Obama’s sermon on extremism

President Obama  told the U.N. General Assembly that Muslims must shun “extremism” and exercise “tolerance” for their adversaries. He was referring to the violence-prone protest rallies that the American film “Innocence of Muslims” has triggered in many Muslim countries. The amateurish video shows  the Prophet Muhammad in pornographic poses and other demeaning postures.

Some Muslim societies are indeed honeycombed with anti-American and anti-Western extremists. The problem is, you can’t eliminate a vice while nursing it.  Obama and many other Americans don’t seem to recognize America’s role in stirring Muslim extremism.

Muslim extremism and violence against America are fairly recent events. During the era of European colonialism, the Muslim world admired the United States for not colonizing a Muslim country and even criticizing European colonialism.  In 1957 I was a schoolboy in what is now Muslim Bangladesh. I remember folks cheering America in front of a television set after hearing the news of foreign troops withdrawing from Egyptian territory. I learned much later that the Eisenhower administration had led the U.N. effort to force Israel, France and Britain to vacate the Suez Canal area they had occupied the previous year, following Egypt’s nationalization of the canal.

Systematic Muslim violence against America was rare until 1979. That year Iranian revolutionaries attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage.  Through this indefensible action, they were venting their rage over the overthrow of their democratic government by the CIA in 1953 and the installation by the U.S. of a murderous monarchy they had just overthrown.  Ever since, Muslims have resorted to anti-American protests and violence with greater frequency in response to American policies they see trampling Muslim interests or dignity.

I attribute the current spike in anti-Americanism among Muslims to three main reasons. First, the post-Cold War generation of Muslims are better educated and far more politically conscious than their forebears, thanks to the quickening pace of modernization and globalization.  These Muslims have very little tolerance for foreign domination, and domestic political repression, for that matter. Secondly,  during the last two decades, the United States has waged three major wars against Muslim countries: Iraq I and II, and Afghanistan.

These American-led invasions and the prolonged occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have enraged Muslims everywhere. Thirdly, modernization has,  strangey as it many seem to many Westerners, imbued Muslims with greater appreciation of their own cultural values. Yet America and the West continue to seek to impose their liberal value system on Muslims societies, infuriating many Muslims.  Western defense of  the film “Innocence of Muslims,” the Danish Muhammad cartoons, the novel The Satanic Verses, etc., are classic examples of this cultural aggression.  All these anti-Islamic materials have turned much of the Muslim world into a hotbed of extremists and terrorists.

Through the 1980s and 1990s U.S. administrations tried to tackle Muslim terrorism through legal tools, covert operations and torture by client governments.  Then came 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked aircraft to attack America were Saudis. The core cause of this horrible crime, as I learned during visits to Saudi Arabia, was the 1991 deployment of U.S. troops on that “land of Muhammad.”

America was unhinged by 9/11.  Instead of pursuing the perpetrators of the crime, it plunged into a devastating war with Iraq, which had nothing to do  9/11; and a  pointless one against Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda, a foreign group, planned the attacks on the United States. Tens of thousands of innocent Muslims have perished in the two wars, which have spread anti-Americanism among Muslims as never before. And they have proliferated Muslim guerrilla groups committed to rolling back American hegemony over Muslim societies.

These guerrillas have forced the United States to pull out of Iraq without achieving any of its strategic objectives. In Afghanistan, they have frustrated U.S. efforts to defeat them, compelling Washington to plan the withdrawal of most of its troops from that country by 2014.

One would have hoped that the Obama administration would take a serious look into the colossal failure of its formidable military machine to suppress Muslim militancy. Instead, the administration has lurched into a reckless, illegal and counterproductive drone war in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The Predator and Reaper drones are purported to be targeting terrorists.  As I learned during two research trips to Pakistan’s tribal areas, local CIA informants all too often report their own adversaries or people simply venting anger at America as Taliban “terrorists.”  The result: an unmitigated disaster.

A group of American academics has just put out its findings from nine months’ research of  America’s drone wars.  Barely 2 percent of the drone victims were known militants, said the 146-page report.  Clive Stafford Smith, head of a charity working in Pakistan, told them that Pakistan’s “entire [tribal] region is being terrorized by constant threat of death from the skies.” People’s “way of life is collapsing,” he continued. “Kids are too terrified to go to school. Adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups.”

