Tiffany Gabbay, The Blaze, September 21, 2012

  • TheBlaze consults experts to glean insight into why Islamists and even a contingent of secular Muslims across the Middle East harbor such animus for America
  • The reasons cited include: Anti-Semitism, U.S. drone attacks, slandering Islam, different views on personal freedom, a belief that America sides with dictators (i.e. late Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a belief that America is raping the Middle East of its natural resources and is trying to take over the region.  

With the turmoil in the Middle East reaching a fever pitch, everyday people in the U.S. have, at one point or another, likely found themselves wondering: “Why? What do Muslims abroad really have against us? Why do they hate us?”

There could hardly be a one-size fits all answer to a question (and topic) so deeply textured, but for the sake of this exercise TheBlaze has attempted to delve into what Muslims abroad claim are their key grievances against America.

Interestingly, both Islamists and secular “men on the street” in Islamic countries harbor varying degrees of resentment for America and the West, each for their own distinct reasons. Below is an examination of the most prevalent issues concerning Muslims abroad.

Power plays and Arab nationalism 

For Daniel Pipes, scholar and founder of the Middle East Forum (MEF), it boils down to one simple reason: Islamists hate America because “they believe Muslims should be in charge” and they, simply, “are not.”

The resentment, according to scholar, while most “acute” for fundamentalists is actually widespread even among Arab seculars.

Another motivation cited by experts is anti-Semitism. Take, for instance, the Palestinians. Both Hamas and Fatah have routinely waged terrorist acts but have not done so for the purpose of religious extremism. Rather, their animus is intended to justify their Arab nationalism and prop-up various acts of aggression against the Jewish State – land they seek to claim as their own.

Islamists outside the Palestinian territories will often join the anti-Israel bandwagon for purposes of Islamic solidarity and Arab unity. Again, leaders of Fatah and Hamas, while also vying for power within their own ranks, still present a unified front to the world when it comes to blaming the West and Israel for all their woes.

Raymond Ibrahim, a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center agrees.

“Even secularists there [across the Middle East] will be anti-Israel.”

He explained that a lifetime absorbing anti-Semitic, anti-Western propaganda has shaped an entire culture’s world view.

“You can’t be born and raised in the Middle East and not be anti-Israeli,” the historian told TheBlaze in an exclusive interview.

“There no sense of responsibility. You can even talk to the most secular, intelligent, suit-and-tie guy and that is still his mentality.”

He added that Arab nationalism has “quickly morphed into an Islamist thing.”

“It’s the same hatred.”

“When something goes wrong it’s always – even when it comes to a secular Arab mentality – an Israel-U.S. ‘conspiracy.’”

Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt, also explained that while not every secular Muslim in the Middle East will rise up in violence, they consider themselves above all to be Arab nationalists, thus will collectively turn a blind eye to the carnage being leveled by their more radical counterparts.


A series of U.S. “blunders?”

Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), spoke to TheBlaze about Muslim perceptions of the West. He claims that a strong contingent of Muslims harbor a belief that U.S. policy is definitively “anti-Islam” and that Americans are protective of Christian and Jewish communities exclusively while remaining silent in the face Islamophobia.

Al-Marayati — perhaps best known for equating jihad with Patrick Henry’s stance on “give me liberty or give me death” — explained that Muslim views are shaped around what they consider a series of U.S. foreign policy “blunders,” including a belief that:

  • The U.S. consistently supports Middle East dictators
  • The U.S. “sanctions” anti-Islam propaganda
  • Has controlled the natural and industrial resources of Muslim countries
  • “Blindly” supports Israel against the Palestinians
  • Kills Muslim civillians indiscriminately in drone attacks
  • “Destroyed Iraq” in both 1991 and 2003
  • Maintains a military presence throughout the Middle East

Raymond Imbrahim, a Coptic Christian best known for his translations of jihadist propaganda material in his book, The Al Qaeda Reader, also pointed to several factors that sway anti-American sentiment among Muslims, among them is a belief that:

  • The West hates and is hostile towards Muslims
  • The West wants to take over Middle East
  • The West is stealing Islamic countries’ oil

Whether their beliefs are founded or not is irrelevant, as they are perpetuated by Muslims local and national governments and across state-run media.

