Thursday, June 02, 2005

What We Already Knew: WSJ and NYT catch up

The United States is regarded, across large swaths of the Muslim world with a mixture of suspicion and hatred that military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has fanned to a white-hot intensity. Moderate Muslim voices are being drowned out by the screaming of fanatics.
"Often those with the most bloodthirsty ideas were the well-to-do and the privileged who have had some experience with the West - and not the downtrodden and ignorant 'masses' that are usually depicted as the font of anti-Western fury," Mr. Trofimov writes. "Sometimes those who know us best hate us most."

American support for oppressive regimes ranks high on the list of Muslim grievances. Mr. Trofimov finds a fascinating case study in Tunisia, a secular society in which women are guaranteed equal rights, abortion is legal and ultra-Orthodox Jews enjoy religious freedoms denied to fundamentalist Muslims. "We are much closer to the Italians and the French," a government official tells him.

Well, not quite. Zine el-Abadine Ben Ali, Tunisia's prime minister, has imposed secularism with an iron fist, exiling or imprisoning dissidents, while courting American support by taking a soft line on Israel and protecting Tunisia's tiny Jewish community. As in Iran under the shah, liberal opponents of the regime find themselves allied with Islamists, and the veil, paradoxically, has become a symbol of liberation.
Actually, I spoke to soon: when you get to the bottom of the review, the reviewer makes it clear that coming to a conclusion based on evidence is itself evidence of bias. Thus dies the value of journalism....

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