- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Ten thousand Muslims can't be wrong: 19 Arab men did not hijack four American airliners and attack the United States by killing 3,000 people on September 11. Silly us for thinking otherwise. Must be our what was it the Gallup Organization's Frank Newport said that 9,924 Muslims polled across nine Islamic countries called Americans? "ruthless … aggressive … conceited …arrogant … easily provoked and biased" ways again, getting in between us and reality. Good thing Gallup asked the right people the important question. Now, finally, we know the facts.
Or at least we know the "facts" as the Islamic world "knows" them. This state of pan-Muslim denial 61 percent denied an Arab role on September 11 (including a staggering 89 percent in Kuwait), while only 18 percent believed Arabs were at the controls is well worth pondering. For one thing, Gallup's other findings are only barely comprehensible in terms of this one seminal incomprehensibility. That is, if 19 Arab hijackers from the al-Qaeda network did not kill 3,000 Americans on September 11, then it makes a certain kind of sense that only 9 percent of those polled would consider military action against Afghanistan morally justified. Who do we think we are anyway, pounding on the al-Qaeda chapter of the Afghanistan Beautification League and then incarcerating these Wordsworthian souls at Guantanamo Bay?
You ruthless and biased American that you are probably think of Guantanamo as a place where hardened terrorists get five prayers, three squares and a daily grilling. Think again. Think injustice. Think Big Injustice. "This detention camp," Dr. Rif'at Sayyid Ahmad writes in the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (www.memri.org), "reminds me of 'J'accuse,' by Emile Zola."
Whoa: There's thinking out of the Camp X-Ray cage. What could the historic essay that exposed the military conspiracy against Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer in the French Army whose phony treason conviction was undergirded by an institutional anti-Semitism, have to do with the murderous combatants of Mazar-I-Sharif and elsewhere now at Guantanamo? "History repeats itself, painfully," Dr. Ahmad writes. "This time, we are not talking of a single Dreyfus, but of nearly 2,500 Muslim Dreyfuses."
We are? In case Yankee aggression and conceit are gumming up the old mental processes again, it appears that Dr. Ahmad is likening 300 al-Qaeda detainees to "2,500 Muslim Dreyfuses." Bear with him: If the Guantanamo prisoners are just Dreyfuses in turbans, then maybe maybe it does follow that no Arab men hijacked any airplanes on September 11. What Muslim from Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan or Turkey could think otherwise?
Gallup's results failed to shock those who monitor the government-controlled media of such countries, where blame for September 11 is routinely heaped upon the CIA or, more frequently, the Mossad or Jews generally. Indeed, the New York Times' Thomas "Saudi Peace Plan" Friedman expressed surprise that the denial numbers weren't higher. No doubt they would have been had the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco actually allowed the Gallup Organization to ask the Arab-complicity question.
These numbers have led to much handwringing. ABC News reported them as evidence of "how far the U.S. still has to go" to win Muslims over to the war against Islamist terrorism, helpfully highlighting such supposed obstacles in our way as President Bush's "bellicose" language and American support of Israel. But imagine if Mr. Bush had substituted "a thousand points of light" for "axis of evil," and threw in our lot with the Dreyfuses of Hezbollah: Would the world's Muslims then conclude that 19 Arab men committed the atrocity of September 11? Not likely. Such groupthink requires a leap of logic from which there is no return.
Something to bear in mind is that anti-Westernism in the Muslim world predates an American role in the Middle East, even Israel's existence. For example, as the eminent Arabist Bernard Lewis has noted, the rival branches of the Ba'ath Parties now ruling Syria and Iraq began with a Syrian group that formed in 1941 to support a pro-Hitler regime in Baghdad. To this day, Holocaust denial is rife in the region, where even the Fuhrer gets quite good press. ("Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance, against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth," Ahmad Ragab wrote in the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar last spring, as translated by memri.org. "Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge was not enough.")
Given the casual prevalence of such unbrookable sentiment, it's little wonder that the one area where Gallup found agreement between Muslims and Americans is a shared pessimism for chances of a better understanding evolving between the two cultures. Maybe there are just some things you can't understand.

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