U.S. Relations with the Islamic World

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Chapter 10
U.S. Relations with the Islamic World


Since the end of World War II (19391945) international terrorism has become a serious threat to U.S. national security. The vast majority of terrorist acts committed against Americans during this period were perpetrated by Muslims, or at least by people who claim to be acting in accordance with Islamic principles. This raises troubling issues about the nature and future of relations between the United States and Muslims around the world. Do terrorists who claim to be Muslims represent the true spirit of Islam, or are they rebels and rogues who have hijacked the religion for their own violent purposes? How deep are the political and cultural differences between the West and the Islamic world?


Islam translates into English as submission and advocates submission to God by its followers. As described in Chapter 1, Muslims believe that Islam was introduced to Arabic tribes during the seventh century via messages from God revealed by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad (c. 570632). Those messages were eventually written down to form the Koran, Islam's holy book.

Sharia is the body of Islamic law and is based on the Koran. It covers all aspects of life, rather than just matters of a legal nature. The Hadith are also important to Muslims. They are a collection of Muhammad's sayings and actions that help Muslims follow a way of life (called Sunna) modeled after the example of Muhammad and based on the Koran.

The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) notes in About Islam and American Muslims (2008,http://www.cair.com/AboutIslam/IslamBasics.aspx) that there are five pillars of Islam:

  • Declaration of faitha person becomes a Muslim by declaring the following: There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God
  • Obligatory prayersMuslims are required to pray five times per day at set times
  • Zakatthis is charitable giving to those in need
  • FastingMuslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the Islamic lunar month called Ramadan if they are physically able to do so
  • Hajjthis is a pilgrimage to Mecca, a sacred site in Saudi Arabia, that all Muslims are supposed to make at least once during their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to do so

Islam recognizes many prophets from the Judeo-Christian tradition, including Abraham (c. 1996c. 1821 B.C.), Jacob (1838?1689 B.C.), Moses (1392?1272? B.C.), David (1000c. 960 B.C.), and Solomon (985? 925? B.C.). Unlike Christians, Muslims believe that Jesus (4? B.C.A.D. 29?) was a prophet rather than a divine messiah. Islam lacks a centralized leadership. There is no single religious leader (such as the pope in Roman Catholicism) who speaks on behalf of all Muslims. In fact, there is not even a structured hierarchy. Islam esteems many respected elders, learned men, and Islamic scholars, some of whom have titles such as mufti (judge) or sheikh (sheik). Prayer, worship, and other religious activities often take place at mosques, which are meeting places for Muslims.

The Diversity of Islam

Different people practice Islam in different ways around the world. While they agree on certain core tenets, they may diverge over many other aspects of their faith. In some cases they may disagree so strongly that one group will not recognize another as being Muslim at all.

In this, Islam is no different than any other active and widespread faith or ideology. For example, there are

many differences among those who call themselves Christians. Furthermore, the form of government practiced in the United States is different from that found in the United Kingdom or Russia, but all three nations refer to themselves as democratic.


It is a common misconception among Americans that Muslims are Arabs from the Middle East. According to CAIR, in About Islam and American Muslims, there are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, and less than 20% of them live in Arabic countries.

Figure 10.1 is a map created by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that shows countries with significant Muslim populations. Table 10.1 is a GAO-provided list of the countries. Interestingly, India is not included in the list (or designated on the map as having a significant Muslim population). However, in Background Note: India (June 2008, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3454.htm), the U.S. Department of State (DOS) indicates that India's Muslim population is at least 138 million. Combining this statistic with data from Table 10.1 provides the following list of countries with the highest Muslim populations:

Together, these eight countries account for approximately three-fourths of the world's total Muslim population.

TABLE 10.1 Countries and territories with significant Muslim populations, 2006
RegionCountryPopulation*Percentage Muslim
Note: As defined by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. *In millions.
SOURCE: Appendix II. Countries and Territories with Significant Muslim Populations, in U.S. Public Diplomacy: State Department Efforts to Engage Muslim Audiences Lack Certain Communication Elements and Face Significant Challenges, U.S. Government Accountability Office, May 2006, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06535.pdf (accessed August 11, 2008)
Burkina Faso13.950
Cote d'Ivoire17.335-40
Sierra Leone6.060
East Asia and PacificBrunei0.467
Europe and EurasiaAlbania3.670
Near EastAlgeria32.599
Saudi Arabia26.4100
United Arab Emirates2.696
West Bank and Gaza3.875
South AsiaAfghanistan29.999

Many countries in the Islamic world are experiencing explosive population growth. Figure 10.2 is a chart prepared by the U.S. Department of Defense's (DOD) Defense Intelligence Agency. It ranks various countries in terms of the percentage of their population that was younger than fourteen as of 2000. During the 2010s these youngsters will be between eighteen and thirty-five years oldan age range commonly considered appropriate for military service and of particular concern to the DOD because of national security implications. As indicated in the chart, several countries considered unstable by the DOD will contain large numbers of people aged eighteen to thirty-five in the next decade. The list includes Egypt, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, and Yemenall areas with significant Muslim populations.


