Yanking Terrorism's Roots

With the first phase of the campaign against terrorism (the Afghanistan war) near an end, it's still not clear how the United States plans to reduce the strong anti-American feelings in the Muslim world.

The main approach is to use public relations to promote human rights, democracy, and religious freedom, mostly among Arabs who enjoy little of those. But such a mild tactic often runs counter to other US interests, such as a dependency on Middle East oil and a desire to defend Israel.

Reducing oil consumption and pushing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are needed, of course. But the roots of terrorism lie mostly in religious intolerance, which itself grows on Arab poverty and the lack of a political voice.

Just as the US revived Germany and Japan after World War II, it can now aggressively push democratic ideas, religious freedom, and economic uplift in the Islamic world. And the easiest way to start that is to support the work of nongovernmental organizations already involved in those efforts.

And nations such as Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, which are now helping the US war, are especially in need of better human rights and democracy. The US should take advantage of this temporary partnership to push those countries in new directions.

The US also can encourage intra-Muslim tolerance. But much of that is best left to Muslims themselves, both in the US and abroad. Asking American Muslims to carry the message makes the most sense.

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