WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) – The rise of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East has failed to improve the image of the United States in the region, a poll has determined.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project said a survey conducted prior to the death of Osama bin Laden found that people in key Arab nations and other predominantly Muslim countries still have a negative view of America.
In Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were a year ago, the poll indicated.
Pew said with the exception of Indonesia, U.S. President Barack Obama remains unpopular in Muslim nations it polled.
People in most of those countries disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change in the Middle East, Pew said.
The poll found widespread support for democracy in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
“You can crush the flowers, but that will not delay the Spring.” – Protest graffiti in a Cairo mosque
The year that is about to pass is historical for Islam for the reason that a much-derided faith has proved to be capable of being all that it was thought incapable of.
An awakening that swept the Arab world ended up re-inventing Islam in the eyes of the world. I consider myself lucky for being able to travel to some of the lands and meeting some of the people who were part of this.
The changes have been variously called “Arab Spring”, “Arab awakening” or “Arab Empowerment”. I prefer to call it Islam’s second renaissance.
For this to be the second renaissance, you may wonder, there ought to be a first one in the first place. Digression be excused, Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes for Europe) rescue of the Aristotelian texts (when Europe almost buried them) should be counted as one of the key features of the first Islamic renaissance.
The Arab spring was sparked in Tunisia in late 2010 by protests that followed the self-immolation of a young vendor harassed by police. His death in a hospital in January prompted thousands to take to the streets that forced the longtime president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
On the second anniversary of the ghastly tragedy of 9/11 I wrote:
“Two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Muslim community in America, victim of guilt by association, remains under siege. Profiled, harassed, reviled, attacked, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports, the whole community felt excluded of American society. After the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were imprisoned in 10 relocation camps in the United States. But after 9/11 2001, the whole country is converted into a virtual detention camp for the Muslims by abridging their civil rights.”
Ten years later, this is true today as the seven-million American Muslims remained besieged through reconfiguration of US laws, policies and priorities in the post-9/11 era. Alarmingly, the post-911 America has become less friendly to Muslims to the extent that they have probably replaced other minorities – Hispanics, Native Americans and Afro Americans – as targets of discrimination, hate and prejudice. Many American Muslims have a story of discriminative treatment ranging from physical attacks, a nasty gaze, casual comments to workplace harassment, burning mosques and the Qur’ān. Muslims have witnessed the ever-growing marginalisation of their communities.
According to a PEW survey released on August 30, 2011, forty-three per cent had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The survey also said that 52 per cent of Muslim Americans complained that their community is singled out by government for surveillance.
CAIRO // Rafik Habib likes to finish his days at a Costa Coffee shop near his home in Rehab City on the outskirts of Cairo. He drinks an espresso, reads the newspapers … and defends the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamist organisation needs little help from one man: surveys show it has support from at least 15 per cent of Egyptians. But Dr Habib is an exception. He is a Coptic Christian intellectual who crossed sectarian lines to join the Brotherhood’s newly established Freedom and Justice Party as third-in-command.
“A large segment of Muslims think it was a good step, except some Salafis,” he says in his sparse office dotted with 1970s furniture.
“But the Christian community in general has refused my choice, and especially my decision to join as a founder.”
Some of his detractors have said his position in the group is merely cosmetic, but Christians have been more vitriolic, calling it an act of treason.
For Dr Habib, 52, it was one of the most difficult political decisions of his life.
WASHINGTON DC: Muslim Americans deserve a break. There are as many as six to eight million Muslims living in the United States and contributing to the country as doctors, engineers, artists, actors and professionals, but for a decade many have found themselves and their religion wrongly equated with the acts of terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Many have been the victims of fear, suspicion and prejudice, Muslim-bashing, unlawful surveillance, illegal search, arrest and imprisonment.
Efforts to build Islamic centers and mosques in New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee have been equated with building monuments to terrorism. Prominent American public figures and politicians — including Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, Congressman Peter King and Newt Gingrich — openly spoke against Muslims and encouraged unfounded social suspicion of them. The net result is an increase in anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bashing, witnessed in the hysteria that has led to a movement across some 20 states in America to ban sharia (Islamic principles of jurisprudence).
