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Violence and Terrorism >
Why do they hate us?

Anti-Americanism (along with anti-Europeanism) is a broad-based phenomenon that cuts across Arab and Muslim societies. It is driven not only by the blind hatred or religious zealotry of extremists but also by frustration and anger with U.S. foreign policy among a mainstream majority in the Muslim world.

While many continue to believe anti-Americanism is tied to insurmountable religious and cultural differences, the facts undercut this simple and rather self-serving response.

Terrorists may hate America (and some European countries), but the rest of the Muslim world does not. We fail to distinguish between the hatred of extremists and a broad anti-Americanism among those who admire our accomplishments, principles, and values but denounce what they see as U.S. arrogance, unilateralism, and hegemonic designs. Terrorists want to kill us, but most Muslims want us to stop making the world an even more dangerous place.

Major polls (Gallup, PEW, Zogby, and others) of the beliefs and attitudes of a cross-section of Muslims around the world give us a good measure of their admiration as well as their resentment, which, left unaddressed, has the potential to increase radicalization.

Gallup World Polls from 2001 to 2009 in more than thirty-five Muslim countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia, representing the voices of a billion Muslims, have shown the importance of policy as the primary driver or catalyst.

Muslims do not see all Western countries as the same. They distinguish between America and Europe and between specific European nations depending on their policies, not their culture or religion. During the pivotal years in the deterioration of U.S. -Muslim relations, Muslims globally drew a sharp distinction between America and Britain, under the Bush and Blair administrations, on the one hand, and other European countries, on the other. The United States and the United Kingdom were viewed negatively, while views of France and Germany were neutral to positive. For example, while 74 percent of Egyptians had unfavorable views of the United States, and 69 percent said the same about Britain, only 21 percent had unfavorable views of France and 29 percent of Germany. Across all predominantly Muslim countries polled, an average of 75 percent of respondents associate the word ruthless with the United States (in contrast to only 13 percent for France and 13 percent for Germany).

The importance of foreign policy emerges starkly when we compare Muslim views of the United States with views of Canada (America without its foreign policy, one might say). Sixty-six percent of Kuwaitis have unfavorable views of the United States, but only 3 percent see Canada unfavorably. Similarly, 64 percent of Malaysians say the United States is “aggressive”; yet only one in ten associates this quality with France and Germany.

Reactions to the U.S. /U. K-led invasion of Iraq underscore the influence of foreign policy on Muslim attitudes toward the West. When people in ten predominantly Muslim countries were asked how they view a number of nations, the attributes they most associate with the United States are “scientifically and technologically advanced” (68 percent), “aggressive” (66 percent), “conceited” (65 percent), and “morally decadent” (64 percent). Majorities in most countries who were asked about the invasion of Iraq, Muslim men and women alike, believed the invasion has done a great deal more harm than good. Muslims clearly have not seen their conflict as with the West or Western civilization as a whole but rather with specific Western powers' foreign policies.

The West's espousal of self-determination, democratization, and human rights is often seen as a hypocritical “double standard” when compared to its policies, what it actually does—for instance, supporting authoritarian Muslim regimes or imposing sanctions against Pakistan for its development of a nuclear weapon while failing to press Israel and India on their nuclear development. The moral will so evident in America's helping Kosovo is seen by many Muslims as totally absent in the U.S. policy of permissive neglect in the Chechnyan and Kashmiri conflicts. On the other hand, America's stance on human rights has been undermined by the abuse of Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.

Globalization of communications has created a situation in which Arabs (Muslims and Christians) and Muslims around the world often see more than we see. Unlike the past, today international Arab and Muslim media are no longer solely dependent on Western reporters and channels. While America's overseas media presence (reporters and overseas posts) and coverage have waned over the past decade, television stations like Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiyya, and others provide daily coverage of the violence in many Muslim countries. They show, for example, the violence and acts of terror committed by both sides as well as the disproportionate firepower used against Palestinians by Israelis. America's record of overwhelming support for Israel—witnessed over the years in its levels of aid to Israel, the U.S. voting record in the United Nations, and official statements by the administration and State Department—has proved to be a powerful lightning rod for Muslim anger over injustice.

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