U.S. Aid Ship Cures Public Opinion; Muslims Left with Positive View

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Byline: Anju S. Bawa, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Public opinion polls conducted in two of the more populous Muslim countries showed that humanitarian aid from a U.S. Navy hospital ship had healed more than health problems. When people were made aware of the mission, it left a positive perception of the United States. These findings will encourage more such missions, officials said.

The polls, by the Washington group Terror Free Tomorrow, showed that 87 percent of Indonesians and 53 percent of Bangladeshis who had heard of the hospital ship USNS Mercy's mission to provide medical aid had a better opinion of the United States. The results were announced yesterday at the National Press Club.

Kenneth Ballen, president of Terror Free Tomorrow, which promotes fighting terrorism by winning popular support, said there was a need to hear the voice of the people.

"We hear the voice of radicals and extremists because they are the loudest. .. We need to get in there and see what people really think," he said.

The polls surveyed 1,209 persons in Indonesia and 1,010 in Bangladesh, both with a margin of error of three percentage points. People from a variety of economic and social dispositions were surveyed in various parts of the countries, Mr. Ballen said. The Indonesian poll was conducted by the agency Lembaga Survei Indonesia. …