Muslims believe the United States is attacking Islam

The United States may be even further from winning “hearts and minds” of people in many parts of the Islamic world than originally thought. According to the results of a new survey undertaken between December 2006 and February 2007 by WorldPublicOpinion.org and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), ...

602347_070424_weakenislam_05.jpg
602347_070424_weakenislam_05.jpg

The United States may be even further from winning "hearts and minds" of people in many parts of the Islamic world than originally thought. According to the results of a new survey undertaken between December 2006 and February 2007 by WorldPublicOpinion.org and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the vast majority of people surveyed in four Muslim countries believe that the United States probably seeks to "weaken and divide the Islamic World." An extensive number of people were surveyed in Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco and Pakistan, and at least 73 percent in all of these countries—including a shocking 92 percent in Egypt, a country with a Coptic Christian minority estimated to be in the high single digits—were convinced that this is a primary U.S. goal. Further, an average of 64 percent  believed that the United States also aims to "spread Christianity in the region."

While the substantial majority of people surveyed (the lowest in Morocco at 57 percent, and the highest in Indonesia at 84 percent) believe that attacks on civilians to achieve political goals are not justified at all, around half, on average, do favor attacks on US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf. In fact, very strong majorities in all the countries involved in the survey support the goal of getting the United States to withdraw its forces from Islamic countries (ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt). And on average, 70 percent or higher approve of al Qaeda's principal goals. Yet despite this, only 3 in 10 respondents view Osama bin Laden positively, and large majorities believe such groups as al Qaeda are "violating the principles of Islam," though Pakistani sentiment is ambiguous on this question.

The results resoundingly show that the United States has failed in its public diplomacy efforts. But they also indicate that the majority of people surveyed in these Muslim countries are opposed to violence against civilians and the terrorist tactics of al Qaeda. Three quarters also had favorable feelings about globalization, and overall 67 percent agreed that "a democratic political system" is a good method of governing their countries. So perhaps it's not too late for the United States to overhaul its image and convince Muslims that it's not just out to undermine Islam.

The United States may be even further from winning “hearts and minds” of people in many parts of the Islamic world than originally thought. According to the results of a new survey undertaken between December 2006 and February 2007 by WorldPublicOpinion.org and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the vast majority of people surveyed in four Muslim countries believe that the United States probably seeks to “weaken and divide the Islamic World.” An extensive number of people were surveyed in Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco and Pakistan, and at least 73 percent in all of these countries—including a shocking 92 percent in Egypt, a country with a Coptic Christian minority estimated to be in the high single digits—were convinced that this is a primary U.S. goal. Further, an average of 64 percent  believed that the United States also aims to “spread Christianity in the region.”

While the substantial majority of people surveyed (the lowest in Morocco at 57 percent, and the highest in Indonesia at 84 percent) believe that attacks on civilians to achieve political goals are not justified at all, around half, on average, do favor attacks on US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf. In fact, very strong majorities in all the countries involved in the survey support the goal of getting the United States to withdraw its forces from Islamic countries (ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt). And on average, 70 percent or higher approve of al Qaeda’s principal goals. Yet despite this, only 3 in 10 respondents view Osama bin Laden positively, and large majorities believe such groups as al Qaeda are “violating the principles of Islam,” though Pakistani sentiment is ambiguous on this question.

The results resoundingly show that the United States has failed in its public diplomacy efforts. But they also indicate that the majority of people surveyed in these Muslim countries are opposed to violence against civilians and the terrorist tactics of al Qaeda. Three quarters also had favorable feelings about globalization, and overall 67 percent agreed that “a democratic political system” is a good method of governing their countries. So perhaps it’s not too late for the United States to overhaul its image and convince Muslims that it’s not just out to undermine Islam.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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