Who supports terrorism?
The Washington Post today has two excellent articles related to Islamic terrorism. The first summarizes the findings of a Gallup poll in eight Muslim nations
about support for terrorism. In stark contrast to the comfortable American image of terrorist sympathizers as poor, religious, and ignorant, the poll found that more above-average-income Muslims supported the 9/11 attacks than those with lower wages. Also, support for extremist views was higher among Muslims with high school or college educations than those without. The primary distinguishing factor found by the poll between Muslims who supported terrorism and those who did not? "Extremists were only about half as likely as moderates to believe that the United States would allow people in the Middle East to fashion their own political future."
This cuts to the heart of the story we in the US like to tell ourselves about terrorism, that it is only the atavistic who endorse and participate in it. We need to look beyond that simple analysis if we're going to make progress on fighting extremism politically.
The second article is an oped by Jackson Diehl on apocalyptic thinkers and reformers in Iran
(apropos of a recent post
by Saheli). There's a growing movement in the holy city of Qom that believes the 12th Imam of Shiite Islam is going to appear soon, to usher in the end of the world. President Ahmadinejad has even weighed in, saying that he expects Number 12 within the next two years, and presumably the last dance not long afterwards. This is not the kind of thing you want to hear from a guy developing nukes. But Qom is also home to a lot of liberal religious figures. Two of the Grand Ayatollahs in Qom, Hossein Ali Montazeri and Yusuf Saanei, are outspoken advocates of democracy and opponents of terrorism. Saanei has issued pronouncements condemning discrimination against women and condoning abortion in the first trimester. Their high religious status allows them to not fear reprisals, and they have been speaking out systematically for reform. Although it is overshadowed by the foolish nuclear ambitions of the current government, there is huge potential for reform in Iran that we cannot afford to ignore.