July 30, 2005

THERE WAS A LARGE PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTEST in Bahrain. Publius has more.

Meanwhile, Jim Dunnigan observes:

Moderate Moslem voices are now being heard, which is a major victory in the war on terror. Since the emergence of radical Islamic terrorism in the 1990s, one of the major failures of religious and political leadership in the world’s Moslem community has been their apparent unwillingness to openly criticize fellow Moslems. While this reticence is not unknown in the leadership of other religions plagued by radical extremists, given the strength and lethality of Moslem radicals, this failure to openly confront the extremists has led to considerable public outcry in the non-Moslem world. Of late, however, there are indications that Islamic religious leaders are becoming increasingly aware of how their failure to speak up has served only to encourage the radicals, while further discrediting Islam in the world at large. For some time now Afghan and Iraqi clerics been speaking up, often at considerable personal risk. By ones estimate some 200 Moslem clerics have been slain in the past year or so because they spoke out. And of late, other voices have been raised as well.

Read the whole thing. It’s a far cry from where we want to be, but it’s still substantial progress.

UPDATE: Max Boot notices more progress in international opinion:

The public opinion poll was conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, hardly a bastion of neocon zealotry. (It’s co-chaired by Madeleine Albright.) Over the last three years, Pew surveys have charted surging anti-Americanism in response to the invasion of Iraq and other actions of the Bush administration. But its most recent poll — conducted in May, with 17,000 respondents in 17 countries — also found evidence that widespread antipathy is abating.

The percentage of people holding a favorable impression of the United States increased in Indonesia (+23 points), Lebanon (+15), Pakistan (+2) and Jordan (+16). It also went up in such non-Muslim nations as France, Germany, Russia and India.

What accounts for this shift? The answer varies by country, but analysts point to waning public anger over the invasion of Iraq, gratitude for the massive U.S. tsunami relief effort and growing conviction that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy.

There is also increasing aversion to America’s enemies, even in the Islamic world. The Pew poll found that “nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries.” . . . Muslim opinion also challenges jihadist orthodoxy that proclaims that giving power to the people, rather than to mullahs, is “un-Islamic.” The latest Pew poll found “large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) — as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) — [that] say democracy can work well and is not just for the West.”

That’s exactly what President Bush has been saying. Though his actions and rhetoric have been denounced as “unrealistic” and “extremist” by his American and European critics, it turns out that Muslims welcome it.

That’s good news. But it also means that the United States will have to keep walking the walk, as well as talking the talk, on democracy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chip Homme sends this link to a Morocco Times story on the subject:

Declining support for terror in a number of the Muslim countries surveyed tracks with previously reported dramatic increases in favorable views of the United States.

The US is viewed more favorably by people under age 35 than by older people in Morocco, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. As America’s image has improved in Morocco over the past year, more young people are giving the US favorable marks (53%) than Moroccans ages 35 and older (45%).

A similar generational gap is seen in Lebanon, where the percentage rating the US favorably has increased from 27% to 42% since 2003. A sizable generational difference is also seen in both Pakistan and Turkey, where overall views of America remain predominantly negative, with younger people 10-to-12 points more likely to give a favorable rating than their seniors.

The polling also found that in most Muslim countries women were less likely to express an opinion of the US than were men, but when they did, they held a somewhat more positive view.

Read the whole thing. We shouldn’t make too much of this — opinion is fickle, after all — but it certainly seems like good news, and it’s a welcome antidote to the “we’re making everyone hate us” line of argument.