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Old 02-06-2005, 06:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
Pacifier's Avatar
Location: Duisburg, Germany
Survey sheds new light on Arab views of West

Survey sheds new light on Arab views of West
Data reveals striking evidence of anti-american and anti-british opinions among young

By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, February 05, 2005

AMMAN: A pioneering survey conducted recently in five Arab countries reveals important and often-surprising data on how Arabs perceive themselves and major Western powers, along with striking evidence of increasingly extremist anti-American and anti-British views among Arab youth.

The survey, entitled "The Arab Street Revisited: Research from Within," revealed important new insights into how Arabs differentiate between political and cultural values in the West, and also among the different leading states of the West. The surveyed Arabs also differentiate between Western political values which they admire and covet (democracy, justice, rule of law, etc.) and Western foreign policies in the Middle East, which they generally reject and criticize.

The survey was conducted in mid-2004 in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) under the aegis of the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) at the University of Jordan. It included four samples in each country: a national sample of 1,200 respondents, a university student sample of 500, a business sample of 120 and a media sample of 120.

When "the West" was broken down into the U.S., U.K. and France, the survey broadly found that majorities of Arabs surveyed were critical of American and British foreign policies, but viewed French foreign policy positively. Culturally, however, Arabs in the Mashreq region tended to look positively on Western cultural values, to define these in positive terms - liberty, hard work, pursuit of knowledge, and wealth creation - and to see these as cutting across all Western countries. The Arab publics also have clear perceptions of their own cultural values, which they define largely in terms of family, religion and tolerance.

Dr. Fares Breizat, director of survey research at the CSS, told The Daily Star in an interview here that the survey results support a few clear conclusions: "Culturally, the Arabs of the Mashreq see one West which they admire, but politically they differentiate among the policies of Western states and the principles that guide them, broadly viewing the U.S. and U.K. as bad, and France as good. The Arabs, despite their anger at Western states' foreign policies, generally desire all that the West represents and offers in terms of education, democratic political systems, health care, job opportunities, political values, tourism and emigration destinations, and other such variables."

Other surveys in the entire Middle East and North Africa region since 2001 have also shown a widespread desire by Arabs for more freedom and democracy, and a clear rejection of authoritarian governance systems. This reaches 80 percent in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and other societies, and is repeatedly reconfirmed by using more than one indicator in surveys.

Some indicators on attitudes to Western and Arab states were identical throughout the Middle East and North Africa, which Breizat interprets as "reflecting the same pan-Arab climate of opinion that is shaped around core issues, including Palestine and Iraq."

He added that results from this and previous surveys conducted in Arab countries confirm decisively that "the problem of relations between the Arabs and the United States is political, not cultural or religious."

He noted, for example, that Arabs tend not to see Christianity or the Crusades as a defining factor of Western policies in the Middle East, or as a key to the West's self-definition of itself. The defining themes in Arab public perceptions of American and British policies in the Middle East are colonialism, repression, aggression and other such negatives, while France is perceived heavily in terms of its democratic ideals.

Despite the strong Arab criticisms of many Western foreign policies, the survey showed that Arabs also desire to strengthen political, cultural and economic ties between their countries and the West as a whole.

"The evidence indicates that people in this region are angry at American and British policies on the ground, but they respect Western values, and wish to cooperate and engage more with the West - yet they want to do this in a context of being treated with dignity and respect. The citizens of the Mashreq region want to be treated better by the West and by their own Arab governments. This is one of the conclusions we draw from the strong support for democracy in Arab societies, which is often higher than in many Western countries. The average Arab citizen feels he or she has been mistreated by their own government, by their own government under Western pressure, and by Western powers directly. That's why respondents express a very strong drive for being treated with respect and dignity. They are almost desperate to enjoy a system that gives them voice to express themselves, and that recognizes their humanity, their existence, and their concerns."

The survey provided a much more nuanced analysis of Arab realities than is generally reflected in the mass media or public discourse, Breizat said. One sign of this, he suggested, was that Arabs clearly express their political anger verbally and socially, in surveys and other means of expression such as dress and religious behavior; but they do not often translate their attitudes into political action. While Islamists are the backbone of anti-U.S. sentiments in the Middle East, this does not translate as a rule into support for their organized political parties.