The roots of U.S.-Muslim relations trace back to medieval clashes between the Islamic world and the European kingdoms. The Middle Ages encompassed a period in history that began with the fall of the Roman Empire during the fifth century. At one time the Roman Empire covered a great swath of land from western Asia, across the Middle East, and west to Spain and Britain. A remnantnow known as the Byzantine Empiresurvived along the eastern Mediterranean Sea and had its capital at Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey).

The early centuries of the Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages because few known scientific and cultural achievements were made by Western societies during this

time. This was not the case in the Islamic world (which began with the seventh-century establishment of Islam by the prophet Muhammad). Arab and Persian scholars made many important advancements in science and math, particularly algebra, geometry, chemistry, and astronomy. Some historians refer to the period between 750 and 1200 as the Islamic Golden Age.


During the Middle Ages Catholic Church authorities wielded great power over the peoples of Europe. This was especially true of the popesthe supreme leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism was the dominant religion of Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Medieval Europeans were politically divided among many competing kingdoms and tribal groups. However, they were often united by their shared religion. Such was the case in 1095, when the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus (c. 10481118) asked Pope Urban II (1042?1099) for military assistance against the Islamic tribes that had recently captured Jerusalema city considered sacred by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. According to Paul Halsall, in Medieval Sourcebook: Urban IISpeech at Clermont 1095 (January 1996, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2a.html), the pope called on Europeans to put aside their internal squabbles and march to the Holy Land to liberate Jerusalem from a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race wholly alienated from God.

The pope's speech initiated a wave of religious fervor across Europe. In 1096 armies of European knights and soldiers began the first of what would later be called the Crusades. In 1099 the European armies captured Jerusalem, only to lose it in 1187 to Muslim forces led by Saladin (1138 1193)a renowned figure in Islamic history. In 1192 Saladin and King Richard I (11571199) of England signed a treaty agreeing that Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control but allow visits by Christian pilgrims. Crusaders captured the cityagainin1229only to lose it to the Muslims for the last time in 1244. Thus, for nearly two centuries European armies followed papal orders to fight for control of Muslim-held territory in Spain and the Middle East.

Within Western history and literature, the Crusades have become highly romanticized adventures that focus on the feats of King Richard I and the European knights. In the Islamic world, they are typically seen as a brutal invasion by European nations that foreshadows later colonial rule. Peter Ford reports in Europe Cringes at Bush Crusade against Terrorists (Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2001) that President George W. Bush (1946) was chastised by Muslims after the September 11, 2001 (9/11), terrorist attacks for referring to U.S. retaliation as a crusade against terrorism. For Americans, it was a clue that events centuries old still resonate with many Muslim people.

Colonial Resentment

By the thirteenth century the Crusades were ending, and the Islamic world entered a new political age under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (named after Osman I [12591326], its first leader). The Ottomans eventually conquered the Byzantine Empire and controlled much of Eurasia. During the 1500s the Ottoman Empire reached the height of its geopolitical importance with territories around the Red, Black, and Mediterranean seas. It included much of modern-day Turkey and the Middle East and extended to the outskirts of modern-day Vienna, Austria, in Europe. A series of wars with European powers and the growth of nationalism within regions controlled by the empire gradually reduced its strength.

The death blow for the Ottoman Empire came during World War I (19141918), when it was defeated and dissolved by the Allies. The League of Nations placed Iraq and Palestine under the administration of Great Britain, and Syria and Lebanon were placed under France. All nations but Palestine eventually achieved their independence. The lack of an official homeland for the Palestinians became a major point of contention in the Middle East.

Even before the demise of the Ottoman Empire, most Muslim nations fell under European control at one time or another. Britain, France, and Italy all had colonies in the Middle East and/or North Africa during the 1800s and early 1900s. Even nations that were not colonized experienced some level of protection or influence by European powers, particularly Great Britain. The major exception is Saudi Arabia, which has been under continuous Muslim control for centuries.

