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Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world

By Saad Hafiz:

Many Americans are baffled and angered by the deep-set anti-Americanism prevailing in the Muslim world. Some Americans see it as an expression of a malevolent ill disposition that goes beyond the pale of reason, revealing the inherent venality, weakness and instability of Muslims. In this worldview, the US is the beacon of freedom and democracy and a major aid provider, which makes it especially confounding that it would be the target of Muslim rage. The genuine fears about extremism and violence in the Muslim world continue to play a role in driving these views. Former President George W Bush captured a widespread concern when he said, “Like most Americans, I just cannot believe the vitriolic hatred of the United States because I know how good we are.”

There are some western scholars who attribute anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world to hatred, envy, or prejudice. In their view, the driving forces behind opposition to America are the disposition of people who embrace anti-democratic, anti-market, and anti-modern ideologies. Such sentiments of opposition and rejection are allegedly rife, more than ever, in Muslim countries. “More than anything else,” writes historian William McNeill, “reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form, means the repudiation of European and American influence upon local society, politics, and morals.” This body of opinion suggests that no rapprochement between Americans and Muslims is possible, and that the deeply ingrained mistrust of the United States and resistance to US power is going to remain a permanent reality of international politics. It supports the popular perception that anti-Americanism is a cohesive and undifferentiated trend, striding across the Muslim world. It also places the onus entirely on Muslims to change as the US is made out to be the most pristine incarnation of the ideals of freedom, democracy, and opportunity, a view that many Americans themselves do not share.

The US-Muslim divide can also be looked at in a different context offered by political scientist Joseph Nye. Nye described the common perception of the US in two dimensions: a polity dimension, and a policy dimension. The first dimension refers to the US as a societal, cultural, and political arrangement premised on freedom, opportunity, and individual achievement, while the second dimension is centred on the political actions the United States pursues in the international arena. These two dimensions are linked under the concept of “soft power”, which is the ability to get others — other countries, other nations, other societies, and other people — to want what the US wants. But it is power by co-option, instead of power by coercion; it is premised on cultural values and political ideology; it operates through persuasion and example; and it is perpetuated within a network of institutions that define rules and modes of legitimate behaviour. It is a sublime form of power that American society possesses in profusion above and beyond the power resources — military, economic, and technological — of its government.

The fact that US foreign policy is often seen globally as hypocritical, arrogant, indifferent to the opinion of others, or based on a narrow approach to national interests, has undermined the US’s ‘soft’ power. The lingering legacy of anti-Americanism in Latin America can be attributed to the US interference and coup-mongering, where countries are still trying to deal with the US-organised tyrannies and terrors of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Similarly, there is deep resentment in the Muslim world about US foreign policy and its double standards, including the multi-decade support of dictatorships, and the US’s slavish and unremitting support for Israel, irrespective of that latter country’s behaviour and conduct.

The concept of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power could explain why the general Muslim public based on recent polls can get along with the US when it means democracy, movies, education, people, and science, but hates the US when it pursues foreign policies and unilateral actions using ‘hard’ military power in the Muslim world. The same polls indicate that Muslims would support specific features of democracy, including institutions such as a free press and multi-party elections that serve as cornerstones of western democratic systems. Therefore, while many Muslims continue to oppose US policies and remain uneasy about its power, many also want to see their own countries adopt some central features of American society.

While the task of building bridges between the US and the Muslim world remains daunting, perhaps the way forward is the reinvigoration of US ‘soft’ power at the expense of gung-ho ‘American exceptionalism’ pursued in the Muslim world in the recent past. As Professor Barry Buzan notes, not only has the US’s capacity for global leadership been weakened by the rise of emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil and the US economic crisis, but also because “there is a general turn within international society against hegemony and therefore against the global leadership role itself.” The challenge for the US then is that it has “to learn to live in a more pluralist international society where it is no longer the sole superpower but merely the first among equals.”

