Monday, October 31, 2005

Al Qaeda Takes a Big PR Hit

Al Qaeda Takes a Big PR Hit
by James Dunnigan

A new poll by the Pew Research Organization, revealed that support for al Qaeda, in Moslem nations, was declining. In only one Moslem country, Jordan, was support for Islamic terrorism increasing (from 55 percent in 2002, to 60 percent now.) More typical was Morocco, where support for al Qaeda dropped from 49 to 26 percent. In Lebanon, only two percent of the population supported al Qaeda.

Jordan’s attitudes are influenced by the fact that most of the population considers themselves Palestinian (or at least descended from Palestinian refugees). Jordan has also seen very few al Qaeda attacks. This is mostly due to the efficient police force, who are dominated by the Bedouin minority that runs the kingdom. One aspect of that control is to allow people to say, and believe, what they want. While the Palestinian majority may not like the monarchy, they know that the Bedouins would respond violently to any uprising. That has happened often enough in the past half century to convince most Jordanians that, while you can shout nasty things at the king, don’t take a shot at him. That said, the current king of Jordan, and his late father, went out of their way to be nice to their Palestinian citizens, as long as there was no violence against the government. The occasional violation of this understanding is met with a swift, and sometimes violent, response. Jordan is not a police state, but it is very well policed.

The rest of the Moslem world has come to see al Qaeda as an aimless and violent group, who appear to have no realistic goals. That, plus the al Qaeda fondness for bloody attacks against Moslem civilians, turns most people off. The Pentagon Information Warfare operations against al Qaeda had something to do with this shift in opinion, but those operations cannot be discussed in detail without weakening their effect.

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