The first step toward dousing Muslim hostility to America would be to  review the U.S. policy and attitude toward Muslim societies.  As long as Americans continue to their aggressive policy toward Muslim countries and tolerate the demonization of Muslims and their faith, as the video “Innocence of Muslims” represents, sermons about virtues of tolerance and vice of extremism would be  greeted by Muslim youths with hoots of “hypocrisy.”

  •  Mustafa Malik is an international affairs commentator in Washington, who hosts the blog ‘Islam and the West.’


Americans fed up with right and left

The documentary “2016: Obama’s America” is drawing big crowds in the South, reports my hometown newspaper the Washington Examiner . And  “liberal and conservative voters” watching it are cursing President Obama.

“I have to get some more friends” to see the documentary, says 18-year-old Tammy Birdwell who watched it in Greenville, N.C. “We have to get Obama out.”

The production is based on Dinesh D’Souza’s controversial book The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  D’Souza is a right-wing, indian-born activist and writer who used to be an adviser to the Reagan White House. His book’s underlying theme is that Obama is inspired by the liberal “anti-colonial ideology of his African father.”  That ideology, adds D’Souza, has shaped the policies of the Obama administration. A right-wing documentary luring liberals? It reminds me of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11”, which was praised by many conservatives.  Many Americans are apparently disillusioned by both conservatism and liberalism.

D’Souza’s portrait of Obama is based mostly on the president’s writings and rhetoric.  The author selectively stitched together bits and pieces of them to draw up a profile of the first black American president that repels many  Americans.

As evidence of Obama’s liberalism and anti-colonialism, the author cites his call as a U.S. senator to withdraw American troops from Iraq, opposition to Gen. David Petraeus’ “surge” strategy in Iraq, association with “Marxist professors and structural feminists” at Occidental College, unidentified plan to “spread the wealth” in America, and so forth.

This image starkly contradicts Obama’s policies or actions as president.  President Obama is known the world over for  his embrace and expansion of the Bush administration’s drone war in several Muslim countries, killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children. He continues President Bush’s policies of profiling and surveillance of American Muslims, of denying Guantanamo Bay prisoners the due process of civil law, and of refusing to identify with African American issues and priorities. Early in his administration, Obama alienated many of his liberal and leftist supporters by caving in to Republicans to focus on deficit cuts over jobs and growth.

I knew the president was about to sidestep the causes of the poor and the left when he hired such died-in-the-wool conservative economists as Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Peter Orszag to frame and run his economic policies.  But I did not anticipate his adoption of the Bush administration’s militarist agenda.  Washington Post writer Ezra Klein’s characterization of Obama as a “moderate Republican” may apply to many of his domestic policies. In the Middle East and South Asia, his first presidential term looks more like Bush’s third. So the question, again, is why is the right-wing documentary “2016”  riveting liberals? Why do Moore’s liberal documentaries attract many conservatives?

My take on it all is that while vested interests and ideologues remain loyal to ideologies, most everyday Americans are fed up with them. They know in their bones that their political ideologies and economic and financial institutions aren’t answering their real-life problems.  They have been voting Democrats and Republicans to Congress and the Presidency, but their economy remains in a shambles. Too many of them are unemployed or have jobs that don’t relieve them of hardships and despair. America lurches from one bloody and costly war to another, yet Americans have never felt so insecure: airports, government offices, corporations and many other swaths of public space have turned into veritable fortresses, under disturbing and annoying security cordons.

Americans’ allegiance to their political and economic institutions is eroding fast. Yet they continue to shuttle between them because they see no alternative paradigm, or avenues of meaningful living. Well, not yet. New ideological or existential paradigms often come unannounced. We should keep an ear out for them.

  • Mustafa Malik is an international affairs columnist in Washington. He hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.






Pakistan out of U.S. shadow

“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” These were the words of a young antiwar activist named John Kerry, testifying before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Forty-one years later Kerry, now chairman of the  same Senate committee, was defending the Afghan war, in which the last man has probably yet to die.

“A premature departure [from Afghanistan] would jeopardize the chances for a responsible transition,” he writes in the Chicago Tribune.

