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One of the most powerful sources of anger toward the United States is the widespread perception that the United States is hostile to Islam itself. This perception is disturbing not only from an Islamic perspective in which Islam is seen as threatened, but also from a liberal perspective because the United States is seen as having failed to live up to principles of religious tolerance. Majorities see the United States as seeking to undermine the Islamic world, undermine Islamic culture and identity, and impose American culture and even Christianity on the Muslim world. This U.S. intention is seen as being fed by an anti-Muslim bias among the American people, the acting out of American rage about the 9/11 attacks against all Muslims, and an underlying American fear of the power of a resurgent Islam. Perceptions of a threat to Islam appear to have grown substantially in the wake of America’s response to the 9/11 attacks. At the same time, the perception of the United States—and the West in general—as deeply hostile toward Islam has long-standing roots in Muslim society. One of its key articulators was Sayyid Qutb, who wrote in 1964: “The Western ways of thought . . . [have] an enmity toward all religion, and in particular with greater hostility toward Islam. This enmity toward Islam is especially pronounced and many times is the result of a well-thought-out 72 The United States as Hostile to Islam 4 04-0559-8 CH 4:0305-1 3/3/11 1:57 PM Page 72 scheme, the object of which is first to shake the foundations of Islamic beliefs and then gradually to demolish the structure of Muslim society.”1 Many in the West hoped that with the election of Barack Obama in the United States, this view of America as hostile to Islam would change. Obama’s background—his Muslim father, his middle name of Hussein, and his childhood experience living in Indonesia—seemed like promising factors in helping to change this image. Equally important, Obama’s highprofile speeches in Ankara and Cairo in the first months of his tenure were widely viewed as having the potential to improve relations. Nevertheless , while Obama is viewed as having respect for Islam, the basic image of U.S. foreign policy as hostile to Islam has largely persisted. The U.S. War against Islam (WPO) polling from 2006 to 2009 asked respondents in ten majority-Muslim nations whether it is a U.S. goal “to weaken and divide the Islamic world.” Majorities—in most cases quite large—in all ten nations said that it is. In all cases except one the majority was more than two-thirds (the exception being Indonesia at 52 percent). Contrary to hopes, there has been little change with the election of Barack Obama. Looking at countries that were polled in both 2008 as well as in 2009—including several in the fall of 2009 after Obama’s speeches in Istanbul and Cairo in which he openly sought to repair U.S. relations with the Muslim world—there was little sign of change. While the percentage saying that the United States has the goal to weaken and divide Islam did go down 11 points in Indonesia and 7 points in Turkey, there was a slight upward movement in Egypt, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories. There was no change in Azerbaijan and Iran. Bangladesh and Iraq, which were polled for the first time in 2009, showed very large majorities with this perception (figure 4-1). When WPO asked about Obama himself, there were some positive signs. Asked in the fall of 2009 whether Obama respects Islam, large majorities in four out of the five majority-Muslim countries where this question was asked agreed that he does. These majorities included 84 percent in Indonesia, 67 percent in Bangladesh, 65 percent in Egypt, and 64 percent in Turkey. Iranians demurred, with 59 percent saying that Obama does not respect Islam. United States as Hostile to Islam 73 04-0559-8 CH 4:0305-1 3/3/11 1:57 PM Page 73 However, when WPO asked in 2009 whether Obama has the goal to weaken and divide the Islamic world, views were more mixed. In some cases respondents made a strong differentiation between Obama and the United States. In Indonesia 61 percent said Obama does not have the goal to weaken and divide the Islamic world—even as 52 percent persisted in saying that...


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