February 20, 2008


A radical turnabout in Pakistan: In just five months, public approval of Osama bin Laden has dropped by half. (Kenneth Ballen and Reza Aslan, February 21, 2008, CS Monitor)

Last August, Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT) conducted a survey across Pakistan showing that from one-third to one-half of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda and related radical Islamist groups. Nearly half of respondents had a positive view of Osama bin Laden.

But now, the momentous events of the past several months – President Musharraf's crackdown against the press and opposition figures, mounting terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the assassination of Bhutto, and the campaign leading up to Monday's unprecedented election – have resulted in a sea change in Pakistani public opinion.

In a new nationwide survey conducted last month, Pakistani public support for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, bin Laden and other radical Islamist groups has plummeted by half – all the way down to the teens and single digits. The bottom has fallen out for support of the radicals.

If Al Qaeda had appeared on the ballot as a political party in the election, only 1 percent of Pakistanis would have voted for them. The Taliban would have drawn just 3 percent of the vote.

Even in areas near or in their home base, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are losing public support. Favorable opinions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province have sunk to single digits. In August, 70 percent of the population of this region expressed a favorable opinion of bin Laden. Today just 4 percent do.

I was fortunate enough to get to hear a presentation by Mark Steyn at Dartmouth College last night, an experience you really ought to avail yourself of if the opportunity ever presents itself. It was a conversational setting, a smaller room with about 45 people seated around joined tables in a large rectangle. He gave about a twenty minute precis of his book, America Alone, and then took questions. Seemingly everyone got to ask one--indeed, the poor guy could barely escape after an hour and a half. He was informative, funny and courteous, serious without being too alarmist, honest about the problems of Islamism as a political movement, without being offensive.

My own question drew upon several points he'd made as he went along: "I get how the disappearance of secular Europe is bad for secular Europeans, but I'm not really getting how it's bad for us. You've noted that China isn't a threat because they're getting old before they get rich. You've noted that Communism and Nazism proved incapable of running states effectively. And you've noted that it is dependence on and atomization by the cradle-to-grave social welfare state that has brought about the European implosion. But is there any reason to believe that Islamicism, should it manage to come to power anywhere, will be any more effective at organizing states or that Islam won't succumb to that same statist machinery that's destroyed Europe? Aren't Muslim immigrants inheriting the machinery of state that will destroy them too?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2008 7:55 PM

And he answered......?

Posted by: jeff at February 20, 2008 9:22 PM

He didn't disagree that inheriting statism would be the death of them, but felt that we'd be uncomfortable being isolated in the world without old European friends.

Posted by: oj at February 20, 2008 9:44 PM

I don't think that the Spiritual Jailhouse will succumb to the same statist machinery that destroyed Europe; I think is will succumb to a different statist machinery.

They have their own way of chaos and failure, and don't need the help of any neo-pagans to descind into confusion. No need to go over the dreary statistics about more scholarly articles published in Finnish than Arabic.


Posted by: Lou Gots at February 20, 2008 9:51 PM

No, Islam will be unharmed by European statism as well. Europe just doesn't matter much.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2008 7:56 AM

Oj's answers seem contradictory;

"He didn't disagree that inheriting statism would be the death of them."

"No, Islam will be unharmed by European statism as well."

Posted by: Perry at February 21, 2008 12:32 PM

What does the death of post-Islamic Europe have to do with Islam?

Mr. Steyn told a funny bit about talking to an EU bureaucrat who kept referring to Europe as post-Christian and it took him awhile to realize the guy meant it in a good way and wasn't horrified, the way an American would be.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2008 7:59 PM