Tuesday, February 08, 2005

War of Ideas

Obsidian Wings pointed to this Christian Science Monitor piece: Koranic duels ease terror

When Judge Hamoud al-Hitar announced that he and four other Islamic scholars would challenge Yemen's Al Qaeda prisoners to a theological contest, Western antiterrorism experts warned that this high-stakes gamble would end in disaster.

Nervous as he faced five captured, yet defiant, Al Qaeda members in a Sanaa prison, Judge Hitar was inclined to agree. But banishing his doubts, the youthful cleric threw down the gauntlet, in the hope of bringing peace to his troubled homeland.

"If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle," Hitar told the militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence."

The prisoners eagerly agreed.

Now, two years later, not only have those prisoners been released, but a relative peace reigns in Yemen. And the same Western experts who doubted this experiment are courting Hitar, eager to hear how his "theological dialogues" with captured Islamic militants have helped pacify this wild and mountainous country, previously seen by the US as a failed state, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two things: As Sebastian said, this really is a good story about moderate (well, at least not extremist) Muslims fighting terror.

But secondly, I really hope it's true that "Western experts" are looking at this fellow and others with simiilar intentions throughout the Muslim world. It seems like we've really let the ball drop on the war of ideas.

I realize that Bush says "freedom" a lot, but I'm afraid that doesn't convince me that we're even playing the idea game seriously. And even if I did believe it, I certainly wouldn't believe that serially occupying Islamic countries would win that war.

So let's hope we're pursuing other seemingly good ideas like this one.

No comments:

Web Analytics