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The fourth central theme in the narrative of American oppression of the Muslim people is the claim that the United States actively undermines democracy in the Muslim world by providing critical support to authoritarian regimes that are friendly to it and that it effectively controls. Despite America’s professions of support for democracy, the United States is seen as an obstacle to real democratization, and professions of support are seen as purposely misleading. Muslim governments—as well as the Muslim people—are often seen as victims of U.S. domination. From this view of the United States flows a desire for the United States to simply disengage from the region. This perception of the United States as being an undemocratic force in the Arab world has been noted by scholars of the region. Ussama Makdisi , in his analysis of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, comments that as “the U.S. government saw itself far less as a force for liberal or democratic change than as a guarantor of the status quo,” there was a “new identification of American power as a force for repression rather than liberation in the Arab world.”1 Muqtedar Khan comments, “It is not the hatred of democracy or freedom, but the desire for democracy that has made many Muslims hate the United States, which they blame for the perpetuation of undemocratic politics in their world.”2 Tessler and Robbins conclude from an analysis of surveys in Algeria and Jordan that 102 The United States as Undermining Democracy 6 06-0559-8 CH 6:0305-1 3/3/11 1:58 PM Page 102 approval of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets is not driven by religious orientations, judgments about Western culture, or economic circumstances , but by anger toward the United States as an agent that sustains support for unpopular governments.3 American concerns that democracy in Muslim countries could lead to the election of Islamist parties that could then impose a nondemocratic system are largely dismissed in polls and focus groups. This concern tends to be seen as either a ruse to rationalize American domination through authoritarian secular governments or an offensively dismissive belief, with racist overtones, that people in the Muslim world are not capable of democracy. The deep opposition to Islamist parties is seen as being rooted in an anti-Islamic bias. Consistent with the view of the United States as having liberal values that it fails to fulfill, many Muslims also portray the United States as having drifted away from its underlying and real commitment to democracy. There is therefore hope that the United States could potentially change. In this context there is not a desire for the United States to withdraw from Muslim countries, but a desire for it to play an active role in pressuring autocratic governments to become more democratic. The United States as Seeking Domination, Not Democracy This view of the United States as not genuinely seeking to promote democracy, but to dominate governments in the service of imperial interests was regularly mentioned in the focus groups. A Jordanian woman described America as supporting dictatorships in the Middle East rather than promoting democracy in the interest of the people: In our region [the Americans] help the dictatorship regimes. They don’t help the nations—the people—at all to practice liberation and to have free opinion. All they say are just mottos, but in practice they don’t help the people of the countries. On the contrary, they help the ruling governments. . . . The American policy is not based on the liberation of people! Another echoed her assertion, saying that America “calls for freedom and democracy, but only in America.” An Egyptian man quoted Noam Chomsky: “I remind you of Chomsky’s saying: ‘America is the biggest United States as Undermining Democracy 103 06-0559-8 CH 6:0305-1 3/3/11 1:58 PM Page 103 terrorist country in the world.’ It’s not just Latin America and Chile and the massacres around the world. America has supported dictators who protect its interests.” An Iranian man commented incredulously, “If they have a problem with our political system, then how is it that they accept the undemocratic political systems of regional Arab countries?!” A recurring theme was that the United States seeks to control Muslim governments in the service of its interests. A Pakistani man said, [U.S. leaders] control every Arab and Muslim country. They know that those countries are dependent, and even those who are...


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