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29 Responses to "Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world"

  1. Pankaj India Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Dear Sir
    It is the WILL of ALLAH That USA is so strong ECONOMICALLY
    ALLAH has made the USA so powerful

  2. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Former President George W Bush captured a widespread concern when he said, “Like most Americans, I just cannot believe the vitriolic hatred of the United States because I know how good we are



  3. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ALLAH has made the USA so powerful

    pankaj they are punishing themselve more than muslims.i go to america very often feel pity for them.soviet union was equal to america once,but fell like house of cards.fortunately they have good president.
    muslims are not anti-america.they hate some of their even american jews started hating them for same reason.

  4. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    USA se katti ho jao bhi- na Muslim unke ghar jaye, na wo humare ghar aye…

    Allah ne USA kuffar ko mars tak pahucha diya to fir musalmano se to Allah ka khas muhabbat hai…

    Dhang se namaz padho to allah musalmano ko jupiter bhej dega…

  5. TAJENDER United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    abe jansanghi mtb hamara to chance hai.tum logon ka to koi chance nahin hai.

  6. akb Pakistan Safari Unknow Os says:

    @ saad

    well done well drawn article… Congrats.

    Pluristic societ does’nt mean pluristic culture. It is this which matters most in Muslims detestation of American ‘soft power” n hatred of its scot free tilted ‘hard power”.

  7. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    We need an umma union to fight NATO.

  8. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:

    We need an umma union to fight illiteracy and ignorance. America’s follies cannot excuse the deep cultural and scientific malaise in the Muslim world. Today, Spain translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand; scientific inquiry is nearly dead in the Muslim world; the Muslim world stands near the bottom of every measure of human development.

  9. Sardar KHAN United Kingdom Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Pankheg & Tajander,
    It is exactly comments are expected from stupid,ignorant and full of Islamicphobiac bunderstanis.They forget the history of the world.Historicaly all the agressive nations were given free hand by ALLAH SWT. to test their ignorance and disobediant to ALLAH,but in the end they parished and world knows how they were destroyed.Same will be the end result is waiting for american terrorist government and state of america.Look at how some american states are trying to come out of the union.That shows the rath of ALLAH just starting as a warning to the people of USA.

  10. Vish United Kingdom Google Chrome Windows says:

    An excellent rejoinder by a letter writer, in today’s ‘Daily Times’,
    “The ‘Muslim world’

    Sir: As a Canadian of Islamic faith, I read the column, ‘Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world’ by Saad Hafiz (Daily Times, November 25, 2012) with considerable interest. Numerous Arab/Muslim writers find it very convenient and even fashionable to chastise the west, and especially the US, for not treating the so-called ‘Muslim world’ properly. They keep advising the US government not to pursue its various policies, which are in its own best interest, but instead adopt those which may be more popular in the Muslim world. Let me remind such writers/thinkers that the Muslim world they constantly refer to is not a real and cohesive entity. It only exists in their minds as a romantic notion. Muslim-majority countries have formed a group called the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Its meetings are held periodically only to take pictures and deliver empty speeches. In reality, all these countries have vastly different systems of governance and follow different foreign and domestic policies. However, a good number among them claim to be close allies of the US. All oil-rich Gulf and Arab states depend upon the US military for their protection. The largest US naval base is located in Bahrain, huge military bases are located in Qatar and Kuwait, and air power is located in the UAE and Oman. Pakistan depends heavily on the US for military aid and has allegedly provided bases to operate drones. On the other hand, Iran and Saudi Arabia are members of the OIC but are bitter adversaries. Also, OIC Arabic speaking member countries have their own separate organisation known as the ‘Arab League’. This is a good indication that these countries do not consider the OIC as a cohesive and useful group.
    The author condemns the US, perhaps with some justification, for its treatment of some Latin American countries (maybe he has Cuba in mind). However, what about Pakistan’s continuous interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring Afghanistan or its support for the Pakistan-based terrorists responsible for the murderous attacks on Mumbai hotels? What about the Saudi-led armed intervention in Bahrain to protect its monarch who is crushing a popular uprising against his family’s rule? Why has the Islamic world not been able to do something about this military invasion of another country? It seems totally absurd to say that it is more important for the US “to learn to live in a more pluralist international society”, as the author states. Does this mean that the Muslim world neither needs to learn from others nor change its self-destructive behaviour and worldwide terrorist practices in the name of Islam? Are the millions of Muslims living in this ideal Muslim world living happily and comfortably? If the answer is ‘no’, then the author should visit North America and judge how more than seven million Muslim citizens of the US and Canada are doing. My simple message to all supporters of the Muslim world and harsh critics of the US is: please heal thyself first before prescribing medicine for others.

