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Bush's Policies Are the Fuel of Islamic Fundamentalism

American foreign policy since 9/11 has dangerously divided the world and has marginalized the very people it seeks to help most: moderate Muslims.

By Syed Ashfaqul Haque

July 8, 2005

Original Article (English)    
It is not just the U.S. that has changed irrevocably since America’s most horrendous attack on September 11, 2001. The whole world has changed since then, and yet many in the West have little idea of how great the change has been.

But a potentially bigger change is taking place in Muslim countries, fuelling fanaticism, strengthening fundamentalist forces and weakening the secular base. Even Bangladesh, which has a long history as a moderate Muslim nation, has not been spared the fallout of 9/11.

The greatest tragedy of 9/11 is not what the U.S. lost on that fatal morning, but what the world has lost since then -- which is a lot. Muslim support or non-support of al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, or the Taliban have nothing to do with recent changes in the Muslim world, as moderate Muslims never regarded those ultra-Islamists as heroes taking on the infidel. Rather, it is America’s post-9/11 policy that has lumped together secular Muslims and Islamist militants, that has so greatly contributed to the cause of religious fundamentalism across the globe.

Secular Muslims have been quite understandably caught on the horns of a dilemma over George W Bush's war on terror, as they subscribe neither to the terrorism being perpetrated in the name of Islam nor to Bush's post-9/11 foreign policy, which he has  pursued with outrageous arrogance.


Like other Muslim nations, Bangladesh could not support the second U.S.-led invasion of Iraq based on a false claim of weapons of mass destruction. The attempt of Bush and his “well-dressed butler” -- as The Economist once described Tony Blair -- to link Osama bin Laden's Taliban with Iraq’s former dictator Saddam failed to convince even their most rabid supporters in the Muslim world.

Feeding the world half-truths and distorted facts, the U.S. war-mongers delved into this dirty war in Iraq, which has led to the killings of thousands of innocent civilians and a strangely spectacular rise of the insurgency. America’s war against its former henchman Saddam turned the Iraqi people into targets of assault of both the insurgents and U.S. war allies alike.

Needless to say, the false claims of WMDs, the brutal torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi jails, and the abuse of the Quran by a few U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo Bay have enraged Muslims. The alliance's false justifications of an unjust war have spread hatred toward the U.S. policy of aggression.

The heat of the simmering anger against this mindless war can be felt among the predominantly secular Muslims of Bangladesh. This general feeling has set the stage for fundamentalist forces to capitalize on the general sentiment against present U.S. policy. Many previously unheard-of religious groups have held rallies, burned Bush in effigy and chanted slogans against the U.S., events which secular Muslims saw little to object to.


Under post-9/11 U.S. policy, the countries that were reluctant to join Bush's war on terror are regarded as allies of terrorism. Such arrogance from America's cowboy president has only encouraged the dangerous divisions in the world, forcing many to believe that Bush’s war is a sort of American jihad, its own brand of fundamentalism, against both Islamist terrorists as well as peace-loving Muslims.

As formulated by the U.S., the world had a new order, with South Asian nuclear rivals India and Pakistan scrambling to win Bush’s heart first. India leaped to kill a few birds with one strategic stone. That forced military-ruled Pakistan to choose, and it has chosen to take a guarded “secular route” amidst the outcry from its mullahs.

A new South Asian order based solely on loyalty to U.S. policy at the expense of its moderate religious character is not what Bangladesh wanted. So Bangladesh not only turned down the U.S. offer by not supporting the U.S. war in Iraq, it has remained oblivious to the fact that ultra-Islamic militants may choose this very country, ridden with corruption and embroiled in confrontational politics, as their next destination.

Sadly, secular Muslims in Bangladesh have witnessed the rise of religious hard-liners who conveniently cash in on anti-America sentiment. All of the grenade attacks, explosions, assaults on the Ahmadiyya [Muslim] community, and the activities of radical religious groups have that have occurred in Bangladesh since 9/11 are much like similar events that have taken place in Pakistan. Many people believe that these attacks are by-products of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the U.S. was unusually quick to spread its terror war into Asia, and was painfully slow to help the affected countries respond to the danger.


Secret trials, eavesdropping on the Internet, racial profiling, and mass detentions now form the essence of U.S. policy, or at least it seems so.

Rights groups have been accusing the U.S. of gross violations of basic civil and human rights, with Amnesty International observing that the war on terror must not be an excuse to deny these rights.

The controversial Patriot Act that allows U.S. agencies to “sneak and peak,” in other words search people's homes and offices without a search warrant – have sent a collective chill down the spine of the Muslim population in America, severely curtailing their freedom since 9/11.

The situation is so suffocating that scores of Bangladeshi-Americans have started telling their relatives back home that they no longer want to live in what was once known as the land of freedom.

A Bangladeshi professor living in New York had to part with his 30-year-old beard in fear of harassment by law-enforcement agencies and anti-Muslim groups.

A 16-year-old girl, Tashnuba Hayder, was arrested in New York City by the FBI on charges of “domestic terrorism.” But after weeks of intense interrogation, she was deported to Bangladesh for violating immigration laws! The American media ran stories on the traumatized Tashnuba and her family, depicting the chilling details of police-state intimidation and anti-Muslim persecution.

Many such stories of harassment exist, and these tales of horror have won America more foes than friends in Bangladesh.


The Bush Administration must understand Islam before deciding who it should fight with or against. The U.S. leadership must accept the conventional wisdom that war is by no means the only remedy to terrorism. Also, Bush must realize the fact that any real change in the Muslim world should come from within and not be imposed by US military power.

A good strategy for the U.S. would be to focus on changing the internal dynamics of Muslim countries by strengthening secular forces. But it is high time the U.S. abandon its military atrocities and its foreign policy of arrogance, and tries to understand why it is so hated over much of the world.

There is not much to argue about, if one says that only a policy of patience and pragmatism will help the Bush Administration win over the Muslim world. At least, I won't.

The author is Joint News Editor of The Daily Star.

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