In the 1995-2004 period, he noted for example, on average only about 10 percent of eligible voters actually voted for Islamist candidates, though much higher support for Islamist positions is reflected in the survey results. Over 60 percent of respondents in Jordan, Palestine and Egypt said Sharia (Islamic law) should be the "only" source of national legislation, whereas majorities in Syria and Lebanon said it should be one of several sources. Yet majorities in all five countries, with over 80 percent in Jordan, Palestine and Egypt, thought that ijtihad, or interpretation of Islamic law and doctrine, should remain open in their society today, indicating that these are not totally closed societies with fixed ideas of the world, and in fact they do accept new ideas.

Breizat interprets this survey evidence to mean that "if we open up the political systems, we would not necessarily have a problem of Islamists dominating and winning elections. Moderation would follow people's sense of being treated with dignity by their own states and foreign powers. A self-correcting mechanism would kick in with democracy, preventing extreme results in elections."

Extremist attitudes do prevail in some quarters of the region, though, as this survey reconfirmed. About two-thirds of respondents in Jordan and Palestine said that Al-Qaeda is a "legitimate resistance movement," along with 41 percent in Egypt, but just 8 and 18 percent respectively in Syria and Lebanon. Yet 74 percent of Lebanese Christians also see Hizbullah as a legitimate resistance movement, and 56 percent say the same of the Palestinian groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This and other survey evidence suggests to Breizat that "the issue of how people in this region feel and respond to events around them is not primarily religious or cultural, it's political and national."

The data shows that young Arabs are more radical than their parents. Eighty-four percent of people aged 16-24 years had a negative view of the U.S., compared to 73 percent of people aged 45 years or more. The survey also indicated that younger people were less likely to use the word "terrorism" to describe attacks such as Sept. 11, 2001 in the U.S., the 2003 bombing of the UN in Iraq, and bombings of Jewish targets in Turkey and Tunisia.

He also believes the survey evidence has serious policy implications for Arab governments and regimes, whose support for U.S. policies in Iraq and Palestine is increasingly divergent from public opinion in these same Arab countries.

"Public opinion in the Arab countries we surveyed sees the people themselves as losers from close ties with the U.S., while the governments in most of these countries rely heavily on American financial and military aid for their survival," Breizat says. The survey evidence suggests that on the issue of relations with the U.S. and U.K., a more visible gap is opening up between some Arab leaders and their publics, especially because of policies in Palestine and Iraq.

Full survey results and analysis will be made available soon on the center's Web site (http://www.css-jordan.org/)

I think that survey is quite interesting, it supports my view that a change of our politics will have a higher chance of success than any other war.
The arab world does not "hate freedom" as Bush claimed, the arab world is simply tired of being bossed around and the arrogance the western world shows towards them ("step aside camelherder we will show you how democracy works"). I think we shouild stop supoorting repressive goverments and start helping those democratic movements inside those nations. and by support I mean help them without bossing them arround, without the typical western arrogance.

The fact that the youth become more radical worries me, I belive if we do not stop our current ways the youth will become even more radical. And than we will have less chance to reach a peaceful solution.
"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death
Albert Einstein
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Old 02-06-2005, 06:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Fort Worth, TX
Wow. I have to admit I was very skeptical about this survey and how it was done.

Then I re-read it and looked at the author. Prof. Khuri is a VERY respected Arabic historian, I've read many of his books. He leans politically (as anyone does) but he keeps that outside of his work. His books never showed any bias of any sort, and backs every individual statement with at least 2-3 justifications as evidence.

Now I have to say I'm not surprised many Arabs like France. With their dogged opposition to the Iraq war (though spurred through corruption), to their growing Anti-Semite population (something most Arabs like) it's no wonder. However with their just recent Algerian war I'm very surprised how quickly they forgot about the atrocities that went on there (while listing every Israeli one since their formation).

There was another time when I was reading Khuri in which I was watching the Discovery channel and to my surprise he was on it. He stated something that has stuck with me, and every Arab student that I've come to talk to agreed. He said that the VAST majority of Muslims and Arabs dont hate the US. They are angry with it because of many views of theirs hold us to a height that we cant even reach. They saw us topple Saddam in 2 weeks, something they couldnt do in 30 years despite many attempts. They saw us bomb their buildings without hitting one just feet away, in the middle of the night, in a storm. They saw us do all these wonderful things, yet many places still dont have water or electrisity. So many take the view that we are simply lazy, or dont want to. Anyways, thought I'd add something extra from him. If you want the source I couldnt remember what the name of that show was, but there was a second one with him in "Roots of 9/11" also on Discovery.

