Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Winning Over Young Muslims

In his March 3rd column for the New York Times, Tom Friedman emphasizes the desire of many young Muslims for freedom. As he rightly points out, it is important that America stand by them:

The last couple of years have not been easy for anyone, myself included, who hoped that the Iraq war would produce a decent, democratizing outcome. And even in the wake of the remarkable Iraqi election, the toppling of the Lebanese cabinet and the reforms brewing in Egypt, it is too soon for anyone to declare victory. We're dealing with some very unstable chemicals. But what makes me more hopeful today is precisely what made me hopeful that the Iraq war might work out, and that is the number of Arab-Muslim youth I've encountered since 9/11 who have urged me to keep writing about the need for democracy and reform in their part of the world.

Of course, many Americans are surprised by this. America has treated the Arab-Muslim states for 50 years as a collection of gas stations. All we cared about was that their pumps were open and their prices low, and that they be nice to the Israelis. As long as the regimes did that, we said, they could do whatever they wanted "out back." They could treat their women however they wanted, they could write about America in their newspapers however they wanted, and they could preach intolerance of other religions all they wanted - just keep their pumps open and prices low and be nice to the Israelis. On 9/11, we got hit with everything that was going on "out back."

Since then, it's been clear to me that unless we partner with Arabs and Muslims to change their context, unless we help them create the free space for a war of ideas that will allow for a new discussion out front and out back, we're just begging for another 9/11. I always knew we had partners there, but the democratic movements that have now emerged have shown me just how many young people there want to give voice to their aspirations and achieve their full potential - something their governments and spiritual leaders have been blocking.

Please read the rest:

Brave, Young and Muslim

The goal of fostering democracy, contrary to many left wing critics, is not to "impose" our own views on the Muslim world. Rather, the idea is to empower Arabs and Muslims to make their own choices, an option that is currently unavailable to many of them. By providing them with a genuine alternative to corrupt dictatorships and Islamist fanaticism, we can give Muslims the chance to build societies based on hope instead of hate.

Just look at the images coming from Lebanon. Contrast, as Instapundit does, the happy pro-independence demonstrators with the angry thugs acting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. This is the choice young Muslims face for themselves and their societies, in its starkest terms. If you were a young person in the Arab or Muslim world, which future would you find more appealing?


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