As the end game in Afghanistan draws near, half-heartedly and in confusion, the Americans are trying to put in place an exit strategy. As part of it, Pakistan has agreed to reopen Nato supplies.

The supply route was closed indefinitely seven months ago when U.S. bombers killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. For reasons of sanity, lets us not indulge in to the logic of why such an incident took place. Even if you kill my cat, I will try my best, not to allow you to live in a house next to mine.

For the Pakistani government and army, it was the last straw. Besides stopping Nato supplies to Afghanistan, Pakistan suspended other forms of cooperation with the U.S. and demanded an American apology for the killings.

For seven months the U.S. tried all sorts of diplomatic maneuvers to force Pakistan to reopen its “southern supply route” running through Pakistan. Those maneuvers included financial squeeze on Pakistan through the IMF, Pakistan’s exclusion from strategic talks on Afghanistan and overt preferential treatment of India, Pakistan’s arch rival. But Pakistan stood its ground and demanded nothing less than an apology for the killing 24 of its troops would make it consider the reopening of the supply route.

In the words of mark twain, “History never repeats itself but often rhymes.” Mention the Afghan exit strategy to any American in Afghanistan and the first thing that comes to his mind is Vietnam, America’s longest war until Afghanistan.

It is very difficult not to draw similarities between the Vietnam and Afghanistan. A corrupt government elected by a small minority, a consumer economy fueled by war spending, alienation and neglect of ground realities, and end game where exiting American forces are trying to pull a PR stunt to convince everyone that the local forces are fully capable fighting their  war.

Some Vietnam parallels to this war are amazing. In the spring of 1972 then President Richard Nixon flew in to Saigon to ink a treaty with then Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, codifying a ‘long-term’ U.S. relationship with South Vietnam, which would leave Vietnam’s security to Vietnamese. In May 2012 President Obama flew in to Kabul to sign a “strategic partnership agreement” with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Said Obama: ‘Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which the war ends, and a new chapter begins’. How much more secure will post-American Afghanistan be than was post-American Vietnam?

Before the exit of their combat forces from Vietnam, the Americans started believing that they were losing because Cambodia was supporting the rebels in Vietnam. Ali Syed writes “The Cambodians remained as neutral as they could but the Americans alleged that they are playing a double game, they bombed the border areas (since they believed that communists had set up sanctuaries there), with the result Khmer Rouge was formed and later what they did with their people is also horrid. There are stark similarities between the conflict of Vietnam and Cambodia and the one that we have now (Afghanistan and Pakistan).” In Afghanistan, many Americans blame their travails on Pakistani elements’ alleged support for the Taliban.

After seven months of intense negotiations and arm-twisting, Washington has persuaded Islamabad to reopen the NATO supply route through its territory.  Hillary Clinton agreed to release a ‘Sorry’ statement and Pakistan accepted it and allowed non-lethal shipments to pass through its Karachi port.

Even though a second NATO supply route that runs through Central Asian countries was given a lot of hype after the closure of the Pakistani one, it was not viable. Ahsanurahman Khan writes in Pakistan’s Frontier Post newspaper that the Pakistani route is ‘the inescapable requirement of the NATO for the exit phase, despite the availability of the Central Asian routes.’

Pakistan’s help is essential for invaders’ retreat.  Soviet invaders needed assurances from Pakistan to prevent mujahedeen attacks on their withdrawing units. Now NATO will need Pakistan’s cooperation to retreat safely from Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

Many in Pakistan such as Asif Haroon Raja believe that there is no justification  for Pakistan ‘to become party to the massacre of Afghans by the US kill teams particularly when drawdown has commenced and the US is actively engaged in parleys with Taliban in search of political settlement.’ They see the reopening of this route as ‘digging our own graves and consciously putting our heads in hornets’ nest.’

However, the closing and reopening of this route has some Geo-strategic implications. Mahmoud Majid in a policy paper  points to ‘the American policy shift in favor of a ‘regional’ approach for a grand political reconciliation is in itself evidence on the limits of US power in the region.’

The U.S. apology shows that Islamabad can finally take an independent stand for its own strategic interests. We are also seeing the beginning of an era where Pakistan can view its relations with India without the American prism. All this will also help Pakistan in its relations with China and Russia.