Last edited by Seaver; 02-06-2005 at 06:22 AM..
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Old 02-06-2005, 07:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: New England
They saw us topple Saddam in 2 weeks, something they couldnt do in 30 years despite many attempts. They saw us bomb their buildings without hitting one just feet away, in the middle of the night, in a storm. They saw us do all these wonderful things, yet many places still dont have water or electrisity.
Perhaps quite unintentionally, you have written one of the most simply damning critiques of the military-industrial complex that i have ever seen.

the survey is a scary mandate...it seems like there is so much work to be done, but it will be hard to start with no trust to work off of.
For God so loved creation, that God sent God's only Son that whosoever believed should not perish, but have everlasting life.

-John 3:16
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Old 02-06-2005, 09:49 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: dar al-harb
gah... these kinds of discussions frustrate me.

it seems that people take arab frustration with American policy and automatically translate that into something WE'VE done. i think it would do a lot of good to detail...

1. why you think such opinions are justified by citing specific cases of American policy. while doing so, not forgetting that there used to be a thing called the Soviet Union.

2. when such errors are present, please demonstrate that there could have been a better alternative.

i'm not saying we're squeaky clean over there. we certainly did lie with the dogs during the cold war, you won't find me denying we didn't pick up fleas. however, if i were to grow up reading arab newspapers, watching arab tv, and going to a gradeschool funded by hezbollah... i'm sure i'd think the same thing that many of them do. these people do not have a free press. they are not protected by the first amendment. all they know and hear is filtered by those who are in power and have an interest in staying there. why do we put so much stock in their opinion? what hope do we have of changing it while the institutions of information suppression remain?
If you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

~ Winston Churchill

Last edited by irateplatypus; 02-06-2005 at 09:52 AM..
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Old 02-06-2005, 10:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Fort Worth, TX
Perhaps quite unintentionally, you have written one of the most simply damning critiques of the military-industrial complex that i have ever seen.
How so? My point was they saw us do these many things that they could not do for themselves and they are stunned.

Do you remember the Daily Show when they had an Iraqi engineer stating that the American soldier must have had mini-air conditioning systems in their underwear? He, and many others, honestly thought that was the reason our soldiers could be in full length cammies, as well as body armor in the Iraqi heat.

My point was they see these things we have done and immediately assume we are capable of everything with very little effort. It's like seeing a neighbor fixing his own car, and helping you fix yours... then assuming he can build you a patio.
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Old 02-06-2005, 01:48 PM   #6 (permalink)
Location: BFE
Originally Posted by Pacifier
I think that survey is quite interesting, it supports my view that a change of our politics will have a higher chance of success than any other war.
Yup, if you surrender, your enemy will be much happier with you. They will not dispise you any less, or make the bootheel on your throat any lighter, but they'll be happier with you indeed.

Appeasement is still appeasement. And the French are experts at it....just ask Marshall Petain's ghost.
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Old 02-06-2005, 01:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
Location: BFE
Originally Posted by irateplatypus
it seems that people take arab frustration with American policy and automatically translate that into something WE'VE done.

It IS something we've done. We didn't help them finish the extermination of the Jews. I'm sure if we cut all ties to Israel, built up the Arab armies, and aided them in slaughtering every last Jew on the planet, a lot more of the Arabs would love us too.

Last edited by daswig; 02-06-2005 at 01:56 PM..
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Old 02-06-2005, 09:34 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: corner of No and Where
I think the important part of this study is that it shows what political scientists and economists have believed for years: that everyone is, in many ways, the same, and that economic bounty usually supplants ideology. Holding down a good job, having a chance to succeed and to advance are excellent ways to moderate political viewpoints.

In essense, the West vs Arab "conflict" is as much misunderstanding by those involved as anything. This is not a "clash of civilizations" issue. When times are bad, as they are in many regions of the Middle East, radical ideology has an easier time taking hold. This is why you see such strong support on the survey for Al Qaeda or certain terrorists. But when economic success arrives, as in Kuwait or Qatar, individual citizens have a much more difficult time getting up in arms, so to speak. Moderation becomes more rampant. It is, in other words, the co-development of political and economic indicators such as a strong civil society, the rise of a middle class, and governmental openness that is most likely to heal the "rift" between the Middle East and West.

I think that this is what this survey has to show us: there is a solution to this conflict, and it is essentially global economic interdependence and prosperity.

P.S. But not originating from the barrel of a gun. That just makes things much, much worse.
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