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Monday, October 16, 2006

Perspective

I’m sitting in the airport this morning, waiting to leave North Africa and Ramadan behind me. While it has not been all fun and games, I have enjoyed my trip. Coincidentally, I started reading The Looming Tower on my flight over, what a poignant setting to digest this incredible work - and being joined at the hip for two weeks with a former general from the Egyptian police didn’t hurt either.

One of the highlights of my trip was an evening spent with The General, two other contractors working with us, and our guide Mohamed. After dinner at Mohamed’s riad, the conversations drifted toward my two favorite subjects – politics and religion. During much of the preceding week, Mohamed had punctuated his commentary on the region with not so subtle plugs for Islam. I must say that this was the first time I’ve ever been witnessed to by a Muslim. While the experience may sound altogether horrible to some, I must say that I was impressed by his passion and humility, not to mention the fact that his is just a nice guy, a good family man, trying to improve what he can within his sphere of influence.

Now listen, I know what you’re thinking, but rest assured – I have not changed my name to “Hamid” and declared Jihad. But I did hear, for the first time, a bona-fide Muslim tell me that what some folks have been doing in the name of Allah is dead wrong. That’s right, a real Muslim condemning terrorism. Mohamed went so far as to say that the people doing this are not Muslims. The General agreed, he has seen first hand the effects that the terrorists have had upon his country and has seen the benefit of the aid the US has given to Egypt to help them fight this scourge. What was discouraging though is the perspective I found among other, less learned folks.

Many of the people I spoke with, including the two younger contractors (also Egyptians), were predictably biased and uninformed. While not particularly religious, and having no particular affinity for the Palestinians, most folks just don’t like the fact that the US is involved in the Middle East. While their justifications ring about as hollow as those of the Democrats (indeed, they sound eerily similar), once their arguments are drawn out, it always comes down to the same two things, non-Muslims in Muslim lands and US support for Israel. It just burns them to no end that we will not let Israel’s neighbors wipe her off the map. They demand that we invest in and support their countries while at the same time insisting that we turn a blind eye to the open hostility for us and our friends.

Well, I guess I must cut it short as my flight is boarding, and none too soon, but it has been and good trip. I’m leaving here much more informed than I was before I came and more convinced that we can win this war, but we need not only to prove our resolve to the Muslim world but to bring reason and logic to the debate, in region where those two things are seemingly in short supply.