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a frightening prospect
A very disturbing article in today's New York Times talks about growing support for Osama bin Laden and his heinous ideology in the UK and other countries in Europe. Rising dissent, a perceived sense of betrayal and persecution is gaining the terrorists an ever growing network of hopelessly misguided young men seemingly ready to give up their own lives and take those of innocent civilians under the justification of fighting a rather skewed holy war. Sheik Obar Bakri Mohammed, a cleric from a town near London gives this chilling ultimatum,
"All Muslims of the West will be obliged," he said, to "become his sword" [Osama bin Laden's -- ub] in a new battle. Europeans take heed, he added, saying, "It is foolish to fight people who want death ? that is what they are looking for."

How do you fight a foe that is not fighting for life or its defense? Islam, as many other religions, trivializes the life we have now as compared to the one after death. The prospect of the afterlife, with it's promised eternity and none of the baggage that comes with living as we know it, mixed with the philosophy of blaming America and the West with all sorts of crimes against Islam and Muslims is steadily worsening a highly charged situation. There is, however, one more aspect to this issue, America, with the war in Iraq, it's image as a supporter of Israel rather than an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a series of bad foreigh policy decisions, is very close to, if it hasn't already, losing the propoganda war to the terrorists. Having grown up in India, America was for me the beacon of success, truly the land of answered dreams and now, having seen this country from up close for almost three years, being afforded an opportunity to more closely scrutinize its flaws, my overall opinion remains unchanged. Perhaps what's needed in the war against extremism is not more sophisticated weapons or the invasion of recalcitrant regimes, perhaps what's needed is the selling of a more positive image to the Islamic world of America. There is no denying the deep rooted resentment for the West amongst sections of society in the Middle East, but I don't see how waging war in their backyard will solve the problem. Even if the Iraq war, in Tacitus' words, was a 'low-hanging fruit', it's selling was ridiculously inept and the handling of the occupation is confoundingly ill-planned. The image of a democracy in Iraq as the be all and end all of all problems related to Islamic extremism that seems to be firmly rooted in the Middle East, is merely a fantasy, a hypothesis that is far from the reality on the ground. What the West sees as the justified response to extremists in Falluja on CNN is seen by the Arab world as an out of proportion response and the targeting of civilians on Al Jazeera, with the truth lying ignored somewhere in between. I don't have a solution to this, but the "war on terrorism" is not it and it most certainly is not working at this point in time.

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