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Courting Moderate Muslims
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Oct. 15, 2001 -- Whatever success the Anglo-American alliance is having pounding the Taliban into dust, it's having little success winning the hearts and minds of Islamic peoples. A belated and feeble effort at public diplomacy, including appearances by American officials on the independent Al-Jazeera television channel, has had no visible effect on the increasingly radicalized crowds in the Islamic world.

There has been intensifying anti-American rioting from Nigeria to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. Iran, hostile to the Taliban, nevertheless has avoided endorsing the anti-terrorist campaign. Even in Kuwait, which was rescued by the Gulf War, support for the campaign has been so timid that a former official accused his government of abdicating to militant Islamic groups and betraying the United States.

"What is becoming clear is that this is not like 1990, when so-called moderate Arab states could be drawn into a coalition against the aggression of another Arab state."

Daniel Schorr

Saudi Arabia also owes America a lot for shielding it from an aggressive Iraq, but that was then. The Saudi royal family, whose corruption is detailed by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine, has not been very quick to step up to the anti-terrorist plate. The Saudi regime has a history of bankrolling extremists as long as they operated outside Saudi Arabia. It has obstructed the FBI investigation of the bombing of the Khobar Towers Air Force barracks. About half of the 19 suicide hijackers of September 11th were Saudi nationals.

Most alarming of all, anti-American feeling is rising in Pakistan, where the Taliban came from, threatening the stability of the Musharraf regime. What is becoming clear is that this is not like 1990, when so-called moderate Arab states could be drawn into a coalition against the aggression of another Arab state.

Moderates are getting harder and harder to come by. In this war, the coalition is increasingly aligned around America, NATO and Russia.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.