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Has the Crucial War Already Been Lost? (World Report)

By Cooke, Bill | Free Inquiry, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Has the Crucial War Already Been Lost? (World Report)


Cooke, Bill, Free Inquiry


The U.S.-led war on Iraq has resulted in a hardening of anti-Western attitudes and opinions among Muslims in the Middle East. While Western media trumpeted coalition efforts to spare civilian targets, the provision of humanitarian aid, and relief of the long-oppressed Iraqi people, Muslim media ran horrific images of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed by American missiles while going about their lawful business at the market.

There is no reason to suppose that the Western image of the war is any more accurate than the Muslim view. Both views represent some version of reality But the recent hardening of Muslim opinion suggests that the coalition may lose the most crucial battle of all: the battle for the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims. Next to that, military victory over Saddam Hussein's execrable dictatorship will count for little.

SECULARISM DEFENDED IN MALAYSIA

Malaysia's dismal record regarding secularism may soon change. At least one top-level Malaysian leader has recognized what humanists have long known: that time given over to religious instruction is time not spent preparing children for the real world. Earlier this year, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Alimad Badawi spoke out for secular education, calling it essential to the country's future.

Responding to criticism that Malaysian education was insufficiently Islamic, Badawi countered with his concern that too much emphasis on Muslim indoctrination would lead non-Muslim Malaysians to abandon state schools. Moreover, he feared that excessive time spent on religious instruction would take away from more pressing needs: "We have a tough time trying to convince people that we must do this for the sake of the future ... to be more competitive."

RELIGION IN RWANDA BEARS BLAME FOR TRAGEDY

Rwanda's genocidal massacres occurred in 1994, but the roles played by various Rwandan churches before and during the violence have yet to receive the attention they deserve. Two factors cry for wider notice.

First, Rwanda was heavily Catholic; hierarchs strongly opposed contraception education. This led directly to an unsustainable population growth rate of 4.2 percent, with dangerous overcrowding and heightened competition for food and arable land. Many observers were predicting ecological and social catastrophe in Rwanda before the genocide.

Factor number two: shortly after Rwanda achieved independence in 1962, the Catholic hierarchy ended its long history of support for the minority Tutsi tribe, which had cooperated with Belgian colonial rulers. The church switched its support to the majority Hutus and strengihened that support over the next three decades.

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Has the Crucial War Already Been Lost? (World Report)
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