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Middle East

Turning the tide
The solution is to embrace those who are passionate about change at the core

By Faye (Fereshteh) Farhang
June 15, 2004

In a recent forum held at JFK School of Government at Harvard, former presidential counter terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, insisted that the United States can win the war on terror if it campaigns to gain favor in Muslim countries, where the overall influence of Al-Qaida and terrorist elements are a growing obstacle.

Clarke said, "The problem with the long term is how do we persuade millions of people in the Islamic world 'who believe in Jihad' that they are wrong?" His answer -- to engage in the "battle" for hearts and minds and believe that "until we turn the tide, we are not going to win!"

Clarke proposes an apparently fundamental solution to what seems to have become an uncontrollable phenomenon -- the growing influence of Al-Qaida and Islamic fundamentalism in general. And in turn the promotion of a twisted, and bastardized version of what Jihad itself means.

Yet is "winning hearts and minds" alone a sufficient solution to a problem that threatens the world? Or are we simply prescribing the treatment of the benign tumor for the malignant?

Those in the Middle East, especially the poor, find great solace in Islam, as a religion that substantiates their existence and thus they remain the perfect target for manipulative fundamentalists who seek a following.

This sort of religious manipulation - the winning over of feeble human minds brainwashed to think that all intellectuals, the West, and anyone with a different faith than theirs seeks their extermination can be categorized as the "mullah trick of the century!" After all, the Iranian revolution is a perfect example of how religious manipulation can send thousands into the streets shouting death to tyranny while all along marching to the gates of hell.

Yet even if the U.S. were to embark on a full fledged campaign to convince the majority in the Middle East that America is not the "so-called" enemy, that America seeks positive change in the region, that American soldiers are there to not solely protect U.S. interests but maintain an agenda to help Iraqis regain their footing - will anything change?

Even if the middle class and the poor are embraced as equally as Mid-East intellectuals who play puppet to America's needs--- will this somehow curb the development of Al Qaida and the Fundamentalists?

Even if the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq gets miraculously dismissed by Middle Easterners as shortcomings of individual soldiers and not caused by the dominating presence of an arrogant America --- would this really curtail the power of extremism?

Indeed it is wishful thinking to believe that the "absolute embrace of humanity" in the Mid-East will somehow stand in the face of Extreme Islam. When the doctrines are corrupt, the solution is not to embrace the followers, to satisfy them, but rather to embrace those who are passionate about change at the core.

If America and the West remain sincere in their respective efforts to help the suffering Middle Easterners, they should realize by now that the only way to effectively combat Extreme Islam is by supporting Revisionist Islam and the Secular Muslim agenda. In the face of a pious population, the sincere Revisionists who see the 'wrong' that has become of their religious traditions possess a passion to change it.

Finding those people, distinguishing them from the corrupt, embracing their passion, and giving them the power and forefront to bring about change is the only viable solution to a religion that has been used, abused and manipulated by its own followers.

The day that an influential mullah, an intellectual of Islam, admits the shortcomings of the followers of Islam, and describes the fundamentals of this religion as pillars that sustain a believer and not as propaganda to hate others is the day that Mr. Clarke will have helped 'turn the tide' -- the day that the Middle East will breathe again.

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