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September 06, 2005



I think the findings of that paper make sense. I have managed to conclude that Arab people tend to fail in expressing their views in a positive way simply because they were never taught to. Now this may or may not sound dramatic or education-oriented but Arabs have a problem expressing themselves positively. Add oppression to that and you will eventually get to what the paper cited. Most are dissatisfied with their own governments and have little if any space to express that or exercise that disapproval in a healthy environment so they "think" they support terrorism.

Reflect if you will on the behaviour of some Arabs after the 9/11 attacks, they were celebrating the death of innocent people.Had they considered what terrible tragedy 9/11 had been I believe they would've acted differently.
On a different note, far from support for terrorism,reflect again on the lack of sympathy that I have personally witnessed right here in Jordan towards the latest Katrina disaster. I find it hard to believe that these celebrating people have actually thought of what their actions mean and how they portray Arabs in the eyes of others.
They simply do not know to express themselves, that's what I think.

Jon Alterman

Arguably, the connection explaining this is that the US government is what keeps their own (unsatisfactory) governments in power. Since these governments' oppression is actually a manifestation of the US government's will, the way to respond to a US government sponsored attack on Arab civilians is an Arab-sponsored attack on US civilians. I don't buy the logic, but I've heard it, as I'm sure many of your readers have as well.

The problem with US sponsored democratization (or "reform") as a solution to this is the extent to which it's seen as US-sponsored liberalization -- i.e., an effort to weaken their culture and society by alternative means. Sadly, in the mainstream that's precisely what many see it to be.


Thanks for this post. This is the first time I heard of this particular study but I respect Mark Tessler and his work. The conclusions are certainly noteworthy.

Dave Schuler

Perhaps there's another connecting thread: those who support terrorism don't like the status quo and, like it or not, the US is the status quo.

Ben P

Isn't it also possible that being upset with the local government means they want it to be more religious, even extremely so?


What is meant by "levels of religiosity?"

Ben P

Let me clarify my earlier comments:

If you stop and think for a moment, people willing to commit terrorist acts in these countries probably want exactly the oppositie kinds of outcomes to that of the US. Both sets of actors might find, say, Saudi Arabia, a problematic state, but for very different reasons. People in the US, because it is authoritarian, illiberal, and undemocratic; Al Qaeda and its fellow travellers because it is betaying "true" Islam, and is a western quisling.

The only argument one could make - and I think that this does have some legitimacy - is that Islamist political movements need to be allowed a free reign in the publikc sphere and need to be allowed to compete and win elections, because when these ambitions are frustrated, they turn to extralegal measures.

Ben P

the aardvark

Patrick - "levels of religiosity" was measured by a basket of questions like "how often do you go to church/mosque", "how important is religion to your daily life", that sort of thing.

Jon and Dave - I think that's about right: US is blamed for the persistence of the bloody dictators. But maybe serious reform efforts (rather more serious than what we've seen) would challenge those assumptions?

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