Muslim Views of the United States

Muslim Views of the United States

The Pew Research Center has a fascinating poll released earlier this month on Muslim perceptions of the United States. Here is a quick summary:

Simply put, America’s image in much of the Muslim world remains abysmal. Iraq, the war on terrorism, American support for Israel and other key features of U.S. foreign policy continue to generate animosity in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. In many nations considered central to the war on terror, the general public deeply distrusts the United States. Even in countries like Kuwait that have long been considered relatively pro-American, the U.S. image has declined.

On the bright side, America seems to be winning the battle of ideas on some important fronts. First and foremost, support for terrorism has declined dramatically over the last few years in many Muslim countries. Fewer Muslims now consider suicide bombing justifiable, and confidence in Osama bin Laden has waned. Moreover, the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey revealed the extent to which there is broad support for democracy, capitalism and globalization throughout all regions of the world, including Muslim nations. Support for American ideas, however, does not necessarily translate into warm feelings for the United States. Instead, Muslims believe the United States fails to live up to its rhetoric on democracy, and they tend to blame the United States for the aspects of globalization they do not like.


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frankie.masterson
frankie.masterson

Professor Alford, In gauging the perception of US conduct, I am not sure looking to these particular individuals’ perceptions are especially indicative for our purposes. I feel it would be equally insightful to explore other contributing factors potentially tainting the implications of the point this poll seems to convey. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to accurately qualify the underlying motivating factors; these nations by no means whatsoever have the journalistic freedom and transparency present in Western democracies. How much of a role do you feel extremist propaganda and limited access to unbiased information, embraced by these terrorist organizations and regimes (and utilized in an immensely effective manner), has affected these Muslim citizens’ actual perceptions? While this poll may seem disheartening on its face (or perhaps ‘heartening’ for liberals), regardless of one’s personal political views, I do not believe we should afford too great a weight to these perceptions as reliable indicia of the appropriateness/inappropriateness of US policy abroad. Although the validity of the US’s actions around the globe may be legitimately contested on other grounds, I feel the inference of this particular poll is quite misleading and easily misinterpreted (though I realize you probably intended this poll to… Read more »

Jhoover
Jhoover

Thanks for this interesting post.

I wonder in comparable what the US citizens though about Muslims/Islam also what the western word thinking about Islam/Muslim.

It’s really interesting to compare the two vies for each side, then we can find what make these differences and may be find ways to brigade these two sides for more friendly and cooperative approaches.

P.S. O'Donnell
P.S. O'Donnell

The question about suicide bombing should be more discriminate: I suspect many Muslims condone it in the case of the Palestinian self-defense and resistance against the Israelis, in which case they are seen as the equivalent of “martyrdom operations.” For instance, Islamic scholars who have supported Palestinian martyrdom operations “were unequivocal in condmening the 11 September attacks in New York. These scholars have also condemned the later bombings in Bali, in Riyadh, in Rabat, in Istanbul, in Madrid, and in London, as well as bombings that target civilians in various parts of Iraq or Afghanistan.” For an account of the reasons why the Palestinian cause is viewed as unique, see Azzam Tamimi, Hamas: A History from Within (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2007): 171-186.

Nespresso
Nespresso

In the cited paragraphs, we read that

‘America seems to be winning the battle of ideas on some important fronts. [..] support for terrorism has declined dramatically over the last few years in many Muslim countries. Fewer Muslims now consider suicide bombing justifiable, and confidence in Osama bin Laden has waned. [..] there is broad support for democracy, capitalism and globalization throughout all regions of the world, including Muslim nations.’

I was wondering: Can you really refer to all that as American victories in the battle of ideas? I would be really surprised if in the past a majority of Muslims supported terrorism and disliked democracy, capitalism and globalization, and that now, thanks to America, this perception changed.

I think the fact that these ideas are not American ideas also easily explains why ‘[s]upport for American ideas, however, does not necessarily translate into warm feelings for the United States.’ That is exactly because they are not American ideas, but universal ones.

Guest
Guest

“It is in the national spirit … I anticipate the day when to command respect in the remotest regions it will be sufficient to say, ‘I am an American.'” – Gouverneur Morris, Co-author of the United States Constitution

Jhoover
Jhoover

The CIA changed direction again today in its assessment of al-Qaida, claiming it has been essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is on the defensive throughout most of the rest of the world.

The upbeat assessment comes less than a year after US intelligence reported that al-Qaida had rebuilt its strength around the world and was well-placed to launch fresh attacks.

But, in an interview with the Washington Post published this morning, Michael Hayden, the CIA director, said: “On balance, we are doing pretty well. Near strategic defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaida globally – and here I’m going to use the word ‘ideologically’, as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam.”

jvarisco

Support for suicide terrorism declined under Bush after we invaded Iraq? The largest decline was in Lebanon, which had a war of its own. And it went way down in Pakistan well before we forced Musharraf aside.

Don’t hold your breath for much media coverage, though.