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War on terror must be won in the minds of Muslims

by Chuck Cordill, communication major

 

The war on terror has many fronts. There are the obvious military and intelligence battle fronts in which our government actively seeks to root out and kill or capture the enemy. There is also the domestic front, where, since 9-11, we as a nation have been on various stages of alert. But perhaps the most important front is not in combating individuals or seizing geography. The most important theater in this struggle is between the ears of millions of people. It is a battle for the mind. And like it or not, the members of the media are combatants in this theater.

 

 

Since the United States was first attacked, one question has been constant: “Why do they hate us?” Part of the answer is obvious. Militant Islamic factions are working overtime to spread their gospel of world domination and the destruction of anything that gets in the way of an Islamic theocracy. And in much of the Middle East, at least, the people of Islam start learning that message young. Children are taught hatred of Jews and Americans from an early age in religious schools called madarasas across the Muslim world. Palestinian infants are dressed up as suicide bombers, and it’s considered “cute.” And all those beheading videos make for great recruitment video footage for future terrorists.

And we, ourselves, are partly to blame. Our open democratic society and largely unregulated media regularly express ideas and values that are part of the dialog out of which American society grows, but which would be punishable by imprisonment or death in many Islamic countries. And it doesn’t help that the “American education” that we provide to international students, and which they value highly, regularly includes a critique of ourselves and our system, often with an emphasis on what is wrong with the Americans and the United States. A student who comes to this country with an open mind is often taught hatred of our system by liberal professors. Students who come with an anti-American bias find it readily reinforced in the classroom.

So the concept of democracy is already being presented to peoples of the Arab world on a tilted plane. The media, including the Internet, tilts it even further.

After the fall of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Islamic radicals didn’t just go home and take up a traditional trade. They became Web masters. Gabriel Weimann, an Israeli communication professor who studies terrorist Web sites at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, told the Christian Science Monitor that while the military invasion of the former stronghold was largely successful, many of the terrorists just regrouped and went online.

“After [Al Qaeda members] were chased from the camps, they went to the Internet,” Weimann told the Monitor. “They began adding two [followers] a day, going up to 50, then 100, to thousands.”

Weimann said that when he began to track the Web sites, he logged 12 sites in his database. Now that number has increased to more than 4,000, and it is growing daily. The Monitor article went on to say that the sites are used to covertly “carry on a virtual terror war and plan actual attacks.” The scary thing is that the enemy is using the combination of Internet anonymity and American law to propagate their message and recruit worldwide. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported last summer that of 25 main official or terror-related Web sites it checked, 76 percent were hosted within the United States.

The Internet is largely unregulated, and as it is against U.S. law to prosecute those who host servers that offer bandwidth to those who would kill us, terrorist propaganda can be countered, for the most part, only by offering other Web sources that publish the truth.

Traditional media doesn’t help. Mainstream media outlets like Al Jezerra refer to terrorists as “Freedom Fighters.” I thought a “Freedom Fighter” was someone who directly attacked an occupying or oppressive military, not someone who plants car bombs that indiscriminately kills scores of innocents or worse, and target children in order to secure international headlines.)

These are ruthless people who have little or no regard for human life. The myriad of decapitations on film underscore the level of depravity that drives them.

The MEMRI Web site (www.memri.org) recently released dispatches on two Al Jezerra prime time TV programs that promoted hostility between Arabs and Israelis, Americans, and other Western nations. One TV series depicts Israeli agents disguised as United Nations officials going about refugee camps looking for eyes. They see a Palestinian child with nice eyes, and if the child is healthy, according to the series, it is whisked out of the camps to have its eyes cut out and given to Jewish recipients. Excerpts of the script posted on MEMRI suggest that the production is done in a documentary style. Imagine the horror and hatred engendered and reinforced in the viewers. The premise, and the effect, are similar to the old apocryphal myth that Jews take the blood of Gentile victims and mix it into their bread on special days.

Hey, it’s on TV, or the Internet, so it must be real.

Recently, a Saudi Arabian newspaper raised the specter of U.S. military troops removing the organs of dead Iraqi’s for sale on the black market. All I can say is these people are not acquainted with the Marines. Once they “secure the perimeter,” and eliminate the resistance, what is left would be highly unlikely for transplant purposes, let alone cadaver status.

The big question is, how does the United States combat the overt lies, propaganda, and bias streaming over the airwaves from the Arab media? Of course, we can enforce current legislation and update it to make it harder for terrorist’s to do business. But the left just goes nuts when we infringe upon the free speech of anyone. We could bomb the transmitters of the offending networks and put them out of business for awhile, though they could resort to satellite links. But in my opinion, the best way to combat lies is give people a glimpse of the truth. Through radio, TV, and Internet, we need to counter the falsehoods propagated by a fascist media. If fascist sounds strong, look and see who Germany’s allies were in World War II. If you are a student, or otherwise, and want to play a part in this war, then opportunities abound. Learn Arabic, or take some classes in Arabic studies. And help tell millions of people what life is really like in America.

I have never, for one moment thought, that as humans, Americans are any better than any on else. We are a nation of immigrants for the most part. We are not better. But we are blessed with freedoms that allow us to explore a diversity of ideas, values, and actions and pursue those we find most satisfying. It is a sad fact, but I doubt we can ever enjoy the freedoms we had before 9-11. The enemies of freedom will use those very liberties to destroy us. But America always has been, and hopefully always will be, a beacon of light in the midst of global turmoil. Good always triumphs over evil, even if it takes longer than we’d like. And freedom is contagious—once tasted, the thirst for it can never be quenched, not even in death. And if the Middle East can taste that freedom someday, it will spread. It will move into the most important battleground of all, the human mind. Once it takes seed, there will be hope for us all.

Until then, if you still aren’t sure they hate us, find a Web site that streams Iranian TV.

 

 

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