The contrast could not have been clearer. The very day President G.W. Bush reached out to Democrat Bill Clinton and recruited his father, Republican G.H.W. Bush, to generate private tsunami-relief donations, Osama bin Laden’s comrades detonated 3 car bombs in Baghdad, killing 16 Iraqi police and soldiers toiling to rebuild their country. Once again, “the Great Satan” rescues endangered Muslims while Islamic zealots blew their co-religionists to bits. As the South Asian recovery unfolds, American public diplomacy should highlight this comparison to Muslims worldwide.
Countless Muslims were battered on “Black Sunday”. Indonesia, the earth’s most populous Islamic nation, was lashed hardest with 94,200 fatalities by the Wednesday December 28, 2004. Sri Lanka and India, both with significant Muslim minorities, had also lost 30,240 and 9,675 people by that stage. Largely spared on December 26, an increasingly violent Muslim citizenry lives in southern Thailand, a country that has lost 5,288. Astonishingly, in Somalia and Tanzania - five-air hours northwest of the massive Indonesian earthquake that triggered this emergency - the tsunami respectively killed 200 and 10 among their largely Muslim populations.
These and other nations have begun to see America’s $350 million in government relief. At least $190 million in private assistance is en route, from multi-million dollar corporate contributions to double-digit sums gleaned from piggy banks and church collection plates. Catholic Relief Services witnessed such an outpouring of on-line gifts that its overwhelmed web page crashed for 36 hours.
At an estimated $4 million daily, the Pentagon has mobilised Operation Unified Assistance, its largest Asian military operation since Saigon fell to Communism. By Wednesday, 13,435 US GIs had used 21 vessels, 41 airplanes, and 50 helicopters to deliver 305 tons of supplies. US warships desalinate water for the parched. And there is much more help on the way.
All this from a nation that our Islamic-fascist enemies claim is committed to vanquishing their Muslim brethren.
America and the civilised world, the “infidels” in Islamic-fascism’s crosshairs, are locked in a death match with this toxic ideology and its enthusiasts. Winning this struggle involves swaying rank-and-file Muslims around the world, many of whom call South Asia home. They and their Middle Eastern peers have eyes and ears attached to their hearts and minds. American press officers at embassies in Muslim nations should communicate this ongoing story via the Voice of America, local media outlets, public appearances, conversations with pedestrians on the Arab Street, and even advertising, where available.
They also should observe that this matches America’s record of aiding at-risk Muslims. The US saved Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, for instance, and donated $2.5 billion in development assistance to the Middle East and Northern Africa in 2003 alone, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Supply boxes and food sacks should be emblazoned with American flags. GIs who distribute that assistance should wear Old Glory on their uniforms. Private-sector American volunteers should be offered T-shirts that identify them as US ambassadors of goodwill.
We also should compare our generosity to the silence and stinginess of our foes. To date, Osama bin Laden has yet to offer a public word of sympathy to the hundreds of thousands of Muslims this calamity has killed, maimed, and dispossessed. The reclusive billionaire apparently has shared none of his wealth with the Muslims he claims to cherish. He has not even publicly invited fellow Muslims to open their wallets to aid those in say, Banda Aceh, the largely Islamic Sumatran city erased like a misspelled word just 20 minutes after a magnitude 9 earthquake as ferocious as 10,000 Nagasakis.
While $350 million in government help now makes America the fourth largest donor-nation (behind Australia’s $1 billion, Germany’s $680 million, and Japan’s $500 million), no Muslim country rated among the top 10 benefactors. Before pledging $30 million on Tuesday, January 4, 19th-ranked Saudi Arabia offered just $10 million. Sandra Bullock, an actress bereft of mineral resources, somehow gave the Red Cross $1 million
Reuters on Wednesday, January 6, tracked the government contributions from around the Arab oil patch. (No. 20 Qatar: $25 million; No. 22 United Arab Emirates: $20 million; No. 27 Kuwait: $10 million; No. 32 Algeria: $2 million; No. 33 Bahrain: $2 million; No. 34 Libya: $2 million). The $91 million in donations across these seven oil-soaked Muslim states plus Saudi Arabia are officially running on fumes.
Even worse, as the Middle East Media Research Institute reports, a Saudi cleric blamed infidel tourists for the tsunami. “It happened at Christmas when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion,” Professor Sheik Fawzan al-Fawzan of al-Imam University told Saudi Arabia’s al-Majd TV on December 31, 2004. So why, Professor, does Buddhist Bangkok’s notorious red light district still thrive while so much of devoutly Muslim Sumatra was swept to sea?
Meanwhile, legislator Walid Tabtabai wrote in Kuwait’s Al Watan daily that the deadly waves were “a test for believers and punishment for the unjust”. Radical Islamic commentator Abu Ziyaad called this catastrophe “a warning from Allah” to those who “delay and neglect prayers … indulge in free mixing … and listen to music and songs”. So why, Walid, didn’t Allah simply level Las Vegas?
“We’d be doing it regardless of religion,” Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday while surveying the ravaged region with President Bush’s brother, Governor Jeb Bush. Providing aid “does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action - that we care about every individual and the dignity of every individual”.
America leads this massive mission of mercy because it is the right thing to do. That it benefits many Muslims who Islamic-fascists hope to infuse with hate is even more reason for us to show them our love.