- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

Most Muslims 77 percent say that U.S. actions in Afghanistan are "morally unjustifiable" while 53 percent had an unfavorable view of the United States, according to a poll of nearly 10,000 people in nine Muslim nations.
In the Gallup Organization poll conducted for USA Today, 61 percent of the 9,924 respondents said that news reports were false in stating that Arabs were behind attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Only 18 percent believed that Arabs were responsible.
Pollsters queried residents of Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey although the same questions were not asked in each country.
The highest favorable rating for the United States came from Lebanon with 41 percent. The lowest was Pakistan, where the United States had a 5 percent favorable rating.
Additionally, the poll found a perception of an America that is "ruthless, arrogant, aggressive and conceited," Gallup officials said.
U.S. Muslim groups attributed the poor image of America to "denial" and a skeptical view of the media here.
"The main point here is that there is a lot of denial in the Muslim world and the role of Muslims in those attacks," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The perception of arrogance, he said, comes from U.S. foreign policy that appears that "freedom and justice is only for Americans. But what those Muslims in other countries also may not know that we have more freedom to practice our faith here than in some other countries."
A "supreme skepticism" of the U.S. media may be at the root of the poll's finding, said Earle Waugh, a professor of religion at the University of Alberta. Many Arabs did not even believe that an American had landed on the moon, he said.
"We had a Saudi ambassador speak here at the university shortly after the attacks," Mr. Waugh said. "And he stood at the podium and said that there is no proof that those attackers were Arabs. And he refused to believe that [Osama] bin Laden had more than a distant connection to the attacks."
The Gallup poll is the most extensive query of overseas Muslims since the September 11 attacks. Anti-U.S. sentiment has been widely reported in several of those countries polled.
Some believed that the reason for the negative perception of America is a failure of U.S. media and government to actively portray themselves as freedom loving.
"It is a critical failure of the government and the media," said Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America. "They do not project good news about Muslims here in America, but when Pat Robertson says something bad about Muslims, it is news. The Muslims in other countries never know that Muslims in American are flourishing."
And an ailing U.S. public image is likely prevalent around the world, Abdulwahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Islamic Institute.
"If you do a survey around the world about the favorability of the U.S., it would get similar numbers," Mr. Alkebsi said.
But the poll results shocked Kuwaiti officials in Washington. Foreigners make up 55 to 60 percent of the Kuwaiti population of nearly 2 million. The United States received a 41 percent unfavorable figure there.
"I was shocked when I read the poll," said Tareq Al-Mezrem of the Kuwait Information Office, a Washington-based branch of the Kuwaiti government. "This doesn't reflect the true Kuwaitis. This is not the Kuwait I know. There is big support for Americans among Kuwaitis."
Mr. Mezrem said pollsters could easily have assumed they were interviewing Kuwaitis when they were really questioning other ethnic Arabs hostile to the United States.
James Morrison contributed to this report.


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