A bad PR campaign?

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), believes Arab-Muslim perceptions of America and the West are a direct result of how America is packaged in their media.  He said that Muslims across the Middle East ironically still desire living in the U.S. and enjoy certain elements of Western culture but “hate American policies as they have been portrayed in the media.”

For the former U.S. Naval officer, it is “all about perceptions.“ He believes America needs to do more ”to promote ourselves and values in the Middle East” and refrain from appointing statesmen who he considers a “failure at…advancing a freedom agenda.”

“For a country that spends billions on campaigns inside the country, we’ve done virtually nothing to promote ourselves in the Middle East,” Jasser told TheBlaze pointedly. Otherwise, “we have been played for a fool by the Islamists” and their well-engineered, “Soviet-style” propaganda campaigns.

A “blame America” attitude, even for internal poverty

It is perhaps prudent to note that governments of Muslim countries are no stranger to corruption, relegating their citizenry to live in a perpetual state of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. For instance, reports indicate that the illiteracy rate in the Arab world hovers at around 35.6 percent compared with a global rate of 18 percent. Likewise, the youth unemployment rate across the Middle East is 25 percent, exceeding that “of any other region in the world,” the International Monetary Fund said in its April 2011 regional outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia. J

When the people’s discontent boils over, rather than assume responsibility, political and religious leaders across the Middle East attempt to deflect blame, thereby pointing a finger at the West. to claim that America is the genesis for all of their country’s societal ills.

Experts consulted by TheBlaze for this article claim Islamic operatives will cite any number of “reasons” to blame the West for their countries’ stagnant economies and poor living conditions, including telling the public that America has even “stolen its oil and other natural resources.”

“If you are leading a movement anathema to Western ideas and to freedom and liberty,” Jasser said, leaders in the region “must develop grievances against a common ‘enemy’ to deflect attention away from themselves.”

He said the practice engaged by Islamic leaders in countries currently experiencing upheaval is by all means “Machiavellian,” adding that the best way to prevent proponents of human rights (i.e. the U.S.) from having a voice is by discrediting them.

“They shifted the discussion from ideology to grievances,” Jasser said.


Foreign and domestic policy

According to Pipes, of the many grievances aired by Islamists, insults to their Prophet Muhammad ranks at the top of all that is verboten, followed by “Western sexual freedom” and other liberated social practices concerning faith, speech, dress, personal relationships and so on.

Pipe’s assertion echoes statements made by one of North America’s most influential clerics, Imam Mohammad Qatanani, during an interview with TheBlaze. The prominent Islamic scholar confirmed that slandering the “final” prophet will in no uncertain terms, “ever be accepted” by Muslims.

The cleric’s strong words on slander do not only apply to Islamists. Islamism, for instance, may be much more prevalent in countries like Pakistan than it is (ironically) in Iran, but mocking the Prophet Muhammad appears to be universally taboo across the Islamic world, whatever the level of a religious observance.

U.S. answerable for all Western nations? 

While both cultural and religious differences have fomented hatred for the U.S. among Muslims across the Middle East, so too has American foreign policy. Pipes, author of an array of books on Islam, dates the “tipping point” for U.S. policy to 1989 and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s edict against “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie.

The novel was said to have been inspired in part by the Prophet Muhammad and the title drew from a phenomenon in Islam dubbed the “satanic verses,” an alleged compilation of Quranic verses allowing prayers to be offered to three pagan goddesses. Polytheism is expressly forbidden in Islam, thus Islamists considered Rushdhie’s work blasphemous.

Iran’s Supreme Leader issued a fatwa — an Islamic mandate calling for a specific person to be killed — on the Indian novelist. Ironically, the argument used by Islamic clerics at the time claimed that Rushdie misused his “freedom of speech.” The author has lived under threat of death ever since and TheBlaze reported that the bounty on his head has recently been increased to $3.3 million.

“Had the West been firmer in that and the many succeeding examples,” he began, “I believe Muslims would see that they cannot intimidate us and the furor would calm down.”

