By most standards, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco would be considered moderate Islamic countries.
Egypt receives $2 billion or so in US aid each year. Pakistan's government has received strong American support. Indonesia is one of the few Muslim democracies and by far and away the largest. Morocco is generally inoffensive with its citizenry rarely involved in some of the shenanigans that afflict Islamic nations around the globe.
Which just goes to show how deep the disconnect between Islamic nations, the Western world and reality really is after results from a recent survey were published yesterday.
According to the survey, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, the majority of people in both Indonesia and Morocco believes the US is not at war against terror but has, rather, embarked on a campaign to spread Christianity. In fact, said Steven Kull the program's director, "people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the US as being at war with Islam."
This is despite the fact that Muslims are freely practise their religion in the US and in other democratic nations around the world and the constant reassurance - both stated and practised - that the Americans are after terrorists, not Islam.
The pollsters also wanted to know whether residents in those nations thought spreading Christianity in the ME was a goal of the US. In Egypt, they weren't even allowed to ask the question. So much for spreading democracy and freedom through economic assistance...
But, hey, "only" 83 per cent of Egyptians did "strongly approve" of attacking US troops, so at least that $2 billion a year has convinced 17 per cent to merely moderately approve, or maybe even in isolated cases, disapprove of killing them. Quite the bang for the buck, eh? How many Israelis do you think approve of killing Americans? I'm thinking that the $3 billion the so-called "American-firsters" are always whining about in annual aid to Israel (which is then sent back to the US to purchase stuff) might be a slightly better investment...
It gets worse. In Egypt, 92 per cent of respondents believe the US is out to weaken and divide the Islamic world. The figure was 78 per cent in Morocco and 73 per cent in Indonesia and urban Pakistan (rural Pakistanis were so backwards the results couldn't be reliably tabulated because people there had no concept of what that actually meant. If it ain't in the Koran, it ain't worth knowing, right?). My question would be, of course, how much further could the US actually divide the Muslim world seeing as Shiites kill Sunnis kill Kurds kill Druze kill Shiites kill Kurds kill Druze kill Sunnis, etc...God bless the Sufis, they seem to be the one sect of Islam that can actually live without killing someone else.
And, there's more. Only 28 per cent of Egyptians, 26 per cent of Indonesians, 35 per cent of Moroccan and TWO per cent of urban Pakistanis believe al-Qaeda was behind 9/11. More believe the US and/or Israel was behind the attacks because there is absolutely nothing that has ever happened in history that cannot be blamed on the Jews or the Americans or, failing all else, freedom.
What is sad is that we will continue to talk about our "friends" in Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan and sending them billions in handouts or investments to prop up their regimes. They, in turn, will use that money to continue to foment anti-US and anti-Western sentiment as they have done for years.
Natan Sharansky in his book "the Case for Democracy" argues that when we look at world regimes we should not regard leaders as being "for" or "against" us in terms of whether they're willing to mouth platitudes about being Western allies if, in fact, they are unwilling to make the necessary changes in their own nations to bring about positive advances for freedom. From Egypt and Pakistan to China and Russia, Sharansky is absolutely right.
The pollsters merely help make his case. We should not be pissing money away in Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia if all we get in return is hatred and the occasional blast in a bar. Instead, we should tie money to progress and cut it off when that progress is not clearly and markedly visible. There are plenty of countries where we can spend the money and actually get a return that is not delivered with poisonous venom.