarely after Bali-II. As for suicide bombers in Iraq—one is surprised when a day passes without any such incident. Four years later the global “war against terror” is now trapped inside a top that spins faster and faster while going nowhere. In this war, President George W. Bush had warned that “Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign.” Although he made an abor­ tive attempt on the USSAbraham Lincoln to declare victoxy in Iraq, subse­ quent events have shown how badly the campaign is going. Bombed, hounded, and evicted from form er sanctuaries in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden’s men, along with countless others who share...


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