By the 1950s most Muslim countries had achieved their independence. However, resentment about colonial rule and interference still play a major factor in Middle Eastern politics. Even though the United States did not exist at the time of the Crusades and was not a colonial power in the Middle East like its European allies, it must still contend with old grievances in the region. In Roots of Rage (Time, September 23, 2001), Lisa Beyer notes the U.S. inherits the weight of centuries of Muslim bitterness over the Crusades and other military campaigns, plus decades of indignation over colonialism.


There are major differences in the political systems and values found in most Muslim-majority nations and in Western democracies such as the United States. These differences at times contribute to the difficulty of establishing and maintaining good relations between the United States and Muslims.

Most governments in Muslim countries interweave religion and politics. This reflects the fact that many followers of Islam feel that it should govern all aspects

of society. They see it as a method for living life, governing nations, and maintaining law and order. These Muslims do not make the distinction between church and state that is common in Western nations. For example, Saudi Arabia uses the Koran and Sunna as its Constitution. Its legal system strictly adheres to the Sharia. According to the Saudi Network, in Saudi ArabiaConstitution (September 13, 2008, http://www.the-saudi.net/saudi-arabia/saudi-constitution.htm), the nation's rulers are believed to derive their power from the Koran. The government is a political system called a theocracy (it is considered divinely guided). Iran also has a strongly theocratic government. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution an Islamic cleric has been the supreme leader and chief of state. As described in Chapter 6, Iran does have elections that determine the nation's president and legislative members. In 2005 Saudi Arabia conducted limited municipal elections; however, only men were allowed to vote. Some governments in the Middle East are more secular than others, with Turkey being considered the most secular nation in the region.

Many Muslim countries are ruled by autocrats (rulers with vast or unlimited power). These include kings in monarchies in which rule remains in the royal family. Examples include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Bah-rain, and Kuwait. Other leaders have assumed and hold power through military means, for example, Libya. Several Islamic countries have less autocratic forms of government, including Indonesia and Egypt. Turkey is often heralded as the most democratic nation in the Muslim world. Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, it evolved into a strong democracy after achieving independence.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has made the spread of democracy among Muslims, and especially in the Middle East, an important priority. After invading Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, respectively, the United States helped devise new, democratic, constitutions for those nations. It has also pushed for democratic-style governments in other autocratic countries in the Middle East.


The U.S. government acknowledges that winning the War on Terror will require more than military and legal skills. Public opinion in the Islamic world is also a key factor. U.S. politicians and reporters often refer to the effort to make Muslim opinions more favorable toward the United States as winning hearts and minds. There is no doubt that improving perceptions of the United States in the Islamic world (and the broader world) is a difficult task. In Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11 (2002), Thomas L. Friedman observes, Since the end of the cold war anti-Americanism has overtaken soccer as the world's favorite sport.

Public Relations

For the U.S. government, the toughest public relations challenge has been trying to convinceMuslims that theWar on Terror is not a war on their religion. According to the article In the President's Words: Respecting Islam (April 29, 2003, http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/ramadan/islam.html), on September 19, 2001, President Bush said, The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war. The president has often accused the terrorists of hijacking Islam for their own evil purposes. Despite these reassurances, many Muslims resent the strong link assumed in the West between Islam and terrorism.

As described in Chapter 2, the DOS conducts programs of public diplomacy in an attempt to influence the attitudes and behaviors of people around the world. Since 9/11, public diplomacy in the Middle East (or Near East, as it is also called) has taken on new emphasis.

As part of its public diplomacy programs, the U.S. government finances radio and television networks to counter what it considers misinformation disseminated about the United States by the state-run media in many Middle Eastern countries. Radio Sawa, an Arabic-language radio station that plays music and news stories, was launched in 2002. The Alhurra Satellite Television Network provides commercial-free Arabic-language news and feature stories throughout the Middle East. Radio Farda is a Persian-language station broadcast specifically for the Iranian audience and features music, news, and information programs. In 2003 the DOS provided millions of dollars for the new magazine Hi that was designed to reach the teenage populations of Arabic countries. Its sales were dismal, and the program was suspended in late 2005.

Middle Eastern youth, particularly boys, are the primary target of U.S. information campaigns. It is hoped that the information will help counteract the radical version of Islam that is associated with many Islamic religious schools called madrassas. These boarding schools are financed by wealthy Muslims and provide room and board for poor boys throughout the Islamic world. The educational studies are devoted almost exclusively to the Koran and Sharia. There are believed to be thousands of madrassas throughout the Middle East. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States notes in The 9/11 Commission Repor (2004, http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf) that as of 2004 there were 859 madrassas in Karachi, Pakistan, educating over 200,000 students and that some of these schools have been used as incubators for violent extremism. The commission emphasizes the importance of an effective U.S. information campaign with this warning: If the United States does not act aggressively

to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.

