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Arabs, Muslims Share Mixed Views of U.S.

(Washington, DC--March 27, 2002) Two television broadcasters, Taghrid Hussein Youssef Mohamed of Nile TV in Egypt and Shaheen Salahuddin of Pakistan's private PTV, told a briefing audience at RFE/RL’s Washington office today that Arabs and Pakistanis share a "positive view" of the American way of life and its "defense of democratic values." This positive view is often overlooked, they claimed, in the superficial coverage of the Arab Muslim world provided by most Western news media.

The speakers noted that, in addressing Arabs and Muslims, Americans need to show more sensitivity to the psychology of their intended audience. Ms. Salahuddin pointed to popular anger in her country at the use of such terms as "infinite justice," "axis of evil" and "crusade," saying that they cast a justifiable war against terrorism in unjustifiable terms with religious overtones. The speakers also objected to routine references in the Western media to "Muslim terrorists," saying that terrorists in other parts of the world are not given religious labels.

The speakers asserted that Arabs and Pakistanis are "ready for democracy," but are looking to America for help in convincing the various governments in the region to allow open elections. On Iraq, the speakers pointed to a near-universal "hatred" of Saddam Hussein -- among Arabs as well as Iraqis -- in claiming that most people in the region would support the removal of Hussein as Iraqi leader. Ms. Mohamed stated, however, that Egyptians are opposed to any attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein which would involve the death of civilians.

They maintained, however, that the American media needs to present a "more balanced view" of "the biggest obstacle to better U.S.-Arab relations," namely the Arab-Israeli conflict. From the Pakistani perspective, Salahuddin said, the sudden withdrawal of the American presence in the region after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan has cast doubt on America’s interest in a long-term commitment to the region.