- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

LONDON Despite September 11 and the bombing of Afghanistan, the United States and Britain are surprisingly popular among young people in the Arab and Muslim world, according to a poll taken in nine Muslim and Arab countries.
The survey of some 5,000 young people by the British Council, Britain's international organization for educational and cultural relations, showed that most of the young do not see the United States and Britain as "the house of Satan."
Instead, the participants listed the countries as being among the most admired in the world.
The survey also challenges the view that hatred of America has hardened across the board in the Muslim world since September 11.
Asked to name "the country you think most highly of," the vast majority of the young Muslims and Arabs surveyed in Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, chose the United States.
Despite strong criticism of U.S. policy toward the Arab world by most respondents, America was more than twice as popular as the No. 2 choice, Japan.
Egypt came next, followed by Britain, and then France.
The major exceptions were participants from the Palestinian territories, who listed Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon as their favorite countries.
"The majority thought highly enough of the U.S.A. to rate them first and second in their world order, despite the countercurrents flowing from its role as 'world policeman' and perceived 'lack of sympathy with the Palestinian cause,'" said Patrick Spaven, author of the report.
These countercurrents were strongest in the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but only in the Palestinian sectors were they strong enough to seriously dent the United States' popularity, he said.
The survey was conducted by local market research companies in February and March 2002. They interviewed 4,672 mostly urban, educated young men and women aged between 15 and 25 the young people most likely to shape the future of their countries.
Another 600 took part in focus group discussions.
The overall pattern of favorable sentiments toward the United States and Britain contrasts strongly with the American Gallup poll conducted in December 2001 and January 2002 in eight Muslim countries, which indicated that only 22 percent were "very or somewhat" favorable to the United States, with a mere 18 percent favorable to Britain.
In the British Council poll, however, 68 percent said they were "mainly or very favorable" to the United States, and 67 percent to Britain.
The discrepancy might be attributed to the British poll's focus on young people rather than a cross section of the populations as Gallup did; the focus groups allowed for more nuanced views.
"A more complex picture emerged," said Helena Kennedy, chairman of the British Council. "People can look at a country from a number of different perspectives.

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