Foreign Aid

Another key element of U.S. public diplomacy is foreign aid. Providing food, money, and other aid to struggling countries has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II. Under the Marshall Plan billions of dollars went to European countries to help them rebuild infrastructure and industries devastated during the war. The money helped ensure political stability, stave off communist interference, and create trading partners for the United States.

Muslim-majority countries have been the beneficiaries of U.S. foreign aid in the past. These programs received new emphasis when the War on Terror began in September 2001. Table 10.2 shows the fiscal year 2009 budget request of the U.S. Agency for International

TABLE 10.2 U.S. economic assistance requested for Near Eastern countries for fiscal year 2009
($ in thousands)FY 2009 request
SOURCE: Adapted from Request by Program Area by Fiscal Year, in
Congressional Budget Justification: Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2009, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, February 2008, http://www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/cbj2009/101442.pdf (accessed August 9, 2008)
Peace and security4,320,699
Combating weapons of mass destruction (WMD)3,460
Stabilization operations and security sector reform4,252,182
Transnational crime500
Conflict mitigation and reconciliation24,750
Governing justly and democratically453,680
Rule of law and human rights148,250
Good governance112,580
Political competition and consensus-building46,500
Civil society146,350
Investing in people253,621
Social services and protection for especially vulnerable people3,800
Economic growth488,583
Macroeconomic foundation for growth201,428
Trade and investment28,685
Financial sector67,128
Private sector competitiveness80,552
Economic opportunity4,950
Humanitarian assistance7,000
Protection, assistance and solutions6,000
Disaster readiness1,000
Program support550
Program support550
FY = Fiscal Year.

Development (USAID) for the Near East region (including Israel). USAID is the principal U.S. agency engaged in providing foreign economic assistance. It requested more than $5.5 billion in aid for nations in the Near East. Israel will be the largest aid recipient with nearly $2.6 billion. Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country, will be second with $1.5 billion. The remaining $2.4 billion will be spread among the remaining nations of the Near East, all of which are predominantly Muslim.

Pakistan is located in south-central Asia. (See Figure 10.3.) Its position next to Afghanistan makes it a key figure in the U.S. War on Terror. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States provided $10.9 billion in aid to Pakistan. (See Table 10.3.) An additional $996 million was requested for the fiscal year 2009 budget of the U.S. government. The vast majority of the aid provided between 2002 and 2008 was for security purposes. Nearly $7.9 billion were devoted to this purpose. The remaining amount ($3.1 billion) funded programs for children and economic development and provided food to the Pakistani people, the vast majority of which are Muslim.

Four Muslim-majority countries lying north of Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been the recipients of USAID assistance. Between 2002 and 2006 a USAID program dedicated to education helped finance school