Tajwali Khan is a guest contributor to ‘Islam and the West’. (He is an Independent researcher and blogger  from Pakistan, with an interest in South Asian and Middle eastern issues. He is editor  of the blog  http://hopefulpakistan.org. He also writes for  Oriental Review and Islamabad Times Online)

Bibi Obama’s moral test

By Mustafa Malik

The other day Robert Malley said at a Capitol Hill seminar that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was “more likely” now than ever before. Malley is a widely respected Middle East expert with the International Crisis Group, and he gave two reasons for his concern.

One, he said Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to be remembered as the Israeli prime minister under whose watch Iran might have acquired nuclear weapons capability. Secondly, President Obama, running for reelection, wouldn’t oppose his bombing Iran. Listening to Malley, I remembered Ken Adelman, who had served as President Reagan’s arms control director.  In a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post, Adelman predicted that occupation of Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” An armed conflict with Iran would indeed make the Iraq disaster look like a cakewalk.

Because Israel isn’t expected to attack Iran without American approval or acquiescence, Iran will almost certainly unleash its Shahab, Zelzal and IRSL missiles against both Israeli and American targets.  That could be the beginning of the end of U.S. hegemony in west Asia.

An Israeli or American bombing campaign would doubtless pulverize the infra-structure and economy of Iran, which already is under severe U.S.-sponsored sanctions. Iranians are enigmatically proud, however, of their 6,000-year-old civilization and glorious heritage. Despite their internal political divides, they can unite as an indomitable force against foreign aggression, as Iraqi invaders learned in the 1980s.

In Shia Islamic Iran, sacrifice and martyrdom are core social values. The Iranians can bounce back from Israeli-U.S. air assaults, as they did after their catastrophic war with Iraq. The Islamic Republic and myriad Muslim militant groups would strike hard and relentlessly at American forces and bases throughout the region.

Tehran would shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows the West’s oil lifeline. U.S. counter-attacks wouldn’t ensure the safety of oil tankers in the channel. The closing of the Strait would send oil prices soaring, sending shivers through the wobbly Western economies.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has planned its second naval exercises in the Persian Gulf to begin January 27. The drills are preparations for the Strait closing in case of war.  Iran and anti-American militant groups would persevere in such a war for as long as it takes. As seen in Iraq and Afghanistan – which are much weaker than Iran — Americans wouldn’t be able to hold out very long in such as conflict, especially when suffering war fatigue and a “deep recession.”  In the end, American bases, troops and economic interests wouldn’t be safe in that region.

A high-stakes U.S.-Israeli air campaign against Iran would be asinine, to begin with. All studies, including American and Israeli ones, have concluded that an air campaign against Tehran’s dispersed, and partly deep underground, nuclear program could only stall it for two or three years. It can’t stop the program.   By the way, the Iranian government rejects the Israeli-American accusation that it plans to develop nuclear bombs, insisting that its uranium enrichment program is meant to supply electricity. And the operations remain within the parameters of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Would the American president be willing to risk America’s vital interests in the Middle East by letting Bibi Netanyahu loose on Iran? Or would he risk alienating the pro-Israel vote in November by reining the Israeli leader in?

That would be an acid test of Obama’s backbone and moral fiber.

♦ Mustafa Malik, an international affairs columnist in Washington, hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.

Also on this topic:

  • “Israel is pushing U.S. toward Iran war, Russian official says,” Haaretz, January 12, 2012. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-is-pushing-u-s-toward-iran-war-russian-official-says-1.406963
  • “2012: The year that could bring U.S. strike on Iran,”  Haaretz, December 29, 2012. http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/the-arms-race/2012-the-year-that-could-bring-a-u-s-strike-of-iran-1.404390
  • “Whose war is it now?”,  Boston Globe, December 23, 2004. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/12/23/whose_war_is_it_now/


U.S.-India relations hit plateau

By Mustafa Malik

What was my take on “our growing relations with America?” asked Birendra Nath Basu. I met him on a passenger car to Karimganj town in the northeast Indian state of Assam.   Basu had a master’s degree in business administration and was returning from a job interview in Guwahati, the state capital.

