Posted by on October 04, 2012 in Blog
In mid-September, AAI President Jim Zogby traveled to the United Arab Emirates to present the findings of a poll conducted by JZ Analytics in five non-Arab Muslim countries, surveying attitudes toward the Arab world. Just a couple days before, anti-U.S. protests across the Arab and Muslim worlds rocked the region after a crass internet film, “the Innocence of Muslims” was posted to YouTube. The foreign policy discussion that ensued focused on the faltering relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world, calling into question the future of U.S. relationships with allies in the Middle East like Egypt that have been vital to U.S. operations. The poll speaks to another aspect of that conversation, and the degree to which Arab and Muslims countries are interconnected, share information, and influence each other. The findings additionally show where the U.S. could be most effective in focusing its Middle East foreign policy efforts.
Entitled, “How Non-Arab Muslims View the Arab World,” the poll surveyed public opinion in Turkey, Senegal, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia, countries whose geography makes for the best sample of broader Muslim opinion. The poll found that the majority of non-Arab Muslims in each of the five countries have a favorable view of the Arab world. Iran was an outlier with a relatively high unfavorable rating of Arabs at 23%.
The country that scores the best marks among respondents is Egypt, which clearly continues to maintain high status in the Muslim world. Attitudes toward Egypt were positive overall, with at least three quarters of those surveyed saying they had very or somewhat favorable attitudes toward the country. In response to another question, “What Arab countries should your country have closer ties with?” Egypt was the most frequently mentioned country, highlighting how in addition to overall likeability, Egypt is increasingly viewed by most of the Muslim world as an important strategic alliance. The U.S. government has also held that same view toward Egypt for some time, but Egypt’s tepid and slow response to clamp down on anti-American protests in the wake of the aforementioned YouTube video raised concerns about the two countries’ relationship with each other.
Understanding the dynamics within the Arab and Muslim worlds is just as important as understanding those between the East and West. With Egypt widely recognized as the cultural epicenter of the Arab world, it is important to remember that its influence goes beyond the Middle East and that Egyptian leadership has a potential to affect the broader Muslim global population.
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