Dallas Morning News: There's some good news, for a change, from the global war on terrorism. A new Pew Research Center survey of international attitudes on terrorism conduct finds support for suicide bombing and Osama bin Laden down dramatically since 2002 in Muslim countries allied with the United States.
In Indonesia, Turkey and Morocco, 15 percent or less of the population back suicide bombers, and in Lebanon, the number has almost halved, to 39 percent of those polled. Meanwhile, confidence in Osama bin Laden has also plunged in Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. And throughout the Islamic world, support for democracy is rising, Pew found.
But don't be too quick to celebrate. In Jordan, nearly six in 10 people think suicide bombing is just fine, and a comparable number support Osama. Pakistan has seen increases in its population's already substantial backing for Osama (more than 50 percent support him, meaning about 75 million people), and roughly one in three Indonesians -- that is, 80 million people -- support the man who masterminded the mass murders of Sept. 11.
Clearly, there's plenty of room for progress here.
Similar ambiguity holds true for the spread of democracy among Muslim nations. Large and growing majorities in most Muslim nations surveyed believe democracy can work there. Yet significant majorities in all countries surveyed (Jordan excepted) say Islam is playing a greater role in politics and believe that's a good thing. Political Islam is generally seen in the West as antithetical to our ideals of civil liberties and progress. As one observes in Iraq today, the emergence of democracy is also bringing forth a politics steeped in religion and hostile to Western notions of human rights.
Cautious optimism is the right attitude to take toward the Pew findings. News from the frontlines on the war of ideas is usually so grim that we tend to shout hallelujah over any positive findings. Nevertheless, we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. There is a lot of work left to be done.