May 31, 2003

ONE CASUALTY TOO MANY

Jihad's Hidden Victim: The Casablanca bombings destroyed not just life and property, but a tolerant nation's view of itself (BRUCE CRUMLEY, 6/02/03, TIME Europe)
When the smoke had cleared and the wreckage and bodies were being carted away, stunned Moroccans turned their attention to another casualty of the May 16 Casablanca terrorist bombings: the nation's sense of itself. Morocco has long tried to occupy a middle ground between its European and North American allies on one side and the conservative, Islam-dominated societies of fellow Arab countries. Now Moroccans fear they may have the worst of both worlds: the strain of jihadist militancy rooted in the affluent nations of the Middle East, and the vast, economically stricken populations from which al-Qaeda networks have so effectively recruited in the West. [...]

The goals of greater democracy and tolerance of all religions are at the heart of King Mohammed VI's social program. But there is now ample reason for the government to crack down on Islamist groups, and a long-stalled antiterrorism law--decried as authoritarian and repressive--got new life in the wake of the attack, clearing a major legislative hurdle last week. Even before the bombings, expected advances by Morocco's two Islamic parties led the government to postpone nationwide local elections slated for June.

Moroccan democracy might be further undermined if foreign tourists and investors steer clear of the country and deprive it of resources needed to battle poverty. That "would have dire consequences for everyone," warns Andre Azoulay, an adviser to Mohammed VI. "It would demonstrate that Western examples of democracy, plurality and economic modernity couldn't be applied to the world's most progressive Arab state--and indeed aren't compatible with Arab society. The only people who would benefit from that are the Islamist radicals." Moroccans are desperate to prevent that: millions of employees respected a five-minute work stoppage Friday to pray for victims of the attacks, and hundreds of thousands were expected in Sunday's marches denouncing religious extremism and terror. Now Morocco and the world must demonstrate to people like those in Sidi Moumen that they have more to live for than kill for--and then begin to make the same point in Arab and European ghettos where radical Islamists cultivate jihad.

It seems well worth it to pump US aid into the all too few Arab states that are moving in a Westerly direction. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2003 10:52 PM
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