I asked his take on his question.

The multifaceted relationship, he said, had “greatly helped some sectors of our economy, but we have to pull up our nation, not just certain classes.”

We parted company as I headed for the home of the late professor and historian Sujit Chowdhury.  An old friend, Chowdhury died after I had met him in 2007 at his home in Karimganj, an unhurried town of 52,000 people, which evokes fond memories of my boyhood visits with relatives.  I wanted to pay a courtesy call to my friend’s widow.

Chowdhury was a lot more upbeat than Basu about U.S.-India relationship.  He expected it to create “a brave new world of progress and prosperity.”

Washington and New Delhi began their “strategic partnership” as the Bush administration wanted to enlist India’s right-wing Hindu nationalist government in its “war on terror,” tap the huge Indian market and help build India as a counterweight to China. America became India’s largest trading partner, biggest investor and biggest provider of advanced technology.

Prodded by the American nuclear-commercial-lobby, America signed a civil nuclear agreement with India to launch lucrative nuclear trade with it. Nuclear trade would have been prohibited under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. New Delhi hadn’t joined the treaty but would need to buy nuclear technology form countries in a nuclear suppliers’ cartel, called the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. That cartel required compliance with the NPT guidelines for the purchase of its technology.  At U.S. insistence, the 45-member grouping granted India a waiver from NPT rules.

Most Indians were euphoric and expected nationwide prosperity from their partnership with the wealthiest nation.

The relationship promises to continue to stimulate the Indian economy, but has been showing considerable strains.  Washington had allowed India to build trade, economic and strategic relations with Afghanistan.  That infuriated Pakistan, which saw itself being encircled by its archenemy, India. For all their feuds with Pakistan, Americans need Pakistani help to strike a deal with the Taliban. So the United States put a break on India’s Afghan projects, angering Indians.

New Delhi, for its part, defied U.S. sanctions against Iran.  Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told Americans bluntly that relations with Iran were “a fundamental component” of Indian foreign policy.

Most troubling to Indians has been what Indian columnist Anil Kakodkar called America’s “double-cross of India.” As mentioned, nuclear technology suppliers’ group had waived their restrictions on India. But this past June, the group tightened its rules, virtually nullifying that waiver. To Indians’ dismay, the United States abstained on the cartel’s vote, instead of voicing its opposition.

To infuriate the Indians further, Washington insisted that the stricter suppliers’ rules “in no way detract from the exception granted to India.”  Indians knew that wasn’t true.

Meanwhile, India’s center-left Congress party government, which has replaced that of the rightists, has mostly reversed the Hindu nationalist tilt toward Israel on its confrontation with the Palestinians. Ignoring U.S. pleas, New Delhi recently voted for the Palestinian membership of UNESCO.

America has learned, too, that while its China policy may in cases converge with India’s, it can’t “use” India against China.  Robert Blackwill, the Bush administration ambassador to India, envisioned Indian collaboration in containing China.  Recently he said ruefully that “there is no better way to clear a room of Indian strategists than to advocate containing China.”

Indians’ excitement about the burgeoning U.S. ties that I observed in the early 2000s has evaporated a great deal. Besides the above irritants, the kind of economic boom that many Indians had expected from their partnership with America just hasn’t happened, at least not yet. Many are disappointed to see the bonanza from these ties being scooped up by the high-tech and business communities, that it eludes the nearly 600 million poverty-stricken Indians.  As disturbing, India’s growth rate has dropped from 8.5 percent last year to 7.7 percent. Direct foreign investment plunged 32 percent last year to $24 billion, making it Asia’s only large economy to suffer a decline.

Yet both India and the United States know they can’t let these setbacks derail their ambitious economic and strategic partnerships.  New Delhi has been downplaying its differences with the United States, while Washington has launched a campaign to reassure Indians of its commitment to long-term, productive relationships.

On Oct. 20 President Obama sent his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to New Delhi via Beijing to convey the message that his administration had moved past the G-2 (Group of Two) power structure with China, and embraced India in G-3 formation.  The following week  the U.S. consul general to Calcutta, Dean R. Thompson, assured Indians that America “has been trying with all sincerity to further improve its relations with India.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other American U.S. diplomats have also been hammering on this message.

