Recent Polling on Muslim Views on Al-Qaeda, the US, etc.

March 2, 2009

Rob at Arabic Media Shack has an informative post on some of the findings of WorldPublicOpinion.org’s most recent polling, which can be found here. Here is the excerpt that he presents:

“Q43-S79. Thinking about the following kinds of attacks on Americans, please tell me if you approve of them, disapprove of them, or have mixed feelings about them?

Attacks on US military troops in Afghanistan
Egypt 2008: 75% Strongly approve, 8 % somewhat approve, and less than 10% disapprove in any form.

On US military troops based in the Persian Gulf States:
Egypt 2008: 70% strongly approve. A total of 12% have mixed feelings or any form of disapproval.

On US military troops based in Iraq:
Egypt 2008: 75% strongly approve. Only 10% with mixed feelings or any form of disapproval.

On US Civilians in the US:
Egypt 2008: 8% approve in any form. 78% strongly disapprove.

In addition, from the Middle East Times:

Less obvious, but probably a logical consequence of wanting the withdrawal of U.S. forces, is the disturbing finding that very significant majorities approve of attacks on U.S. troops based in Iraq, the Gulf, and Afghanistan. Large majorities approve of attacks in Egypt (over 78 percent), the Palestinian territories (87 percent), and Jordan (66 percent). In Turkey and Pakistan views are more divided. However, only minorities in Indonesia and Azerbaijan would endorse such attacks.

US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are technically occupation forces. So I can understand from that logic why, for example, and Iraqi might want to attack US forces because they occupy his or her country. However, why do Egyptians overwhelmingly support attacking US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? In Iraq, maybe, they follow the logic of resistance an occupier as being legitimate and they see the war as illegal or illegitimate in the first place. But the US, along with a number of other countries, is also an invading force in Afghanistan, a campaign which enjoys much broader international support than does the Iraq one. Might this mean that Egyptians support the Taliban? Probably not, but then why is there such support for actively attacking US forces in Afghanistan? Furthermore, why the overwhelming support for attacking US forces in the Persian Gulf States. How do US forces in the Persian Gulf (or Afghanistan for that matter) effect Egyptians? I don’t think they really do, but I would wager that this is a result more of the general feelings expressed in other parts of the survey, such as the following as reported by the Middle East Times:

The third finding of the polls, which will come as little surprise to Americans familiar with the Middle East and the Islamic world, is the intense suspicion of U.S. goals in the region. Large majorities ranging from 62 percent in Indonesia to 87 percent in Egypt say they believe that the United States seeks “to weaken and divide the Islamic world.”

And what does this mean for President Obama? According to the Middle East Times:

So Obama’s new approach to the region faces an audience that is suspicious of the United States but likes the idea of democracy and opposes attacks on civilians. That’s not a hopeless place from which to start, even if such views have been obvious to most observers all along.

True, but as Marc Lynch often talks about, it is a much more complicated than that.

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Good Luck Barack

January 20, 2009

I want to wish President Barack Obama the best of luck on this historic day. I am proud of our democracy.

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James Zogby on Rahm Emanuel

December 10, 2008

I just happened upon this post from a blog called Khaldoun which comments on Middle East politics, culture, and media. It is a letter which was supposedly sent out by Dr. James Zogby, president and founder of the Arab-American Instistute.

From the blog: “It’s a thoughtful article by James Zogby about how the Arab world should interpret Obama’s appointment of Rahm Emanuel.”


New Post on FPA Egypt Blog: 84% of Egyptians Believe Obama’s Election Will Not Change US Policy Towards Arabs and Muslims

December 1, 2008

I have a new, brief post on the Foreign Policy Association Egypt Blog. It’s an interesting tidbit and probably not a surprise to most of you, but I thought I’d share a piece of news from a prominent Egyptian newspaper.

You can read the post here.


Patriotism For the First Time

November 20, 2008

This is a bit of a late post, but I never got a chance to publish it.

I have heard a lot of people say (and seen a lot of Facebook status messages) that they are “proud to be American for the first time” now that Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States. I understand that people have been incredibly unhappy the past eight years under the Bush administration, but does that mean one still cannot be proud to be American? I was proud when firefighters rushed into the burning World Trade Centers, knowingly giving their lives for their country and their countrymen. I was proud of the US olympic team while watching from a restaurant in Morocco. And I was proud to see Americans stand up and make their voices heard, regardless of the result.


The Same 20 Questions

November 19, 2008

If you were an American wandering the streets of Cairo these days, you might be asked the following questions upon meeting Egyptians:

1. Where are you from?
2. What is your religion?
3. What is your name?
4. What do you think of Obama?
5. What do you think of Israel?
6. What do you think of Bush?
7. What do you think about the invasion of Iraq?
8. Can you teach me English?


Gym Talk – "Obama, Race, and Israel"

November 14, 2008

I am going to stop numbering my “Gym Talks” because I foresee there will be many more to come.

A couple of guys in the gym asked me today what I thought of Obama. I won’t go through it here but I basically said that I like him although I do not think he is perfect (unlike some other people I know). Anyway, I asked them what they thought. One guy, pointing to his skin, said that Obama being elected was a big deal because brown people in the United States usually cannot be in higher jobs than white people. I explained that although there is racism in the US, we have Black, White, Asian, Arab, etc. presidents of companies, universities, etc. etc. I agreed however that having a Black president is a big deal.

Their biggest complaint about Obama was that they 1. “think that he is going to do things just for the Jews” and 2. “heard that he is biased towards Israel.” One of them mentioned Rahm Emanuel’s appointment in passing. I’ll be honest, the music was really loud, and one guy had a speech impediment, so I didn’t catch everything they were saying. From what I could tell though, they didn’t really go into much detail about their opinion or what they heard. I would venture to guess this is because they don’t really know why they think that Obama is biased towards Israel, and if he is why that might be. These guys are not dumb, but they don’t read The New York Times every day either (that is not a shot at The New York Times, it’s just an example).

I asked what they thought about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. They said what I hear most Egyptians say, which is that it will never end. We continued talking and they told me that there are good Israelis and bad Israelis just like there are good Egyptians and bad Egyptians, but that the governments are the ones that cause all of the problems because they say one thing and do another. In addition, they agreed with a two state solution.

I am not sure where the idea about race relations in the US came from, but I sure know where the ideas about Obama came from, because as many people have pointed out, the whole Arab world is distraught over Rahm Emanuel’s appointment. They see it as a death sentence for a Palestinian state. And the majority of news and opinion I hear here completely disregard anything else about Emanuel’s personality, experience, or qualification for the job.

I understand people’s concerns vis-à-vis Emanuel and Israel, but I do not think there is evidence that he is going to be bad for the Arab side. He played an important role at Oslo. And as I have said many times before, just because someone is pro-Israel does not mean that he does not believe in a Palestinian state.

The fixation with everything Israel and Zionist in the Arab media gets really frustrating. I have no problem with reporting on the closure of Gaza or on Israeli raids into the West Bank or whatever. These are things that are happening and they are important to people in this region. But the constant discussion of these issues at the expense of sometimes more important ones and the lack of balance in the sharing of opinions is really tiring.