Support for Bin Ladin: "Lies, Damned Lies, and . . . Statistics!"
Recently, my blog had a visiter by the name of "Ahmed" who had followed a link from Malcolm Pollack's fine blog, Waka Waka Waka. Ahmed posted a comment to my blog entry on President Obama's speech in Cairo, from which I had excerpted the remarks on Al Qaeda's role in the 9/11 attacks, and he made the following claim about the Muslim reaction to 9/11:
"99% of Muslims, didn't like what happened on Sept 11. I know that because i am a Muslim and full aware of what my people think."Ahmed's statistics surprised me, so I responded:
"The 99% disapproval sounds a bit high, compared to statistics that I've seen, but I won't quibble."Ahmed asked for my figures:
"I think you are wrong, but i would love to see your statistics. Please provide them as i could be the wrong one."That sounded reasonable, so I replied:
"As for the statistics on Muslim support for Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, I'll have to do some Googling, but I am certain that I've seen statistics as high as 20 to 30 percent . . . though I don't expect that to be accepted as fact unless I provide confirmation."Ahmed immediately requested that confirmation:
"With all due respect, you cannot just through 'I've seen statistics as high as 20 to 30 percent' without clearly substantiate it with a creditable reference. I am sure that you are aware of the fact that 30% out of +1.5 Billion is a lot, and the US is in deep trouble if that is the true. That is a +450,000,000 . . . . throwing numbers like that without consciously thinking about them doesn't really help at all."I replied that I would try as soon as I had time:
"Ahmed, you are correct to ask for 'a creditable reference' for the numbers that I said that I'd seen. In fact, you may recall that I myself stated that 'I don't expect . . . [the numbers] to be accepted as fact unless I provide confirmation.' So, I wasn't 'throwing numbers [around] . . . without consciously thinking about them.' I Googled on this statistics issue yesterday for about an hour but couldn't find any statistics at all. I'll try again when I have time, but I'm in the midst of grading final papers and tests, so I can't devote much time to this issue."Ahmed responded with generosity:
"Numbers: I am not really in a hurry, i will be back here in few days to see if you can provide something, or even longer if you wish, so please take your time."I promised again:
"As for statistics, I will look further. I know that I've seen reports of 20 to 30 percent support for 9/11. Now, whether those reports were based on reputable sources is another thing to be considered even if I find the numbers. Doubtless, the statistics would also differ over time."After some time, maybe half a day, I posted some stopgap data:
"A Pew Global Attitudes Project Report (2007) offers some interesting statistics -- and change in statistics -- posted in 2007. In the table 'Confidence in Bin Ladin to do the right thing regarding world affairs,' we find these numbers:Some anonymous poster left a comment at this point:'In Morocco, just 26% of the public now say they have a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down sharply from 49% in May 2003. In Indonesia, the public is now about evenly split, with 35% saying they place at least some confidence in bin Laden and 37% saying they have little or none; that represents a major shift since 2003, when 58% expressed confidence in bin Laden. In Pakistan, however, a narrow majority (51%) places some measure of confidence in bin Laden, a slight increase from 45% in 2003. And in Jordan, support for the Al Qaeda leader has risen over the last two years from 55% to a current 60%, including 25% who say they have a lot of confidence in him.'Now, this isn't explicitly a confirmation of support for 9/11, but support for Bin Ladin would, presumably, correlate strongly with support for the 9/11 attacks carried out by Al Qaeda.
I'll try to find something in the next few days to supply some numbers."
Why are Jews against Obama? i hope the don't kill him like they did with Rabin.To that anonymous poster, I replied:
"[A]s for 'the Jews' -- they're hardly monolithic on Obama, nor were they on Rabin.To my surprise, I heard not from the anonymous poster, but from an irate Ahmed:
The Jewish Task Force site that you linked to represents a small number of Jews and has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center."
