- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -
Who is winning the war of ideas between the West and al Qaeda’s hate-driven version of Islam?
It is a question that merits asking again after a 23-year-old Western-educated Nigerian of privileged background, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to murder almost 300 people by bringing down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with explosives sewn into the crotch of his underpants.
The administration of President Barack Obama, averse to the bellicose language of George W. Bush, has virtually dropped the phrase “war of ideas.” But that doesn’t mean it has ended. Or that Obama’s plea, in his Cairo speech this summer, for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world has swayed the disciples of Osama bin Laden, whose 1998 fatwa (religious ruling) against “Jews and Crusaders” remains the extremists’ guiding principle.
“To…kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it,” the fatwa said. “This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah (to) fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together.”
That this exhortation is as appealing today, to a fanatical minority, as it was 11 years ago underlines that the United States has had scant success in meeting the objective the Bush administration set out in its 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. “Together with the international community, we will wage a war of ideas to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate, to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in any nation…”