I would have told Basu in Karimganj that U.S.-India relations seemed to me to have glided out of its initial peak on to a plateau.  But I wanted to hear his views, instead.

●Mustafa Malik, a columnist in Washington, is visiting his native Indian subcontinent. He hosts the blog site: ‘Islam and the West’– http://islam-and-west.com



Taliban fight for freedom, justice

By Mustafa Malik

SYLHET,  Bangladesh — Aunt Salima Khatun, my mother’s sister, barged in to see me here in the Bangladeshi town of Sylhet.  I spend part of my Bangladesh vacations in Sylhet, known for its tea gardens, cane furniture and the shrine of the famed Muslim saint Hazrat Shah Jalal.

Behind Aunt Salima was her grandson, a college student, carrying a big bowl. It had several dozen homemade sweets, wrapped in banana leaves under plastic covering.  They were made of flour, meshed with the delicious juice of a local fruit known as “tal” and other ingredients, before being rolled into round cakes and cooked.

“When you were a little boy, you loved ‘tal sandesh’ (tal sweets),” said my aunt, 81. “See if you like them.”

As the conversation progressed, she asked if I could bring the student over to the United States for further education.  He had been “pulling out my hair,” meaning badgering her, to make me the request, she added.  I apologized for my inability to help him get a U.S. visa.

The young man was, however, a member of an Islamic student group, which campaigns against U.S. and Israeli occupation of Muslim lands.  Why was President Obama “so viciously opposed” to Palestinians’ U.N. membership? he asked.  He was elated, however, that Muslim guerrillas were “throwing out the [Western] invaders” from Iraq and Afghanistan. Would Americans “dare to occupy a Muslim country again?”

His admiration for anti-American guerrillas is widely shared by most Muslims in South Asia, as I have learned during trips through the region.  Noor  M.  Khan, a family friend in the northeast Indian town of Haflong, told me during a visit there last year that “our mujahedeen [Islamic guerrillas] are our only hope against American imperialism.”  The Afghan mujahedeen drove back Russian invaders from Afghanistan in the 1980s, he continued.  Now thanks to the Taliban, American occupation forces would be fleeing Afghanistan, “peeing in their pants.”

Many South Asian Muslims, as many Muslims elsewhere, usually get to like Americans with whom they come in contact.   Many try to migrate to the United States for a better life.  If young, some of aspire to have an American education, as my aunt’s grandson does. Yet the same Muslims would be denouncing Americans vehemently for America’s “war on Islam.”

It’s a déjà vu of the last decades (1910s-1940s) of British colonial rule in what was then “British India.”  Those days many Indians had British friends. Many were educated in British schools or British-style secular schools in India.  Yet some of them joined the struggle to liberate their country from British colonialism.  British-sponsored education had taught them Western concepts of liberty and freedom and inspired them into anti-colonial struggle.

Justice is Islam’s core principle.  Muslims, secular or religious,  innately resist foreign hegemony because they consider it fundamentally unjust. Today most of the leaders and many activists of Muslim movements against U.S. invasions and domination  zest for freedom among Muslims, firing them up against American hegemony.  In earlier times, onset of modernity  stoked their struggles for freedom against European colonialism..

Modernity, it seems, has become the West’s Frankenstein’s monster!

But many of South Asia’s anti-American Muslim guerrillas are educated in madrassahs, or Islamic schools. They’re inspired by their innate antipathy for foreign military presence — which they share with many secularist activists — and pride in Islamic civilization, which madrassahs have inculcated in them.  In October 2007 a madrassah-educated Taliban supporter in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal agency town of Ghalanai (whose name I promised not to publish) said to me that Muslims had built “the glorious Spanish civilization and taught Europeans the sciences and philosophy for more than 700 years.”  How many years, he asked, could “American Crusaders” stick around in Afghanistan?

The Taliban and other Pakistani and Afghan militants with only a madrassah education are also fighting for freedom from foreign occupation and domination.  Most of them just don’t know that freedom is a core American value that Americans once fought wrest from British colonialists.

Muslims youths are struggling to snatch that American ideal from the jaws of the American hegemon, which they consider unjust.

● Mustafa Malik is the host of the blog site Beyond Freedom.