How America is responsible for an Indian author who was not even in the U.S. at the time of the Satanic Verses’ release remains unclear. Still, when it comes to “blaspheming” against Islam, it seems the deeds of the entire Western world fall under America’s purview in the eyes of Islamists.

To befriend or not to befriend (despots, that is)

Another reason a contingent of Muslims resent America, according to experts consulted by TheBlaze, is that the U.S. has “hugged…kissed and befriended” many of the world’s “worst oppressors.” While not a consensus opinion, Jasser, considered a voice of Muslim moderation, believes that referring to Hosni Mubarak as a “close friend and ally” does naught to endear Americans to Muslims abroad.

He said America can no longer operate with a mindset of choosing the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to leaders in the Middle East.

“It can’t be a linear choice between the Shah and the Ayatollah,” he said.

In terms of where America has botched its foreign policy in the Middle East, Ibrahim countered Jasser’s point, immediately condemning President Obama for throwing our “staunch ally” Mubarak under the bus. Unlike Jasser, Ibrahim believes Mubarak was an important counter-balance to Islamists in the region and explained that one of the reasons the late Egyptian president was so loathed at home was specifically because of his close ties with the U.S.

“We empowered Islamists,” Ibrahim declared. ”Same thing with Libya. Gahdafi was terrible but what’s the alternative? The same people are now attacking Americans. It is ironic to me that Libya and Egypt are the ones retaliating in such a vicious way.”

Ibrahim also noted that if America were to step in and aid any Middle East uprising, it should have been Iran’s Green Revolution as it comprises mainly pro-Western students and other seculars seeking to free themselves from the grip of their hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

“We could have publicized it [Green Revolution] in the way that our media publicized the Arab Spring. I don’t remember media being fixated on the Iranians. Obama was silent. It’s so amazing, the question is ‘why?’: Why did we help the Brotherhood and not the seculars?”

He answered his own question: “Because the Islamists have infiltrated American government.”

While condemning the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is now being engaged at the White House, Ibrahim believes there is still a window of opportunity for the U.S. to side with the secularists and other pro-West groups.

What should the U.S. do differently? 

TheBlaze also spoke with Larry Greenfield, a Los Angeles-based senior fellow at the American Freedom Alliance, who shared his thoughts on America’s current foreign policy as it relates to Islamic countries and what the U.S. should be doing differently.

“The left has adopted an approach of appeasement,” Greenfield, a former Naval Intelligence officer, told TheBlaze.

“Obama’s policies toward radical Islam have been to deny its existence, fail to name it or fight it effectively.”

Greenfield intensified his onslaught, criticizing “Obama the weak” for failing to condemn the murderer of Neda Agha-Soltan — a young Iranian woman who was shot to death during a dissident protest in Iran, and for his failure to respond to the protesters’ plea: “Obama, Obama, are you with us or our tyrants?”

“Obama’s entire foreign policy of sorrow for American strength and historical global leadership for freedom has invited danger. He has dithered in Afghanistan , bowed to the Saudis and betrayed allies like Britain, Hondurus, the Czechs, Poland, and Israel and emboldens bad actors.”

In closing, Greenfield asked if the president would like to return the Nobel Peace Prize bestowed upon him “now that it is evident his strategy of appeasement has collapsed.”

The idea Greenfield put forth is that by kowtowing to those who live outside the U.S., yet who demand Americans live in accordance with their Islamic ideology — even if that ideology is anathema to American values, laws and beliefs — extremists will only become more emboldened. Thus, a foreign policy that takes a more authoritative stance when dealing with extremists who shed American blood in the name of Islam might better serve U.S. interests.

Can America do anything right?

At the end of the day, Muslims are not a monolith. Their views vary from country to country, sect to sect, culture to culture. But history would seem to indicate that, at least where Islamists are concerned, if they are not upset about one set of American, or further, Western “transgressions” they will in short order be upset about another.

Whether it is demanding the release of the “Blind Sheik,“ or insisting that the Pope apologize for 2006 comments in which he criticized past Islamic ”tyranny;” a Danish cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad, or America’s support for Israel, there may very well continue to be a thorn in Islamists’ side no matter how often America apologizes for itself or the entire Western world.