Polls show anti-American feelings at all time high in Muslim countries

Two new polls, conducted separately in 2005 and 2006, show that anti-American feeling in Arab nations is at an all-time high.

The surveys, carried out by Zogby International and the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, show that it's not just that feelings are running against the US, it's that Arabs and Muslims are "giving up on [the US] – on our ability to make good decisions, to solve problems, to play the role of honest broker."

David Ignatius, of The Washington Post, writes that as bad as you think it may be from watching TV, "it's actually worse." In his column, Mr. Ignatius refers to a poll presented by Shibley Telhami – a University of Maryland professor and a fellow of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution – at a conference on America's relations with the Muslim world held in Doha, Qatar this past weekend. The survey, by Zogby International, was done in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In these six "friendly" countries, only 12 percent of those surveyed expressed favorable attitudes toward the United States. America's leaders have surpassed Israel's as objects of anger. Asked which foreign leader they disliked most, 38 percent named George Bush; Ariel Sharon was a distant second at 11 percent; and Ehud Olmert was third with 7 percent.

The poll data show a deep suspicion of American motives: 65 percent of those surveyed said they didn't think democracy was a real US objective in the Middle East. Asked to name two countries that had the most freedom and democracy, only 14 percent said America, putting it far behind France and Germany.

The Gulf Times of Qatar reports that 84 percent of those surveyed in the Zogby poll believe that the war in Iraq has created more, not fewer, terrorists, while 86 percent believe that there has been "less peace" in the region since the removal of Saddam Hussein.

The Cybercast News Service reports that Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told the conference that most Arabs do not hate the United States but oppose its double standards.

"Muslims cannot accept the US policy of supporting Israel and its occupation of Arab and Muslim territories," he said, adding that Arabs could also not understand Washington's opposition to Iran's nuclear program while Israel's was ignored.

Reuters reports that the good news in the report is that 67 percent of those surveyed said that the US could substantially repair its image if it brokered peace in the region.

But commentators in the region doubt that the US will do this. Rami Khouri – editor of The Daily Star of Lebanon and described by Ignatius as "one of most balanced journalists in the Arab world" – says that you only need to listen to American officials speak at an international gathering to understand why four out of five Arabs have an unfavorable view of the US and its policies.

This year, the task of further lowering Arab-Islamic esteem for the US government fell to David Satterfield, the senior adviser and coordinator for Iraq in the office of the US secretary of state. The gist of his remarks was that the US public and government have limited patience in Iraq, and it was up to Iraqis now to take change of their future by acting in a national rather than a sectarian fashion ...

The destruction that might be unleashed around the Middle East, and possibly the world, from the US decision to go to war in Iraq is only now becoming clear. For the US to say that its patience is limited and that it can at best be a catalyst in the face of the furies and destruction it has unleashed is precisely the sort of self-serving double standard that causes so many people around the world to fear and resist the US.

Mr. Khouri also writes that, on the issue of double standards, the matter of "responsibility, impunity, and accountability is rising higher on the list of priorities of people" in the region. And while judicial processes are underway in the Arab world in countries like Iraq, Jordan and Sudan to bring those associated with violent acts to justice, he wonders if only Arabs and Muslims will be held accountable for their "brutality and crimes ... or is it possible to ask that those in the US, the United Kingdom, Israel, and other lands who have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people also be held accountable to world public opinion and the rule of law?"

Meanwhile, The Times of London reports that the largest survey of Muslims ever conducted shows that the war on terror has radicalized even well-educated Muslims to unprecedented levels.

Gallup's Centre for Muslim Studies in New York carried out surveys of 10,000 Muslims in ten predominantly Muslim countries. One finding was that the wealthier and better-educated the Muslim was, the more likely he was to be radicalized.

The poll also found that residents of Muslim countries share more in common with the United States in terms of spiritual and family values than they do those in with European countries.

A large number of Muslims supported the Western ideal of democratic government. Fifty per cent of radicals supported democracy, compared with 35 per cent of moderates.

Religion was found to have little to do with radicalization or antipathy towards Western culture. Muslims were condemnatory of promiscuity and a sense of moral decay. What they admired most was liberty, its democratic system, technology and freedom of speech.

The poll's researchers reported that the idea in the West that all Arab or Muslim radicals are "religious fundamentalists or the poor and hopeless" is fundamentally wrong.

"They often charge that religious fervour triggers radical and violent views," said John Esposito, a religion professor, and Dalia Mogahed, Gallup's Muslim studies director, in one analysis. "But the data say otherwise. There is no significant difference in religiosity between moderates and radicals. In fact, radicals are no more likely to attend religious services regularly than are moderates."

Mr. Esposito and Ms. Mogahed presented some of their findings in the November 2006 issue of Foreign Policy. In it they argue that if the West wants to reach the extremists and empower the Muslim moderates, "it must first recognize who it's up against."

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