War of Ideas: Bin Laden, Terrorism May Be Going Out of Style

War of Ideas: Bin Laden, Terrorism May Be Going Out of Style

One of the more disturbing sights greeting travelers to the Middle East and other regions with Muslim populations in the days after September 11 was a t-shirt defiantly bearing a familiar face. I saw the new fashions hanging for sale in markets in Southeast Asia, shirts adorned with the gaunt, bearded likeness of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had captured the imagination of a large number of people. Clearly, defeating him would require more than military might.

Years later, the long, painful, and error-filled campaign to defeat Islamic extremists brings news that seems to go from bad to worse. America, along with Muslim moderates and reformers, has failed to win decisive victories. Efforts to bring democracy have faltered or produced disastrous results. And the United States has seen its political, military and moral supremacy erode since it decided to try to remake the Middle East after 9/11. And yet, amid all the dark clouds, some widely scattered good news has managed to slash through the stormy horizon. Muslim extremists, it seems, are losing ground in one of the most important battlefields of this conflict: the war of ideas.

The ray of hope comes from the Pew Research Center, which conducted a survey in 47 countries, including many with large Muslim majorities. Pew already informed us that America's reputation has collapsed in recent years. But the new report points to something potentially more significant than a lack of love for America. Muslims, it turns out, have become disenchanted with terrorism.

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