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Feeling Betrayed

Feeling Betrayed: The Roots of Muslim Anger at America

Steven Kull
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 275
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  • Book Info
    Feeling Betrayed
    Book Description:

    Though it has been nearly a decade since the attacks of September 11, the threat of terrorism emanating from the Muslim world has not subsided. U.S. troops fight against radical Islamists overseas, and on a daily basis, Americans pass through body scanners as part of the effort to defend against another attack. Naturally, many Americans wonder what is occurring in Muslim society that breeds such hostility toward the United States.

    Steven Kull, a political psychologist and acknowledged authority on international public opinion, has sought to understand more deeply how Muslims see America. How widespread is hostility toward the United States in the Muslim world? And what are its roots? How much support is there for radical groups that attack Americans, and why? Kull conducted focus groups with representative samples in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Jordan, Iran, and Indonesia; conducted numerous in-depth surveys in eleven majority-Muslim nations over a period of several years; and comprehensively analyzed data from other organizations such as Gallup, World Values Survey and the Arab Barometer. He writes:

    "A premise of this book is that the problem of terrorism does not simply lie in the small number of people who join terrorist organizations. Rather, the existence of terrorist organizations is a symptom of a tension in the larger society that finds a particularly virulent expression in certain individuals. The hostility toward the United States in the broader society plays a critical role in sustaining terrorist groups, even if most disapprove of those groups' tactics. The essential 'problem,' then, is one of America's relationship with the society as a whole."

    Through quotes from focus groups as well as survey data, Kull digs below the surface of Muslim anger at America to reveal the underlying narrative of America as oppressing - and at a deeper level, as having betrayed -the Muslim people. With the subtlety of a psychologist he shows how this anger is fed by an "inner clash of civilizations," between Muslims' desire to connect with America and all that it represents, and their fear that America will overwhelm and destroy their traditional Islamic culture.

    Finally, Kull maps out the implications of these findings for U.S. foreign policy, showing how many U.S. actions antagonize the larger Muslim population and help al Qaeda by improving their capacity for recruitment. He specifies steps that can mitigate Muslim hostility and draw on some of the underlying shared values that can support more respectful and, possibly, even amicable Muslim-American relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0560-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: America, Radical Islamist Groups, and the Muslim People
    (pp. 1-7)

    It has been nearly a decade since the United States was attacked by a group of radical Islamists on September 11, 2001. Since then, rooting out the network of terrorists behind the attacks and related radical Islamist groups has been a major focus of American foreign and military policy. The magnitude of the American investment in this goal is extraordinary. Extensive U.S. military and intelligence resources have been directed toward fighting the central radical Islamist network al Qaeda in numerous theaters. The war in Afghanistan was waged because of al Qaeda’s base of operations there under radical Islamist Taliban government...

  5. 1 The Scope of Muslim Anger and Support for Violent Anti-American Groups
    (pp. 8-23)

    The premise of this book is that the problem of terrorism does not simply lie in the small number of people who join terrorist organizations. Rather, the existence of terrorist organizations is a symptom of tension in the larger society that finds a particularly virulent expression in certain individuals. Hostility toward the United States in the broader society plays a critical role in sustaining terrorist groups, even if most disapprove of those groups’ tactics. The essential “problem,” then, is one of America’s relationship with Muslim societies as a whole, or an integrated system.

    Clark McCauley has depicted the relationship between...

  6. 2 The Narrative of Oppression and Betrayal and the Inner Clash of Civilizations
    (pp. 24-41)

    The polling cited in chapter 1 makes clear that negative feelings among Muslims toward the United States are widespread and enduring. The question remains, however, as towhythese feelings are so pervasive and deep-seated. The focus groups conducted in six different majority-Muslim countries revealed the beliefs that drive Muslim anger. There was a strikingly consistent pattern when respondents discussed their views of the United States. While there were some differences of emphasis, in every case the dominant, overt theme was that the United States oppresses the Muslim people in a variety of ways. Eventually, a more subtle, underlying theme...

  7. 3 The United States as Coercively Dominating the Muslim World
    (pp. 42-71)

    Perhaps the strongest complaint about the United States that flows from the broader narrative of American oppression is that the United States coercively dominates and exploits the Muslim world. This effort to dominate is seen as driven by specific desires to control access to oil in the Middle East as well as a broader aspiration to achieve regional hegemony and ultimately world domination. Actions by the United States to achieve these goals are seen as not only political, but also as coercive through the constant implicit and explicit threats of the use of superior military power. U.S. forces in the...

  8. 4 The United States as Hostile to Islam
    (pp. 72-88)

    One of the most powerful sources of anger toward the United States is the widespread perception that the United States is hostile to Islam itself. This perception is disturbing not only from an Islamic perspective in which Islam is seen as threatened, but also from a liberal perspective because the United States is seen as having failed to live up to principles of religious tolerance.

    Majorities see the United States as seeking to undermine the Islamic world, undermine Islamic culture and identity, and impose American culture and even Christianity on the Muslim world. This U.S. intention is seen as being...

  9. 5 U.S. Support for Israel
    (pp. 89-101)

    Many Muslims say that U.S. policies in relation to Israel are one of the most powerful factors impacting their views of the United States. A 2006 Sadat Chair poll asked respondents in six Arab nations to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being “extremely important”) how important U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict is in developing their attitudes toward the United States. Large percentages responded with the highest rating of 5, ranging from 43 percent in Egypt to 76 percent in Jordan. Mean responses ranged from 3.79 in the United Arab Emirates to 4.56 in Jordan.


  10. 6 The United States as Undermining Democracy
    (pp. 102-113)

    The fourth central theme in the narrative of American oppression of the Muslim people is the claim that the United States actively undermines democracy in the Muslim world by providing critical support to authoritarian regimes that are friendly to it and that it effectively controls. Despite America’s professions of support for democracy, the United States is seen as an obstacle to real democratization, and professions of support are seen as purposely misleading. Muslim governments—as well as the Muslim people—are often seen as victims of U.S. domination. From this view of the United States flows a desire for the...

  11. 7 Views of Al Qaeda and Other Radical Islamists
    (pp. 114-145)

    Some of the most prominent articulators of the narrative of U.S. oppression of the Muslim people are al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups who espouse violence against America. Given the widespread anger at America in the Muslim world, it would not seem surprising if there were significant support for such groups. But feelings toward such groups are complex and replete with ambivalence.

    Attitudes toward radical Islamists are influenced by much more than the Islamists’ approach to the United States. Radical Islamism has been the counterpoint to liberalism in the Muslim-world discourse. It has rejected the democratic process as the...

  12. 8 What Do Muslims Want?
    (pp. 146-193)

    As has been explored in previous chapters, many Muslims believe that the United States acts to inhibit their nations from becoming what their citizens want them to be. Through explicit or implicit use of coercive threats, America is seen as preventing Muslim nations from acting independently and from finding a social order that is compatible with their Islamic values as well as their interests. U.S. support for governments that suppress Islamist groups has contributed to this perception. As discussed, this perception plays a very important role in feeding anger at America because the internal conflict—between traditional Islamist and liberalizing...

  13. 9 What the United States Can Do
    (pp. 194-238)

    On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by al Qaeda. The United States declared a war on terrorism, which was the basis for undertaking a major expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Muslim world. Major efforts to undermine the financing of al Qaeda’s operations were instituted.

    Years later it is unclear how much this effort has achieved. While in the run-up to 9/11 al Qaeda had been waning, it has subsequently renewed its strength and is operating throughout the Muslim world, from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan to Indonesia.¹ There is no sign...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 239-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-275)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 276-276)