Muslims and the West

As the endgame approaches in the war against Osama bin Laden, Pakistani professor Pervez Hoodbhoy has written a thoughtful essay, published in two installments, which ponders the next steps that must be taken. "If the world is to be spared what future historians may call the 'Century of Terror,' we will have to chart the perilous course between the Scylla of American imperial arrogance and the Charybdis of Islamic religious fanaticism," he writes. Hoodbhoy's first installment discusses internal factors that contributed to the decline of Muslim science and culture. The second installment shows how this trend "combined fatally" with "lack of scruple and the pursuit of power by the United States" to create the conditions that created the current crisis. "For Muslims," he writes, "it is time to stop wallowing in self-pity: Muslims are not helpless victims of conspiracies hatched by an all-powerful, malicious West." However, "The United States too must confront bitter truths. It is a fact that the messages of George W. Bush and Tony Blair fall flat while those of Osama bin Laden, whether he lives or dies, resonate strongly across the Muslim world. Osama's religious extremism turns off many Muslims, but they find his political message easy to relate to -- stop the dispossession of the Palestinians, stop propping up corrupt and despotic regimes across the world just because they serve US interests."