  11. Kamath. Canada Safari iPad says:

    Saad, amigo:
    I liked your compact column. Afterglow, I have yet come across one or a dozen authors who can explain the reasons for anti-Americanism unless the writer is an anthropologist, historian, economist, psychologist, wiseman etc. all rolled into one. Such a person does not exist. Much of emanates from extreme ignorance of Western way of life, civilization all values, zealously etc. In my younger days, even I was mildly anti-american. I think I was just ignorant and stupid. No other explanation!!

    So pls carry on with your efforts to analyze the root causes of Anti-Americanism. Next please use more space as ISI not an easy task.

    Wa Salaam

  12. Mohan India Safari iPad says:

    Once again a nice informative video posted by MTG.

  13. saad Canada Safari Unknow Os says:


    America’s follies cannot excuse the deep cultural and scientific malaise in the Muslim world.

    Thank you Kamath sir: I am an admirer of American democracy and society. You are right that much of the Anti-Americanism prevailing is due to ignorance and envy.

    American being front and center of the world it is bound to invite the anger of less powerful countries and peoples. Bit like Rome in its heyday. One thing is for sure that you can’t please everybody when writing op-ed pieces like the good doctor from Canada!

  14. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    Thank you Mohan.

  15. kamath Canada Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Saad; If you are referring to DR M HUSSAIN SADAR,Ottawa,Canada, we do not know if he is is a physician or veternary one( nothing wrong with that! I love animals!) I would rather see him write a clear, precise patient notes rather than op-eds and letters to Dailytimes!

    Anyway, excessive anti-Americanism does exist even among people from nations who are considered friendly to USA. It is fashionable among looney-left and I would think it is a sort of sociopathy.

  16. zafar United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Very nice piece of writing, i would rather say, it was written in the flow of like “feel America”. The tone was completely encompassing the touch of “all equal and America the first”. It reminds me the famous advice of Mr. Hussain Haqqani (Former Ambassador)”We need to understand America”. If someone can ever come out of that advice taken for granted in our lives, then may be we would be able to think something else,like, will it ever be in near future that equality will be blessed on globe with the dear consent of our understood America and it will be all “happily ever after”. The mere thought of those last words really hurt my poor sole, and could not stop me to say a little evil anti-american out of my inside just if people on board don’t mind.
    Now a days it is quiet touchy you know.

  17. thomas United States Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    “Many Americans are baffled and angered by the deep-set anti-Americanism prevailing in the Muslim world”

    So true..!! What really baffles me though……. is all those in the “Muslim World” that think it’s O.K. for America to randomly kill their citizens.

    Didn’t Obama say “There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders”

    So..!! Which is it..?? Is Pakistan not “a country on earth” or are there NO “missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders”

    I just can’t werk this one out….!!! Maybe one of you educated citizens of Pakistan can help me understand thi bifurcation…….. From Thomas in Massachusetts.

  18. zafar Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Mr. Thomas…// You look confused and don’t know what you are saying. Remember “Drone”. the understood bifurcation.

  19. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Many Americans are baffled and angered by the deep-set anti-Americanism prevailing in the Muslim world


  20. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    It is fashionable among looney-left and I would think it is a sort of sociopathy.