"So those Jews who openly call for the death of Obama, calling him a Muslim -- just to insult him -- which is clear racism and hateful, you so anxiously calling them a small minority within the Jewish faith, but when it comes to Muslims you seem to be loose on figures and eager to point out that they are sympathizers of Al Qaeda. You went as far as using a 30% figure (!!??). This is a clear bias on your behalf Jeffery, a bias against Muslim and for Jews. On one hand you are trying to prove how bad Muslims are 'I Googled on this statistics issue yesterday for about an hour but couldn't find any statistics at all. I'll try again when I have time' (Jeffery), on the other, you are arguing with me against, as i clearly put it earlier, that there are no shortage of 'Morons on both sides'. You also, trying very hard to belittle and marginalize the incident of the 5 'Jewish' Israeli soldiers, or the 60 Mosad agents who are under FBI custody since 911 (according to the same sources). As i have clearly stated that i am a Muslim, my question to you, from which we can get some insights into this exchange: Are you Jewish?, and if so are you a Zionist? and if neither, how do you feel about Zionism?"I was surprised by the bold assumptions, the harsh accusations, and the tendentious questions -- and wondered if Ahmed had posted the anonymous comment on "Jews against Obama" -- but I decided to dial the emotions down a bit:
"Ahmed, let me remind you that you are a guest here on my blog, and the implicit rules of hospitality require that both host and guest maintain courtesy.Ahmed replied to this:
If you want to get better acquainted with me, then I suggest that you look around on my blog. You'll probably learn enough that way to answer your questions.
In this forum, however, I prefer to stay on topic. I therefore pose no personal questions -- and also have no desire to answer any."
"I talked about your 'loosely' generated figures that you throw out there and now struggling to find one reference to justify it. I have just reminded you, and since your an academic, that you need to have your 'creditable and clear refereces' on hand before you start using percentages and figures -- common sense, nothing more. On the contrary to your accusation, i have showed despite all this, patience and understanding and mentioned earlier that i don't think that you are doing this out of malice, and offered that you withdrew it. Clearly you do not wish to.Since Ahmed preferred things this way, I acceded:
Finally, I have always tried to stay on topic despite your attempt to turn it to 'Jews cannot do no wrong', and despite your own admittance that you have not read the speech 'At any rate, I also am interested in Obama's speech, which I've not had time to analyze.' (Jeffery) Which means that you blogging about something you have not even read.
Now! and since my presence here is not welcomed i will take my leave"
"Ahmed, I believe that you are overreacting to what I have written, but since we seem to have difficulty communicating, then perhaps your choice is for the best."I don't know why Ahmed grew so upset at my remarks, why he queried me about my possibly being Jewish or a Zionist, why he imagines that I think that Jews can do no wrong, why he forbids me from commenting briefly on a short passage in Obama's Cairo speech, nor why he failed to respond to the statistics that I did provide showing enormous support for Bin Ladin even after 9/11, which surely correlates strongly with approval of the 9/11 attacks -- though these stats weren't precisely what I was looking for.
Aside from the unnecessary concern that I might be Jewish, which the occasional reader seems to worry about, the oddest part of all this for me is that Ahmed wanted me to retract my statement that "I've seen statistics as high as 20 to 30 percent." I can only imagine that he wanted me to say that I had never seen such statistics, but that wouldn't be true. I have seen such statistics. Whether I can locate those precise numbers now, eight years after 9/11, I won't hazard to say, but I've already supplied figures on support for Bin Ladin, and I can now offer statistics on Muslim support for 9/11 that amount to more than the 20 to 30 percent that I'd mentioned. In the The Age of Sacred Terror (New York: Random House, 2002), Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon report on a survey conducted by the Sunday Times in the UK soon after the 9/11 attacks:
"40% of British Muslims believe Osama bin Laden was right to attack the United States. About the same proportion think that British Muslims have a right to fight alongside the Taliban. A radio station serving London's Pakistani community conducted a poll which 98% of London Muslims under 45 said they would not fight for Britain, while 48% said they would fight for bin Laden." (page 213)Now, this was a poll taken solely in the United Kingdom, but it's 10 percentage points higher than the upper figure that I mentioned to Ahmed, so I believe that I've provided sufficient warrant for the trustworthiness of my words, namely, that "on Muslim support for Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, . . . I've seen statistics as high as 20 to 30 percent." I wonder that Ahmed never offered any statistical support for his claim that Muslim support for the 9/11 attacks was 1% or less, an estimate that is absurdly low.
Of course, statistics on this and related issues are in flux (e.g., Al Qaeda and the Taliban being less popular these days among Pakistanis), and if readers know of other polls showing similar or different statistics, feel free to provide them -- along with links to the websites (if possible).