From the insightful and estimable Walid Phares in Frontpage:
With one sentence, Newsweek triggered a series of violent
intifadas in countries as remote as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and beyond.
That’s at least how mainstream media, government officials, and most of the public see it. The truth is more complicated: Islamists had been planning these riots long before this story ever made it into print.
True, the short piece by Michael Isikoff and John Barry, which attempted to unveil a new scandal, became the trigger for mass violence led by Islamists across the world. But the jihadists had mobilized for a counteroffensive against the “infidels” long ago. Ironically, these two developments have something in common: both undermine the credibility of the U.S-supported democracy movements in the Arab world.
The violent marches in Pakistan and Afghanistan were not an abrupt and sudden reaction to the weekly magazine’s sentence accusing U.S. personnel of desecrating a copy of the Muslim holy book. Since the fall of Tora Bora in December of 2001, al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants were waiting for this moment: they call it “al awda,” meaning the “return.” Patiently, the leaders of the jihadists, including Thawahiri, Mullah Umar, and the various Islamists of Jamiet Islami and Hizbu Tahrir, were working on mounting the major counteroffensive against the democratically elected government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Day after day, from Kabul to Kandahar, the Afghan society was moving away from the mental and political grip of the Taliban. And year after year, more and more al-Qaeda leaders were being eliminated and arrested, two over the past few weeks alone.
The more lethal danger facing the jihadi ideology is the success of democracy in the region. Afghani women voted by the millions; Iraq’s 8.5 million voters braved Zarqawi’s killers; a million marchers challenged Syria’s military in Beirut, and just this week, Kuwaiti women forced parliament to give them the right to vote. By jihadi standards, the war of ideas is being lost. The Newsweek story gave them the ability to counterattack and try to gain ground in their terror war.
Preparing their “come back,” the Salafists understood that demonstrations are their best weapons for the time being. Suicide bombings and beheadings made them look as evil as they are, even in the eyes of most Arabs and Muslims. They saw how popular expressions from Kabul to Beirut, from Tehran to Baghdad, captured the imagination of younger and younger Muslims, but also the attention of public opinion in the West. Back in the early winter, Ayman al Thawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, called on his followers to “take back the country and reduce Karzai to his palace.” That was the mission order: to find a way to re-conquer the street and, from there, the entire Arab world. On Al Ansar websites, on al Jazeera and on Hezbollah’s al Manar TV, a global propaganda campaign has been waged since 2002, increasing sharply since the fall of Saddam. In the chat rooms I visit, the dominant motif is: America has made war on Islam as a whole, as a religion…
Read it all.