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Bridging the Gap Between Muslim World and the West

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2002 – Al Qaeda not only hijacked airliners for terrorist purposes, the terrorist group is trying to hijack Islam, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Sept. 5.

Wolfowitz spoke at the Brookings Institution here about the need to build on the common ground between East and West. He said he is convinced the vast majority of Muslims in the world have no use for terrorism. The United States must encourage these people as it works to bridge the gap between the Muslim world and the West, he said.

The deputy secretary said he's encouraged by the strides Turkey and Indonesia have made in the past year.

Turkey is a key NATO ally and is seeking admission into the European Union. The country is the historical crossroad between East and West, and it is a secular state with a Muslim majority. Wolfowitz said changes in Turkey, which include more press freedom and more minority rights, are a mobilization in support of Europe.

Turkey also supports the war on international terrorism. The Turks were among the first to offer support to the United States following the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The Turks are in command of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to the end of the year and have other forces in Afghanistan.

Turkey is also host to the American forces enforcing U.N. sanctions against Iraq.

The mere existence of Turkey as a representative democracy proves to others in the Muslim world that such a government is possible, Wolfowitz said. With the model of Turkey in mind, he said, America and Europe must do what they can to help Turkey succeed. One such step, he said, would be for the European Union to accept Turkey's bid for membership.

"In the long run, the way to defeat extremism is to demonstrate that the values that we call 'Western' are indeed universal; to demonstrate that the benefits we enjoy -- the benefits of a free and prosperous and open society - - are available to all Muslims," he said. "Never has our stake in Turkey been greater."

Indonesia is another important example for the Muslim world. Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country. The country has gone through tremendous changes as it seeks to make itself a democracy and bridge the gap with the West.

Islam is not the state religion in Indonesia. The country recognizes all five major religions in the country. The interpretation of Islam in the country favors the religion of Muhammad and not the fanaticism of Osama bin Laden, Wolfowitz said.

The deputy said the United States should help Indonesia in its transition to democracy and in the war on terrorism. Indonesia is working to improve its armed forces' human rights record and professionalism. He said Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit there in August helped move the two countries closer to normal military-to-military relations.

The fate of Indonesia is important to the United States and the rest of the West. "If we are serious about opposing terrorism, we must also be serious about helping Indonesia in its quest for a stable democracy and a stable economy," he said.

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Related Sites:
'Building a Better World: One Path from Crisis to Opportunity': Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., Sept. 5, 2002

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