Bin Laden’s Soft Support

BIN LADEN’S SOFT SUPPORT….After the imam leaves and the conversation lingers into the small hours of the morning, what do young Islamic radicals talk about? In “Bin Laden’s Soft Support,” in the current issue of the Monthly, Kenneth Ballen writes that when he started taking part in the all-night conversations that Indonesians call jagongan, he was startled to learn that, often, the answer was…..exit visas:

After that, whenever we had the chance to speak with young radicals in Indonesia, out of the hearing of their leaders and late at night, we’d always ask: How many of you want to study in America? Invariably, almost everyone said yes, and those who still disdained the Great Satan were eager to study in Canada, Australia, or France instead.

We were intrigued. What if supporters of al-Qaeda in countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia felt the same way as young Indonesians? Was their support for al-Qaeda — and their hatred of America — really as intense as it had first appeared?

Terror Free Tomorrow, our nonprofit polling organization, decided to pursue this question further….Our polls show that the anger Muslims around the world feel towards the United States is not primarily directed at our people or values — even those who say they support bin Laden don’t, for the most part, “hate us for our freedoms,” as President Bush has claimed. Rather, what drives Islamic public opinion is a pervasive perception that the United States and the West are hostile towards Islam. This perception, right or wrong, is fed by a variety of American actions, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the overarching global war on terror. These actions are seen as profoundly disrespectful and humiliating because they amount to America forcing its will on the Muslim world.

This isn’t the whole story, of course, not by many miles. But it’s a part of the story, and TFT’s polling has produced more than a few intriguing results. Read the rest for more.