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March 09, 2006

Negative perceptions

Today's "yawn" story of the day on the front page of the Washington Post is headlined "Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing/Poll Numbers in U.S. Higher Than in 2001."

The writers can't figure out why Americans increasingly view Islam as violent and hostile to the West, except perhaps for a misleading emphasis in the press.

Conservative and liberal experts said Americans' attitudes about Islam are fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists.
Well, gosh, you don't have to be Ann Coulter to notice that virtually all the terrorist attacks on us over the past 20 years have been committed in the name of Islam; to see Palestinian children being indoctrinated with a desire for martyrdom, which involves killing others; or to know that Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools teach a brand of Islam that calls for violence against the West. Apart from a few honorable and courageous Muslims, there is virtually no one who publicly condemns this behavior. Americans largely hear silence.

The article then falls back on the standard accusations of bigotry.
James J. Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said he is not surprised by the poll's results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonized the Arab world since 2001, he said.
And the inimitable Juan Cole weighs in, too.
Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."

Cole said he was shocked when a radio talk show host asked him if Islamic extremists would set off a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next six months. "It was ridiculous. I think anti-Arab racism and profiling has become respectable," he said.
Yeah, I can't imagine that Islamic extremists might set off a nuclear bomb in the United States. I'd be shocked too if someone asked me about that. But then, I haven't read the 9-11 Commission report, which says:
The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons. As we note in chapter 2, al Qaeda has tried to acquire or make nuclear weapons for at least ten years. In chapter 4, we mentioned officials worriedly discussing, in 1998, reports that Bin Ladin's associates thought their leader was intent on carrying out a "Hiroshima."

These ambitions continue. In the public portion of his February 2004 worldwide threat assessment to Congress, DCI Tenet noted that Bin Ladin considered the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction to be a "religious obligation." He warned that al Qaeda "continues to pursue its strategic goal of obtaining a nuclear capability." Tenet added that "more than two dozen other terrorist groups are pursuing CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] materials."28
And here's another guy who can't figure it all out. Or maybe he can.
Ronald Stockton, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan at Dearborn who helped conduct a study of Arabs in the Detroit area and on views of them held by non-Arabs, said an exceptionally high percentage of non-Muslims feels the media depicts Arabs unfairly, yet still holds negative opinions.

"You're getting a constant drumbeat of negative information about Islam," he said.
A drumbeat of negative information about Islam? It's got to be totally fabricated! Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?