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The polling cited in chapter 1 makes clear that negative feelings among Muslims toward the United States are widespread and enduring. The question remains, however, as to why these feelings are so pervasive and deep-seated. The focus groups conducted in six different majority-Muslim countries revealed the beliefs that drive Muslim anger. There was a strikingly consistent pattern when respondents discussed their views of the United States. While there were some differences of emphasis, in every case the dominant, overt theme was that the United States oppresses the Muslim people in a variety of ways. Eventually, a more subtle, underlying theme also emerged—that the United States has betrayed the Muslim people by violating its own principles of relations based on respect, tolerance , and the constraints of international law. These feelings appeared to be intensified by the inner conflicts Muslims have about entering into closer relations with the outer world. The themes that emerged from the focus groups were developed into poll questions to test their validity, and for the most part these themes were confirmed in the polling. This chapter discusses the broad narrative of oppression and betrayal and the factors that underlie and contribute to it. The following four chapters explore the components of this readily expressed narrative, which is based on four key assertions: 24 The Narrative of Oppression and Betrayal and the Inner Clash of Civilizations 2 02-0559-8 CH 2:0305-1 3/3/11 1:55 PM Page 24 —The United States seeks to and largely succeeds in coercively dominating the Muslim world, shaping it in ways that serve its interests irrespective of the wishes of the people and violating the principle of sovereign equality (chapter 3). —The United States is hostile to Islam and seeks to undermine it and to impose a secular social order, betraying the principles of freedom of religion (chapter 4). —Driven by anti-Islamic prejudice and seeking to use Israel as a base for regional domination, the United States supports and enables Israel in its victimization of the Palestinian people (chapter 5). —Contrary to its democratic principles, the United States undermines democracy in the Muslim world so as to preserve its control and to ensure that Islamism is kept under wraps (chapter 6). Some perceptions of the United States found in majority-Muslim countries , especially the view that the country is domineering and coercive, are shared by other non-Muslim nations. In the Muslim world, however, these views have a special intensity, as they form part of a larger narrative of American oppression and betrayal that combines with a long-standing and acutely felt narrative of the Islamic world being victimized by the West. For many centuries, certainly since the Crusades of the eleventh century, the West has been seen as a force seeking to occupy and subjugate Islamic peoples and undermine their religion. Interpretations of American behavior blend seamlessly into this ever-evolving story. As became clear in the polling and focus groups, the United States is seen as having added insult to injury by enticing Muslims with attractive universalist principles that imply constraint and tolerance on the part of the United States and then subsequently violating those principles and betraying the Muslim people. For many this narrative is integrally linked to Muslims’ religious identity . But this has not always been the case. Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, for example, have articulated the narrative of oppression in a secular vernacular, charging the United States with imperialism. Even some members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt and was one of the early Islamist movements, have at times opposed the religiously based versions of the narrative. The religious version, however, has been strongest in the context of Islamism. Islamism holds up Islam not only as a religious movement in the personal sphere, but as a political movement meant to dominate the public Narrative of Oppression and Betrayal 25 02-0559-8 CH 2:0305-1 3/3/11 1:55 PM Page 25 sphere, making Islamic law the foundation of all law. Radical Islamists, who have a fundamentalist notion of Islamic law and who are ready to use violence—even against civilians—to bring about an Islamist state, reject the language of U.S. imperialism in favor of a religious narrative that is continuous with the Crusades. As Sayyid Qutb, a radical Islamist associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who was highly influential on Osama bin Laden, wrote, “The truth of the...


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