A year after his Cairo speech, Muslims think less of Obama

A new survey by the Global Attitudes Project shows Muslim views of President Obama and the US have slipped in several largely Muslim countries, severely in some. It's not the man, it's the American policy, the message seems to be.

Chuck Kennedy/The White House/Rapport Syndication/Newscom
President Obama speaks at Cairo University on June 4, 2009. His outreach speech was well received in the Islamic world. A year later, Muslims are disappointed.

A year after President Obama wowed many Muslims with his outreach speech in Cairo, the Muslim world is not so wowed anymore.

According to the new survey by the Global Attitudes Project, put out by the Pew Research Center, favorability ratings among Muslims for the US and confidence in Mr. Obama slipped this year – severely in two key countries – after edging up slightly in 2009.

America’s favorability in Egypt dropped from 27 to 17 percent. In Turkey, confidence in Obama has fallen from 33 to 23 percent. Interestingly, those are the two countries where the president gave major speeches to repair damaged relations with the Muslim world.

Muslims were also polled in Jordan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Two things are worth noting about the part of the survey related to the Islamic world (the annual poll covers 22 countries).

First, for all the intensely negative feelings about George W. Bush, it’s less the president and more the policy that matters to Muslims. While those questioned still trust Obama more than they did Mr. Bush to “do the right thing” in world affairs, it comes down to what the United
States does that counts.

Clearly, most Muslims aren’t happy with what the US is doing. Large majorities strongly object to US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq – though less so among Pakistanis, Indonesians, and Nigerians. Majorities in all but one country also disapprove of US-Iran policy. And Muslim publics continue to view the US as a military threat.

The clincher, not surprisingly, is the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The survey, which was taken before the MAY 31 Gaza flotilla incident, shows vigorous disapproval of US handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – 90 percent in Lebanon, and close to that in Egypt and Turkey.

But here’s the other survey result worth noting: Many Muslims share America’s concerns. They don’t support terrorism. They don’t support Osama bin Laden. They don’t want a nuclear Iran (except nuclear Pakistan; people there don’t mind). Compared to the middle of the last decade, many fewer Muslims say that suicide bombing and other violence against civilians can be justified to defend Islam, according to the survey.

My question is: When will these shared concerns result in better shared action?

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