Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Dept. of State Holds Open Forum on Images of America and the Muslim World

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Dept. of State Holds Open Forum on Images of America and the Muslim World

Article excerpt

DEPT. OF STATE HOLDS OPEN FORUM ON IMAGES OF AMERICA AND THE MUSLIM WORLD

On Nov. 20, three professors addressed an open audience at the Department of State in Washington, DC to discuss how the Islamic and Western worlds see each other.

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr from George Washington University described how the Muslim world's positive image of America through World War II eroded as the U.S. increasingly attempted to impose its way of life on the world. There is a clash, Nasr acknowledged, between America's interests (which may, for example, preserve dictatorships to preserve stability) and its ideals championing democracy. The U.S. needs to be clear, Nasr argued, and support democratic trends, or stop talking about democracy.

Although he believed that even the most "anti-American" countries, like Iran, have ambivalent attitudes toward the U.S.--the "good feeling isn't gone yet"--Nasr warned that alienation of the Muslim world is a real, and costly, possibility. Dr. Maher Hathout, senior adviser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, agreed.

In a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Hathout described a crisis of America's image in the Arab world. History tells us that no matter how great a power, if it becomes the object of massive resentment it is undermined, he said. Hathout pointed out that this negative image also effects American Muslims and Arabs--who cherish America, but who don't appreciate the "defector" label when they visit home (i.e., the Middle East). …

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