TABLE 10.3 U.S. economic assistance to Pakistan, by program, fiscal years 2002-08 and requested for 2009 [Rounded to the nearest millions of dollars]
Program or accountFY2002FY2003FY2004FY2005FY2006FY2007FY2008 (est.)FY2002-FY2008 TotalFY2009 (req.)
aCSF is Pentagon funding to reimburse Pakistan for its support of U.S. military operations. It is not officially designated as foreign assistance, but is counted as such by many analysts. bThe great majority of NADR funds allocated for Pakistan are for anti-terrorism assistance. cCongress authorized Pakistan to use the FY2003 and FY2004 ESF allocations to cancel a total of about $1.5 billion in concessional debt to the U.S. government. From FY2005-FY2007, $200 million per year in ESF was delivered in the form of -budget support- cash transfers to Pakistan. Such funds will be -projectized- from FY2008 on. dP.L.480 Title I (loans), P.L.480 Title II (grants), and Section 416(b) of the Agricultural Act of 1949, as amended (surplus agricultural commodity donations). Food aid totals do not include freight costs. eIncludes $220 million for peacekeeping operations reported by the State Department. fIncludes $25 million for emergency refugee and migration assistance. gAlthough the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2006 (P.L. 109-234) did not earmark international disaster and famine assistance funds for Pakistani earthquake relief, it allocated sufficient funds to meet the administration request of $70 million for this purpose; these are added to the total. hIncludes CSF payments (one pending) for support provided through August 2007. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007 (P.L. 109-289) and an emergency supplemental appropriations act (P.L. 110-28) appropriated a total of $1.1 billion for FY2007 CSF payments to -Pakistan, Jordan, and other key cooperating nations.- iDivision L of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), appropriated $300 million for FY2008 CSF payments. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008 (P.L. 110-181) authorizes up to $1.2 billion in total CSF payments to -any key cooperating nation- in connection with U.S. military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. To date, no CSF requests have been made for FY2009. jIncludes supplemental appropriations of $60 million for ESF and $7.5 million for diplomatic and consular operations in the FATA and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. kThis funding is -requirements-based- for -urgent and emergent threats and opportunities.- Thus, there are no pre-allocation data.
SOURCE:  K. Alan Kronstadt, Table 1. Overt U.S. Aid and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2009, in Pakistan-U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service, May 30, 2008, http://ftp.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33498.pdf (accessed August 9, 2008)
Total security-related1,3461,5048181,3131,2601,1144867,891445
Food Aidd528133255204
Total economic-related669f267288664528g5064673,105551
Grand total2,0151,7711,1061,9771,7881,620953j10,946996
1206:   Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2006 (P.L. 109-163, global train and equip; Pentagon budget).
CN:  Counternarcotics Funds (Pentagon budget).
CSF:  Coalition Support Funds (Pentagon budget).
CSH:  Child Survival and Health.
DA:  Development Assistance.
ESF:  Economic Support Fund.
FC:  Section 1206 of the NDAA for FY2008 (P.L. 110-181, Pakistan Frontier Corp train and equip; Pentagon budget).
FMF:  Foreign Military Financing.
IMET:  International Military Education and Training.
INCLE:  International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (includes border security).
NADR:  Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Relatedb

construction and renovation, teacher training, and related projects in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. (See Table 10.4.)

THE MIDDLE EAST PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE . In 2002 the DOS created a new foreign aid program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). MEPI is described at length by the GAO in Foreign Assistance: Middle East Partnership Initiative Offers Tool for Supporting Reform, but Project Monitoring Needs Improvement (August 2005, http://wwwgaogov/newitems/d05711pdf). According to the GAO, MEPIwhich works with U.S. embassies and USAIDis designed to support four specific reform goals:

  • Economic growthenhance trade and global competitiveness, encourage domestic and foreign investment in business and industry, and facilitate entrepreneur-ship, particularly through the creation of small and medium businesses.
  • Political stabilitystrengthen democracy by promoting democratic practices within governments, such as measures of accountability to the public and allowance of free speech by the press; another goal is enhancement of law and order and government institutions.
  • Education improvementprovide greater access to educational opportunities (particularly among the female population); improve teacher training, curriculum, computer access, and parental involvement in the school systems; and promote literacy and other practical skills.
  • Women's issuesencourage the participation of women in the political process and reduce social, economic, cultural, and legal barriers that limit women's role in society.

According to MEPI (2008, http://www.mepi.state.gov/), the program has provided $480 million in funding since 2002 to over 450 projects in 17 nations and territories. Figure 10.4 shows the Middle Eastern countries that have benefited from MEPI projects.


Freedom of speech is a highly regarded principle in Western democracies. As such, Western speakers and writers feel free to openly discuss matters of religion, including matters that relate to Islam. This has led to clashes with Muslims who hold many subjects within Islam to be so sacred or sensitive that they cannot be discussed in a manner deemed disrespectful. In addition, most Muslims consider it blasphemous to visually depict God or the prophet Muhammad in any media, including artwork.

In 1988 the Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie (1947) published in England The Satanic Verses, which included dreamlike sequences involving Muhammad and the Koran. The book sparked outrage among many Muslims who felt it was blasphemous. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (19001989), the supreme leader of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious edict) calling on Muslims around the world to kill Rushdie. The author was forced to go into hiding. The incident severely strained Iran's relations with other nations, particularly Great Britain, which severed diplomatic ties with Iran. During the late 1990s moderates within the Iranian government downplayed

TABLE 10.4 USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) education program results for four Muslim-majority countries in central Asia, 2002-06
Type of programMajor program componentsRegional impact (approximate numbers)
SOURCE: USAID/E&E Education Program Impact in Four Muslim Majority Central Asian Countries (2002-2006), in Country Reports on Terrorism, 2007, U.S. Department of State, April 2008, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/105904.pdf (accessed July 29, 2008)
Increase access to education opportunities· School and classroom construction and rehabilitation· Rehabilitated 113 schools (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
· School finance· Piloted new school finance mechanism based on per capita funding formula to improve efficiency. Results include more efficient student/teacher ratios in pilot areas (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan).
Increase the quality of education· Teacher training· 8,142 primary and secondary school teachers trained in interactive, student-centered methods with mentoring and other follow-up support (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan).
· Community and parental involvement· 174 school community committees strengthened to support school quality improvements (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan).
· Model school program· 300 Model Schools model best practices in the use of new teaching methods, management practices and community involvement (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan).

