WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The great Muslim upset, or uprising, that so many political pundits predicted in the days and weeks following the start of the Afghan campaign never materialized.
And all those dire warnings about continuing the war during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has failed to bring about the wrath of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims.
In fact, a report by Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, quoted in the Nov. 20 edition of the Washington Post clearly shows that support for Osama bin Laden, al Qaida and the Taliban was minimal at best, even while the supreme Taliban chief, Mullah Omar, was calling for mass protests, while American bombs erroneously hit a hospital, and Israel sent its tanks rolling once again into the West Bank.
Consider the following from Zakaria's column, who quotes a study by Martin Indyk, former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and who has tracked the number of demonstrations in 21 Arab countries from Morocco to Dubai, since the start of the war.
"Here's how many anti-American demonstrations have taken place. Week one: nine; week two: three; week three: one; week four: two; week five: zero; last week: one."
The reasons are that in effect, most Arab and Muslim governments -- with the exception of possibly Sudan -- would very much like to see the Islamist threat disappear, just as much as the West would, because it threatens their security as much as anyone else's.
The reason much of the Islamic and Arab world remained so quiet in the weeks of intense bombing of Taliban and al Qaida positions in Afghanistan is because not only the leadership, but the vast majority of the people in those countries realize the extremism of the Taliban is not for them, no matter how corrupt their own leaders might be. As Zakaria points out, "... the real lesson of the Iranian revolution is that it did not spread anywhere and brought misery to its people."
The reaction of the people of Kabul and other cities liberated from five harsh years of Taliban dogma speak for itself. Crowds, hungry for culture and information, converged in their hundreds on cinemas in Kabul to see whatever film they could; Afghan television went back on the air just days after the Taliban departed the capital, and video and television stores have done a brisk business. Barber shops catered to droves of customers eager to shed the Taliban-enforced beards, and women emerged to see the sunlight again from beneath their enshrouding burkas.
The speed with which the people of Afghanistan turned against the Taliban speaks volumes. While bin Laden and his followers wanted to turn this conflict into one of Islam versus the world, they have clearly failed to do so. The world is not out to get Islam, and neither are the majority of the world's Muslims out to get non-believers of the faith. Bin Laden and his followers had hoped to spark a revolution based on religion, but the spark did not take.
This, however, should serve as a wakeup call for the West, and particularly America, and allow it to re-assess its relationship with the Arab and the Islamic world.
Basically, three points of contention generate anger against America. Those are the issues that bin Laden has tried to use to rally others to his jihad: the Palestinian cause, the sanctions against Iraq, and the United State's continued support of what many consider to be corrupt regimes in the Arab world.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has already addressed the Palestinian question in what many considered an important speech, Monday. Earlier, President George W. Bush in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, stated the need for a Palestinian state alongside a recognized Israel, with secure borders for all.
The road to a final accord between Israel and Palestine is going to be long and torturous. But, if the problem is properly addressed and approached with an open mind and without bias, it will win the United States badly needed friends and allies in the Middle East.
The question of Iraqi sanctions has to be addressed as well. Since the end of Desert Storm in 1991, the sanctions on Iraq have clearly failed to prevent Saddam Hussein from re-arming, or deterring him from pursuing biological, chemical, or even possibly nuclear warfare programs. Saddam and his elitist entourage are not feeling the crunch of the sanctions, and the desired effect -- that the people would have enough of the regime and rise up to overthrow it -- has clearly not worked. In fact, it achieved the exact opposite, with the Iraqi people, as well as much of the Arab and Islamic world, blaming the United States for the suffering of the Iraqis.
Finally, America's continued support of the Saudi royal family, for example, gives support to critics of the United States that America maintains two sets of ethics, or moral rules; one for itself, and one for the rest of the world. America should use its influence to persuade the Saudi royal family and other allies in the region that the time for change has come.
While this time around the vast majority of the Muslim and Arab world stayed quiet, it remains doubtful that the next battle will command the same results or alliances.