The war on terror is largely a result of a civil war within Islam. The extremists use terrorism, oppress those who don’t agree with them, and establish states based on strict Sharia law. The moderates, who may disagree with U.S. foreign policy but stand for freedom and democratic principles while opposing terrorism, may not have as powerful of a voice, but they are decisively winning this conflict, making advances in almost every part of the Islamic world.
The Middle East is where the turnaround is the greatest. When the Iranian regime rigged the elections in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12, the population began a peaceful uprising and today protests against Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, and chants calling for democracy and human rights are commonplace. The regime is today facing the greatest challenge to its very survival since its creation in 1979. This instability has already caused problems for terrorists relying upon Iranian support and when the regime one day inevitably falls, it will have positive consequences across the world.
In Iraq, the provincial elections of January 31, 2009, were a blow to sectarianism and those against separation of mosque and state. The groups who focused on issues like security and less on religion and sectarian identity benefited politically. The party of Prime Minister al-Maliki, who had made the decision of taking on the Iranian-backed militias of Muqtada al-Sadr, won in a landslide, even winning in Baghdad, Basra, and Najaf, strongholds of the Sadrists and his more religiously conservative rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Gains were also made by the secular Shiite party of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, while the moderate Sunnis affiliated with the Awakening, the movement that sparked an uprising among Iraqis against the insurgents and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, have become a significant political force.
On June 7, the March 14 coalition led by Saad al-Hariri defeated Hezbollah in Lebanon, taking 72 of the 128 seats, even though the terrorist group had allied with the Free Patriotic Party, a Maronite Christian party led by Michel Aoun. Al-Hariri’s victory could only have happened with a large amount of Muslim support.
On May 16, four women were elected to Kuwait’s parliament and the Islamists were handed a political defeat. The Islamic Constitutional Movement, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic Salafi Alliance lost four seats. They now only hold three of the 50 seats in parliament.
Polls in the region show a dramatic drop in support for terrorist organizations and key pillars of extremist doctrine. In Saudi Arabia, for example, nearly half of all Saudis had a favorable opinion of Osama bin Laden in a poll conducted only a few months after al-Qaeda bombed Riyadh in May 2003. In December 2007, only 10 percent of Saudis had a favorable view of al-Qaeda and 15 percent had a favorable view of bin Laden. Forty percent view the U.S. favorably and more Saudis view Hamas and Hezbollah unfavorably than favorably.
All across the Middle East there are signs of hope, such as election victories by moderates, louder calls for human rights and democratic principles and against extremism, and reforms instituted by governments to ease popular pressure. This encouraging trend is also taking place in Southeast Asia.