The provocative ten-minute film Submission was released in 2004 in the Netherlands. It included several naked women with verses from the Koran written on their bodies. The film was a commentary on alleged mistreatment of women in Islamic society. Its release led to the murder several months later of its director, Theo van Gogh (19572004; a descendant of the painter Vincent van Gogh), by Mohammed Bouyeri (1978), a man of Moroccan-Dutch descent affiliated with Islamic extremists. Toby Sterling reports in Prosecutors: Van Gogh's Alleged Killer Cites Holy War (Seattle Times, January 27, 2005) that the police arrested a dozen conspirators, all members of a terrorist group called the Hofstad network. The prosecutor called the crime terrorism, inspired by an extreme interpretation of Islam.

Another freedom of speech furor erupted in 2005 after Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper in Denmark, published some comic strips featuring Muhammad as a character. One of the drawings depicted the Prophet wearing a turban with a bomb underneath it. Muslims reacted with anger. Dozens of people were killed in riots across the Middle East, and Scandinavian embassies and diplomatic offices in the region were attacked and set on fire. The newspaper received many bomb threats, and the comic strip artists had to go into hiding for fear of their lives. Several Muslim countries initiated an economic boycott of Danish goods. According to the article Cartoons Row Hits Danish Exports (BBC News, September 9, 2006), the boycott cut Denmark's exports to the Middle East by approximately half between February and June 2006, amounting to $170 million in lost revenue.

The publication of the comics (or cartoons as they were called in Europe) and the resulting fury sparked a debate across Europe about the freedom of expression. Within a few months the newspaper issued a formal apology. However, in Why I Published Those Cartoons (Washington Post, February 19, 2006), Flemming Rose, the editor who had published the comics, defends his decision. He argues that the newspaper had a tradition of using satirical drawings to lampoon public figures, even religious ones. He rejected calls for self-censorship by the media to prevent insulting Muslims, noting if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

In September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI (1927) angered Muslims when he quoted a text from the fourteenth century in which the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus (13501425) criticized Muhammad for spreading Islam by force. The comment drew a vehement backlash from Muslim leaders around the world, who demanded the pope apologize for being disrespectful. According to Ian Fisher, in Pope Apologizes for Uproar over His Remarks (New York Times, September 17, 2006), the incident may have sparked the killing of a nun in Somalia and attacks on several Christian churches in the Middle East. The pope issued a rare personal apology and insisted that the quoted text did not represent his own views on Islam.


The most difficult issue in relations between the United States and Muslims is that some Muslims believe Islam justifies, or even requires, attacks against the United States and other Western nations. They see the United States, a powerful nation that has enormous direct and indirect influence over Muslims around the world, as a threat to Islam, and they have struck against it.

Most Muslims disagree with these views. They regard the terrorists as extremists who have misunderstood the

true nature of Islam. At the same time, however, the reaction to terrorism by Islamic religious figures and the political leaders is not always as strong as Americans feel they should be. In America Has to Face Reality (Newsweek, October 13, 2001), Christopher Dickey calls it the this is horrible, but syndrome.

In Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (2001), Peter L. Bergen describes at length the terrorist exploits of Osama bin Laden (1957) and the al Qaeda network. According to Bergen, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen elicited the following comments from the country's former deputy prime minister: There was no justification for the Cole bombing. I was shocked and surprised. But the U.S. bears a great degree of responsibility for the incident for the way the U.S. deals with issues in the Middle East.

The article Giuliani Rejects $10 Million from Saudi Prince (CNN.com, October 13, 2001) explains that following the 9/11 terrorist attacks the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal Abdulaziz Alsaud (1957) presented the New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (1944) with a $10 million donation for relief efforts and expressed his condolences for the victims. However, later that day the prince made public statements in which he said the United States should address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack and re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause. Giuliani angrily returned the prince's check and denounced the attempted linkage between the terrorist attacks and U.S. foreign policy.

