Posted by Arab American Institute on December 06, 2017 in Blog



The Supreme Court just unleashed the latest version of President Donald Trump's travel ban, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Americans share the president’s critical views of Muslims.

Favorable opinions of Arabs and Muslims are actually rising during the Trump era, according to a new poll published by the Arab American Institute, an Arab interest group, and conducted by Zogby Analytics. The optimistic new data comes “in the face of an atmosphere of heightened xenophobia and a documented increase in reported hate crimes,” AAI notes.

Favorable opinions of Arabs have risen 7 percentage points since July, according to the polling data. The numbers are slightly higher for American Muslims specifically, whose favorability rating has risen 9 points over the same time span. Just over 50 percent of Americans hold favorable views of both Arabs and American Muslims, according to AAI’s poll.

The numbers of Americans who hold unfavorable views of both Arabs and Muslims hover in a range above 20 percent and below 30 percent of those polled. The remainder of the respondents suggested that they were either “not familiar” enough with Arabs and American Muslims to know how they felt or “not sure” how to answer.

Declining bigotry regarding a person’s race or religion is good news for anyone who is not in the business of spreading hatred, like neo-Nazi bloggers or promoters of explicitly racist political groups. The bad news is that those who market hate still have a swath of people to whom they can make their appeal, according to AAI’s poll.

Like many other aspects of American culture now, the opinions on Arabs and Muslims in the data are sharply divided along ideological and party lines—with unfavorable opinions weighted heavily for self-described Trump supporters, according to AAI’s analysis. Trump's most ardent fans are more likely to back his more controversial policies, like his proposed ban on all Muslim immigrants and travelers, the poll found.

“It is clear that an environment of bigoted policies and hateful rhetoric has strengthened the persistent partisan divide in these attitudes,” AAI notes in an executive summary of the polling data.

Outfits with ties to Trump’s administration, like ACT for America, a self-described “grassroots national security organization,” have been accused by rights groups of amplifying hateful rhetoric against Arabs and Muslims. The group held a conference in Arlington, Virginia, in October that was aimed in part at alerting lawmakers of the threat of Islamic militant attacks, as well as so-called creeping Sharia—the entirely false conspiracy theory that strict Islamic law is gradually overtaking America’s legal system.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, sits on the group’s advisory board. Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s former counterterrorism adviser, has spoken at events hosted by the group. Some of ACT for America’s concerns, like the one about “creeping Sharia,” have made their way into right-wing discourse without being adequately fact-checked. For example, Roy Moore, the embattled Republican candidate for the open Senate seat in Alabama, insisted to politics website that “there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana”—a statement that bears no truth.

Trump himself has been accused of stoking feelings of bigotry against Arabs and Muslims. Last week, the president retweeted three videos from a British far-right Twitter account hosted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right political group based in the United Kingdom.

"I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security," Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters in response to criticism of the president’s retweets.

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MiddleEastEye: 'Huge implications' for moving US embassy to Jerusalem

Ali Harb - Last update: Wednesday 6 December 2017 15:00 UTC

Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will not end the peace process because there is no peace process, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute said.

“I’m also not going to say that it discredits the United States because the US has been discredited with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Zogby added.

“What I am going to say is that it is a stupid and risky move because it is going to inflame passions and put people’s lives at risk.”

US President Donald Trump is expected to announce moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the coming days, which would recongise the holy city as the capital of Israel.

While the decision may cement Washington’s pro-Israeli bias, analysts say, its symbolism insults not only Palestinians, but also Arabs and Muslims across the world.

Jerusalem has become a symbol of a sense of historical pain and betrayal inflicted on Arab people, Zogby said.

“It’s the wound that never heals, and this would simply put salt in the wound,” he told Middle East Eye.

Graeme Bannerman, a former analyst at the US State Department and a scholar at the Middle East Institute, stressed that symbolism of Jerusalem matters.

Asked what the move would mean to the peace process, Bannerman said: “What peace process?”

US-sponsored negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to find a resolution to the conflict within the framework of the two-state solution have been stagnant since 2014, while Israel has expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank.

During the 2016 US elections campaign, Trump vowed to secure the “ultimate deal” to end the conflict.

The US president, who prides himself on his negotiation skills, has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner with reviving peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will harm Trump’s attempts to solve the conflict, Bannerman said.

“The process really has not gotten off the ground, and this certainly won’t help it get off the ground,” he told MEE.

According to a poll by AAI released on Tuesday, 33 percent of Republicans favour moving the embassy to Jerusalem and 19 percent want to keep it in Tel Aviv, while 48 percent are either unsure or undecided. Overall, only 20 percent of respondents favour the embassy move.