Today’s historic changes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring, offer an opportunity to redress anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bias (Islamophobia) and to reaffirm that Muslim Americans, like other mainstream Americans, desire a secure and democratic America. Despite the fact that Muslim Americans for years have had to explain that neither they — nor their religion — sanction terrorism.
Thousands of protesters marched in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday to stress the unity between Egypt’s Muslims and Christian Copts following sectarian clashes that ended with a dozen dead and more than 200 injured last week.
The march, which coincided with a rally in the square in solidarity with Palestinians, began with a Christian Mass followed by Friday prayers.
Cleric Mazhar Shahin, who delivered the Friday prayer speech, said Islam and Christianity do not teach hatred or incitement of violence.
“Such strife is intended by a group of people who are neither Muslims nor Christians,” Shahin said as he warned Egyptians not to let extremists divide them.
Both Muslim and Coptic Christian protesters joined the demonstration, chanting, “Muslims and Copts are one hand” and carrying banners that said, “Egypt is for all Egyptians.”
“We need to have constitutional guarantees securing equal citizenship rights and respecting all religions without discrimination between Muslims and Copts,” Adel Mahmoud, who is Muslim, told Babylon and Beyond.
CAIRO: Thousands of people rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday calling for national unity after attacks on Egyptian churches, and for solidarity with the Palestinians.
Some held up crosses and others waved Palestinian flags as the numbers swelled in Cairo’s iconic square, the epicenter of protests that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February after an 18-day uprising.
“If you attack a Christian, you’re attacking all Egyptians,” said one man delivering a speech at a podium.
“The churches attacked in Imbaba are not less than the mosques attacked in Jerusalem,” he said, linking the two themes of Friday’s protest.
“National unity was there during the revolt but the remnants of the old regime want to destroy the country,” said Ahmad Muhanna, who wore a green headband bearing the words “the army of Mohammad.”
A Coptic priest took the podium, in front of a big banner that said “national unity” and “Palestinian reconciliation,” to plead for tolerance.
The Arab revolutions are not only shaking the structure of tyranny to the core – they are shattering many of the myths about the Arab region that have been accumulating for decades. Topping the list of dominant myths are those of Arab women as caged in, silenced, and invisible. Yet these are not the types of women that have emerged out of Tunisia, Egypt, or even ultra-conservative Yemen in the last few weeks and months.
Not only did women actively participate in the protest movements raging in those countries, they have assumed leadership roles as well. They organised demonstrations and pickets, mobilised fellow citizens, and eloquently expressed their demands and aspirations for democratic change.
Like Israa Abdel Fatteh, Nawara Nejm, and Tawakul Karman, the majority of the women are in their 20s and 30s. Yet there were also inspiring cases of senior activists as well: Saida Saadouni, a woman in her 70s from Tunisia, draped the national flag around her shoulders and partook in the Qasaba protests which succeeded in toppling M. Ghannouchi’s provisional government. Having protested for two weeks, she breathed a unique revolutionary spirit into the thousands who congregated around her to hear her fiery speeches. “I resisted French occupation. I resisted the dictatorships of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. I will not rest until our revolution meets its ends, for your sakes my sons and daughters, not for mine,” said Saadouni.
Whether on the virtual battlefields of the Internet or the physical protests in the streets, women have been proving themselves as real incubators of leadership. This is part of a wider phenomenon characteristic of these revolutions: The open politics of the street have bred and matured future leaders. They are grown organically in the field, rather than being imposed upon from above by political organisations, religious groups, or gender roles.
As Egyptians shape their political destiny, there are questions about whether the Christian-Muslim unity seen during the popular uprising will hold.
On this Sunday morning, Christians attend mass in Egypt’s Coptic Cairo neighborhood, where they have worshipped since pre-Islamic times. Egypt’s Coptic community is the largest Christian population in the Arab world, as Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 82 million people.
St. Mark the apostle introduced Christianity to Egypt 2,000 years ago. And, in this modern time of political uncertainty, Egypt’s Christians say they trust in their ancient faith.