In Where's the Outrage? (USA Today, September 12, 2006), Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs for the DOS, laments the lack of worldwide moral outrage regarding terrorism and notes, As I have traveled the world, I have met those who try to justify the violence based on policy differences, long-held grievances or a perceived threat from the West.

CAIR disputes the notion that prominent Muslims excuse terrorist attacks against the United States. In Response to September 11, 2001 Attacks (March 28, 2007, http://www.cair.com/Portals/0/pdf/September_11_statements.pdf), CAIR includes statements from dozens of Islamic scholars from around the world who have condemned terrorist attacks that kill innocent people. CAIR also published Islamic Statements against Terrorism (2005, http://www.cair.com/Portals/0/pdf/Condemnation_of_London_Bombings.pdf) after the July 7, 2005, bombings in London.


In February 2007 the Gallup Organization conducted polls to gauge American attitudes about the Islamic world. Participants were asked to rate their opinion of Muslim countries as very favorable, somewhat favorable, neither favorable nor unfavorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable. Only 3% of respondents indicated they had a very favorable opinion of Muslim countries. (See Figure 10.5.) Another 23% expressed a somewhat favorable opinion. Just over one-third (34%) were neutral on the subject. Twenty-three percent of respondents had a somewhat unfavorable view of Muslim countries, and 12% had a very unfavorable opinion. Overall, 26% of those asked expressed favorable opinions, and 35% expressed unfavorable opinions.

During the same poll the participants were asked to use the same qualifiers to rate the opinion of people in Muslim countries regarding the United States. (See Table 10.5.) Half of the respondents indicated they believe foreign Muslims have a very unfavorable opinion of the United States. Nearly one-third (31%) of poll participants estimated the United States is viewed somewhat unfavorably in the Muslim world. Only 2% said foreign Muslims view the United States in a very favorable light. Slightly more (9%) believed the United States garners a somewhat favorable rating in Islamic countries. Another 4% felt foreign Muslims have a neutral view of the United States. In total, a majority (81%) of respondents said they believe Muslims in foreign countries view the United States unfavorably, compared to 11% who thought the United States is viewed favorably. These percentages have changed little since the question was first asked in March 2002.

Gallup also asked Americans why they believe Muslims have an unfavorable view of the United States. A majority (57%) of respondents believed this unfavorable view on the part of Muslims is based on misinformation provided by their media and governments. (See Figure 10.6.) Twenty-six percent thought U.S. actions have precipitated the unfavorable view. Another 13% thought both explanations or neither were to blame.

Knowledge about Muslim Opinions and Beliefs

During the February 2007 poll, participants were asked to indicate their level of knowledge about the opinions and beliefs of people who live in Muslim countries. Only 6% of those asked felt confident they have a great deal of knowledge about Muslim opinions and beliefs. (See Figure 10.7.) Another 37% felt confident they possess a moderate amount of knowledge. The largest component (43%) said they do not have much knowledge on the subject, and 14% admitted they know nothing at all about the opinions and beliefs of people in the Muslim world.

Table 10.6 illustrates the opinions of poll respondents about Muslim countries based on the respondents' self-reported

TABLE 10.5 Poll respondents' perceptions of the opinion people in Muslim countries have about the United States, February 2007
SOURCE: Frank Newport and Dalia Mogahed, In General, Do You Think People in Muslim Countries Have a Very Favorable, Somewhat Favorable, Neither Favorable Nor Unfavorable, Somewhat Unfavorable, or Very Unfavorable Opinion of the United States? in Americans: People in Muslim Countries Have Negative Views of U.S., The Gallup Organization, February 2, 2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/26350/Americans-People-Muslim-Countries-Negative-Views-US.aspx?version_print (accessed August 9, 2008). Copyright © 2007 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.
 Very favorableSomewhat favorableNeither favorable nor unfavorableSomewhat unfavorableVery unfavorableNo opinion
2007 Jan 15-182%9431504
2006 Mar 13-163%9433493
2002 Mar 1-31%8735472

knowledge about Muslim opinions and beliefs. People professing to have a great deal or moderate amount of knowledge about Muslim opinions and beliefs were split almost evenly between a favorable opinion (35%) and an unfavorable opinion (36%). Another 27% were neutral on the subject. By contrast, respondents who professed to have little knowledge about Muslim opinions and beliefs mostly had a neutral opinion about Muslim countries (43%). Twenty-one percent of them had a favorable opinion and 32% had an unfavorable opinion about Muslim countries.