    KAMATH, more than fashion it is their deeds.see what have they done to iraq,libya and now in syria.obama is trying to change the policies.i wish him small country like syria 35000 already killed,libya number is around 150000 in iraq it is running in millions.all for pakistan and afghanistan acoount is yet to be close.

  21. Pious Pakistan Safari Mac OS says:

    Indians gandoo, bharway, dallay

  22. Thomas United States Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    No Absence of Malice: Whitewashing the White House Murder Program
    Written by Chris Floyd
    Monday, 26 November 2012 01:53

    “On Sunday, the New York Times — the paper of record, the bellwether by which all “serious” American media sets its compass — published a story about the Obama administration’s efforts to codify its “extrajudicial killing program” before the election. The aim, we were told, was to make sure there were “clear standards and procedures” in place to keep the death squads going, even if the president lost the election.

    The story was yet another in a series of White House-directed pieces about the killing program, in which anonymous, high-level administration officials leak top-secret information and insider gossip designed to paint the president and his aides as moral paragons struggling nobly to find the most effective and ethical way to use the killing programs and keep Americans safe. That is not only the underlying assumption of the story; it is the only assumption allowed in the story. There are three paragraphs in which duly accredited establishment figures voice what could be taken as mild criticisms about certain tactical aspects of the White House killing program.

    But even these muted voices end with Shuja Nawaz — an Establishment worthy from the Atlantic Council who is “Pakistani-born,” the New York Times takes pains to tell us (without telling us that he once worked for the New York Times) — calling on the Obama administration not to end the murderous drone campaign in his native land but to be more proud of it, more open about it, to detail every death it causes, including any “collateral deaths.” This transparency will evidently assuage the anger of those who’ve watched their innocent loved ones — including their children — blown to bits by American drones, and they will no longer listen to “propaganda” from “jihadist groups.”

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the full extent of the criticism of the killing program permitted in the paper of record in its front-page Sunday story. The only possible problem with the president of the United States and his deputized subordinates killing people all over the world outside any legal procedure or standards of evidence or, in many cases, without knowing anything at all about who they are killing — is that the program might not be as open and efficient as it could be.

    I was going to write at length about this extraordinary piece of sinister puffery, but I find that Arthur Silber is already on the case, saying everything I wanted to say, and more. [[It's here: ]] So I’m just going to excerpt a few passages from his piece, while urging you to get on over there and read the whole thing.

    The NYT story is a vile exercise in fantasy, and a lie from beginning to end. As we know from numerous reports — and as we know from what the Obama administration itself has acknowledged — the Murder Program murders innocent human beings. This isn’t a possibility, something that the administration fears might happen. It has happened in an unforgivable number of cases. Moreover, the NYT story tells us this with stark clarity. Here’s the most obvious example:

    [F]or several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to “personality strikes” against named terrorists, the C.I.A. and the military have carried out “signature strikes” against groups of suspected, unknown militants.

    Originally that term was used to suggest the specific “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash”

    Hey, they are Muslims aren’t they..?? Why not werk on getting rid of said scourge full blown… No limp wristed hand wringers here in the land of the free to kill anyone that the local, folk are willing to be compensated for….. or at least the generals and politicos who actually receive America’s largess “im persona” …. with apparently no apologies to those whose innocent friends, relatives, loved ones or children who happen to die or become victims or “collateral Damage” to those “personality strikes” & the “signature strikes”…

    So you folk there in Pakistan have now been called out. Are you going to show yourselves the exception to “There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders” or just be good victims…???

  23. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ tom

    Read this bharooo!!

    Pakistan faces 26/11 everyday: Mani Shankar Aiyar
    The Times of India – Dec 2, 2012

    LUCKNOW: Member of Parliament Mani Shankar Aiyar, who drew flak from the Opposition recently for comparing colleagues from various parties with animals, gave no explanation for his remarks on Saturday.

    When questioned by TOI, Aiyar said, “I was undergoing a stress level test in a hospital on Friday when the Opposition raised objections to my remarks. Whatever explanation is in order, I will prefer give it in Parliament and not to the media here.”