Bannerman said recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a domestic political gesture to fulfill a campaign promise. It has “huge implications” for America's standing in the Middle East, which holds that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined by an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s a fundamental change in the American negotiating position,” he said.

But the US will remain in a unique position to pressure both parties, especially Israel, to make compromises.

“It brings into question the objectivity of the United States as a Middle East negotiator, but to be honest the United States has not been an unbiased negotiator for the past 25 years,” Bannerman said.

Hatem Abudayyeh, a co-founder of the US Palestinian Community Network, said the embassy move is not surprising, but it speaks to Trump’s worldview.

“It’s clear that he has a real lack of knowledge, understanding and even respect for history, for the international community, the rights of people and nations,” he told MEE.

Abudayyeh said Trump’s foreign policy is focused on weakening Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, and sees Palestinians as one of the “sectors of resistance in the Arab world”.

“Declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of the eternal Jewish state is essentially dismissing Palestinian self-determination, dismissing our right to an independent state,” he said.

Abudayyeh added that the move has put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.

He said while Trump’s declaration would not change the practical status of Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli control for more than 50 years, it does make a difference by “putting facts on the ground” that strengthens the occupation.

The Trump administration has positioned itself as a firm ally of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, treating them as an integral part of a regional alliance against Iran.

But despite analyses and murmurs about an emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance, the Palestinian cause remains central to Arab and Muslim masses, including in Arab capitals close to Riyadh.

Bannerman said the embassy move would put the Saudis and Egyptians in a difficult position.

He noted, however, that Arab countries are facing serious domestic and regional struggles, making Palestine less of a “top tier” issue.

“In the end, the relationship with the United States - with all their other problems - is more important,” Bannerman told MEE.

Zogby, of AAI, said the US position on Palestine affects Washington’s ability to work directly with Arab countries.

“Trump wants to confront Iran and bring together Arabs and Israelis; that’s not going to happen ... unless they solve Palestine,” Zogby said.

He said Arab states are fighting for public opinion in the US, but they also don’t want to take steps that would compromise public opinion at home.

"Any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region," Saudi Ambassador to Washington Khalid bin Salman said in a statement on Monday.

"The kingdom's policy has been - and remains - in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the US administration."

But beyond geopolitics sensitivity to Jerusalem cuts across the entire Muslim world. The city is home to Al-Aqsa, Islam’s second holiest site.

Jerusalem is such an emotional issue to Arabs and Muslims that moving the embassy may cause a violent backlash, Zogby said.

“It would be terrible if there were violence, but the fault is the people who provoked that violence,” he added.

According to US media reports, the State Department warned American embassies across the world to heighten security in preparation for protests if Trump announces the embassy move on Wednesday.

Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian question, Bannerman said.

“If you put it only in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, you’re not really understanding the importance of Jerusalem,” Bannerman said.

“That may be a weakness in the administration’s position; they do not appear to understand how Jerusalem resonates across the entire region and throughout the Islamic world.”

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VOA: Poll - American Attitudes Improving Toward Arabs, Muslims

A growing number of Americans hold favorable opinions of Arabs and Muslims, a new survey by the Arab American Institute (AAI) shows.

The survey released Tuesday found attitudes toward Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have risen to the highest levels in a decade.

Conducted two months after the White supremacist rally in Charlotte, Virginia, the survey shows Americans have an increased awareness of racism, although there remains a strong political divide on the extent of its impact, AAI said.

Of those surveyed, 52 percent had a favorable opinion of Arab Americans, compared to 40 percent in 2015, while 51 percent thought favorable of American Muslims, compared to 33 percent two years ago.

Similarly, those who said they know an Arab or a Muslim held a far more favorable view than those who did not know a member of either community.

However, a deep partisan divide remained on the issue, with 54 percent of Democrats versus 31 of Republicans having a favorable opinion of Arabs and 58 to 26 percent thinking favorably of Muslims.

A similar divide appears in the opinions of Americans on a ban on immigrants and travelers from the Middle East or on those who are Muslims. Two-thirds of the Democrats surveyed did not approve of such a travel ban, while 52 percent of Republicans approved of President Donald Trump's proposals.

A majority of those surveyed, 59 percent, did not find it justifiable for law enforcement officers to profile Arab Americans and American Muslims based on their appearance.

The political divide was also significant among respondents when asked if there had been a rise in discrimination against Muslims in America. While three-quarters of Democrats agreed, only 36 percent of Republicans said there had been a rise in discrimination.

Similarly, 68 percent of Democrats said there had been a rise in hate crimes against Muslims, but only 28 percent of Republicans thought the same.

The two sides also mirrored their opinions on whether there has been an increase in hate crimes against African Americans.

For original article, click here.