Western and Muslim Worlds Coexisting

Frank Newport reports in Complex but Hopeful Pattern of American Attitudes toward Muslims (March 23, 2006, http://www.gallup.com/poll/22021/Complex-Hopeful-Pattern-American-Attitudes-Toward-Muslims.aspx) that in February 2006 Americans were asked to rate on a scale from one to five the amount of concern they believed Muslim (or Islamic) societies show for better coexistence between themselves and Western societies. A rating of one coincided with no concern, and a rating of five coincided with a lot of concern. Only 3% of respondents gave a five rating, meaning few believed Muslims definitely show a lot of concern about better coexistence. Seven percent were less firm in this opinion and gave a four rating. A much higher percentage (29%) chose a rating of three, indicating they believed Muslims show a moderate amount of concern for better coexistence.

Slightly more than one-third (34%) of respondents gave a rating of two. Finally, 24% of poll participants chose a rating of one. In other words, they believed Islamic societies show no concern about better coexistence.

Overall, the poll results indicate that 58% of those asked believed Muslims show little to no concern for better coexistence, and only 10% felt Muslims show a lot or nearly a lot of concern. A solid component (29%) chose a middle-ground answer.

Newport indicates that the participants were asked to use the same rating system to rate their own personal level of concern for a better understanding between the Western and Muslim cultures. Only 5% of those asked indicated they felt no concern about improving understanding between the two worlds. A slightly higher percentage (6%) chose a two rating, coinciding with a small level of concern. Twenty-two percent of poll participants rated their level of concern at the three (or midrange) level. A larger component (31%) gave a higher rating of four. More than one-third (34%) of the people said they felt a lot of concern about obtaining a better understanding between the Western and Muslim cultures.

TABLE 10.6 Poll respondents' opinion of Muslim countries based on respondents' level of knowledge about Muslims, February 2007
SOURCE: Frank Newport and Dalia Mogahed, Opinion of Muslim Countries, by Self-Reported Knowledge of the Opinions and Beliefs of People Who Live in Muslim Countries, in Americans: People in Muslim Countries Have Negative Views of U.S., The Gallup Organization, February 2, 2007, http://www.gallup.com/poll/26350/Americans-People-Muslim-Countries-Negative-Views-US.aspx?version_print (accessed August 9, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.
 Great deal/Moderate amount %Not much %Nothing %
Favorable opinion352113
Neither favorable nor unfavorable opinion274329
Unfavorable opinion363243
Don't know2415

When viewed in total, the results indicate a relatively high level of concern in this area. A solid majority (65%) said the issue concerns them a lot or a moderately high

amount. Only 11% indicated little to no concern. Finally, 22% expressed a moderate amount of concern.

Improving Relations between the Western and Muslim Worlds

Newport notes that Americans were also asked to name things that each society could do to improve relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. First, the participants were asked about what the Islamic world could do to improve relations with the West. A fifth (20%) of the people named improve communication as an important step toward better relations. The second most often named activity dealt with stopping, lessening, or controlling terrorism, which was named by 15% of poll participants. Twelve percent thought better understanding each others' beliefs would improve relations, and 10% said Muslims could work to better understand Westerners' beliefs. Together, these four activities were named by more than half (57%) of all the people taking part in the poll.

When asked what Western societies could do to improve relations with the Muslim world, 18% of respondents said Westerners should try harder to understand Muslim beliefs. Another 14% indicated that improved education and more cultural intermixing would be good for relations. A smaller percentage (9%) expressed the belief that working together was the answer to better relations.


The United States has a relatively small population of Muslims. CAIR estimates in About Islam and American Muslims that the Islamic-American population is about seven million. In its July 30, 2007, issue, Newsweek included a special feature titled Islam in America. The feature notes that Muslim Americans represent the most affluent, integrated, politically engagedMuslim community in theWestern World. However, the Muslim-American community does face suspicion from fellow Americans about the link between Islam and terrorism. According to a July 2007 poll conducted for Newsweek by Princeton SurveyResearch Associates International (2008, http://www.pollingreport.com/terror.htm), 32% of Americans thought Muslim-Americans are less loyal to the United States than they are to Islam. Forty percent believed Muslim-Americans are equally loyal to the United States and Islam. Another 9% believed Muslim-Americans are more loyal to the United States.

Newsweek also finds that Americans worry about Islamic radicalization within the United States. Thirty-eight percent of poll respondents were somewhat worried and 16% were very worried about this possibility. A quarter were not too worried and 18% were not at all worried about radicalization within the U.S. Muslim community.

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U.S. Relations with the Islamic World