Sunday, September 18, 2005

Part 3

All one has to do to confirm these statistics is to turn to polls that have been conducted in the past few years in the Arab Middle East and in Muslim countries. In March 2002, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of 10,000 people in nine Muslim countries found that a majority of people from Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, had unfavorable views of the United States. Another important set of polls were conducted by John Zogby, a respected American pollster who has been conducting polls since 1984. Zogby International has published many extensive polls over the years of Arab attitudes toward the United States. In June 2004, more than a year into the invasion of Iraq, Zogby International published “Impressions of America,” a poll of the attitude towards Americans of six Arab nations and it stated that 69% of Lebanese, 73% of Emiraties, 78% of Jordanians, 98% of Egyptians, 88% of Moroccans, and 94% of Saudis had unfavorable views of the United States. These numbers were staggering especially considering that they were a considerable hike from a similar poll taken in June of 2002, ten months before the start of the Iraqi war. This gives us a glimpse into what really affects Arab popular opinion, namely foreign policy.

Part 2

The question, “Why do they hate us,” was posed most poignantly after the destruction of the World Trade Towers in Manhattan, although it was alluded to before then by many intellectuals and politicians. After September 11, however, it was asked on a much wider scope by the American public, whose demands for an answer was met by different fixtures of our society. The American mainstream television media and the political establishment attempted to answer the question, some with more success than others. Some responses were extremely naïve and simple such as the now infamous, “they hate us for our freedom”. Others were more cynical and insincere, of which there are many varieties beginning with “terrorists have no reason they just like to kill because they are nihilists and enjoy killing” to “Islamists want to create a large Taliban-like Muslim state and expel all infidels”. While these simplistic answers are convenient, they are refuted by almost all polls taken in the region. These answers also have the unfortunate result of victimizing the United States and taking the terrorist attacks wholly out of context. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 did not happen in a vacuum and in many ways they were directly linked to many US actions in the region. It is, of course, impossible to know why a terrorist hates the United States but it is quite easy to know how the Arabs and Muslims in general feel about the United States through polls and socio-cultural studies done in the Middle East. It is paramount for all of us Americans to understand that the actions of the 9/11 terrorists are heinous to the large majorities of every country in the Middle East, however, the vast majority of every Arab/Muslim country have an unfavorable view of the United States. This is true for conservative Muslim countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well as moderate ones such as Turkey and Indonesia. It also holds true for all Arab countries that vast majorities of their populations dislike the United States whether the government is considered our ally, as Jordan and Egypt, or not, as Syria and Lebanon. And they don’t hate us because we are beautiful or because we are free.