    Aiyar was in the city to deliver a lecture on ‘India-Pakistan: Retrospect and Prospect’ to the youth at the Amity University on Saturday. In the course of his lecture, Aiyar suggested his fellow Indians forget about the 2001 Parliament attack and the 26/11 terror attack that rocked Mumbai in 2008. Aiyar said, “We have just one 26/11 but people living in Pakistan face 26/11 situation everyday. They have a risk of life be it on 24, 25, 26 or any day of the calendar. People there fear going to the market or masjid as they don’t know whether they will come back home alive or not.”

    He said though Pakistan was the biggest source of terrorism, the reality was that it was also the biggest victim.

    The Congress MP said it is our biggest misconception if we believe that after a terrorist attack, Pakistan will come forward and apologise for the misdeed, or send the guilty behind bars. Even 65 years after independence, both India and Pakistan are not united. Aiyar said the need of the hour was for Indians to forget animosity and hostility and move forward.

    Aiyar said while India was dreaming to become a superpower, the entire world was giggling at us for the poor relations we keep with our neighbors. Aiyar blamed outright the Americans for spoiling India-Pakistan relations and encouraging terrorism. He said BJP says India is the first Hindu country in the world but the fact is that India is the second largest Islamic nation in the world. “More than 150 million Muslims live in our nation,” said Aiyar, adding that it only India has the power to unite all religions.

    Straying into controversy, Aiyar at one moment said Indians should follow Gandhi and Nehru principles and the very next moment said had our elders shown a positive attitude and spoken to Muslim league members and Muslims, India-Pakistan partition would have been avoided.

    When asked whether the onus of partition lies on the shoulders of Gandhi and Nehru, he said immediately, “India went through a tumultuous situation after Jinnah’s direct action day. Within two weeks, things changed which neither Gandhi nor Nehru could help out with. As a result, Pakistan was formed.”

  24. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has captured a US ScanEagle drone over the Persian Gulf waters upon its intrusion into the Iranian airspace today.

  25. RajTOO Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Mani Shankar Aiyar is a chutiya, and no Indian which has an inkling of India’s national interests takes this chutiya seriously! When his life comes to its natural end, nobody in India will remember this complete chutiya!

  26. Maggu India Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    “Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has captured a US ScanEagle drone over the Persian Gulf waters upon its intrusion into the Iranian airspace today.”
    Shia people

  27. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hafiz jee , what do you say about this??

    The US Military Approves Bombing Children
    Robert Dreyfuss on December 4, 2012 – 11:34 AM ET

    In October, I blogged about an incident in Afghanistan in which three small children were killed in a US airstrike.

    In that one small incident, which drew little attention at the time and since, three children aged 12, 10 and 8 were blown to smithereens in a NATO bombing while they were out gathering dung for fuel.

    Now, in a despicable article in Military Times, the US military says that children are legitimate targets in the war in Afghanistan because sometimes the Taliban and other insurgents use kids.

  28. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Roman Urdu اردو العربية
    Mansokhi, Insidad, Khatma منسوخی٬ انسداد٬ خاتمہ الإلغاء :: الإبطال :: القضاء على
    خاتم ٬ مختتم ٬ ختم کرنے والا طرف
    Khatma, Akhtamam خاتمہ٬ اختتام الإنتهاء
    مرصع ساز ٬ خاتم کار ٬ پچی کار المبطّن
    Khatma Taqreer خاتمہ تقریر الخطبة المنمّقة
    Khatma, Imtanae خاتمہ٬ امتناع الإخماد
    Khatma Karna خاتمہ کرنا إجتثّ

    Word of the Day

    Diffusion in Urdu (طول)

    Diffusion in Arabic (الإنتشار)

    Diffusion in Hindi (फैलाव)

    Diffusion in Spanish (difusión)

    Diffusion in French (diffusion)

    Diffusion in German (Ausbreitung)

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