Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How the Muslim world sees American science, technology and the drones

by Salman Hameed

PewResearch Center has a new survey out that looks the global opinion of the US and in particular of Obama's policies (download the full pdf report here). The survey includes a few Muslim-majority countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan) and a few things jump out related to the blog. First of all, the views US and Obama in these Muslim countries are generally more negative than other European and Asian countries included in the survey. Pakistan, in particular, is on the extreme end of the spectrum - a wide change from the Cold War days. In fact, there will be another Pew report soon just focusing on Pakistan. Second, there is almost a unanimity in opposition to US drone strikes (see earlier posts: Ethics, Morality, and Legality of Robotic Wars and The Problem of US Drones in Pakistan):

And here is how these countries see American people:

In the Muslim-majority countries, Lebanon is a clear exception, but it is divided on religious lines between Sunnis (and Christians) and Shias:

The U.S. receives many of its lowest ratings in predominantly Muslim nations. Fewer than one-in-five have a positive opinion about America in Egypt (19%), Turkey (15%), Pakistan (12%) and Jordan (12%). Views are divided, however, in Tunisia (45% favorable, 45% unfavorable) and Lebanon (48% favorable, 49% unfavorable). 
Lebanese views differ considerably among the country’s major religious groups. Solid majorities of Sunni Muslims (67%) and Christians (61%) give the U.S. a favorable grade, compared with just 7% of Shia Muslims.
But the US is still admired for its science and technology - even in the Muslim countries:

The decline of this positive view in Turkey is noteworthy. There are numerous indicators in the survey that show a similar decline in Turkish views towards the US:
The two outliers on this question are Russia and Turkey. Russians have consistently voiced lukewarm attitudes about U.S. science and technology since the Pew Global Attitudes Project first asked this question in 2002. Turks, on the other hand, were once admirers of the U.S. in this regard. In 2002, 67% said they admired American scientific and technological advances, but by 2007 this had plunged to 37%. Today, it stands at 42%.
It is interesting as I came away with a similar impression from Istanbul last month. Some of the academics that I chatted with didn't want to come to the US because of all the visa hassles and the way they are treated at the US immigration. This is a shame as these are the very exchanges that can help improve the image across across the divide.

But while the US is admired for science, its popular culture is not as popular:

While there is a general trend here, Pakistan's numbers are really surprising. In the 1980s, I grew up watching American TV shows. Heck I even owe my astronomy degree to Cosmos. But not only now there is a negative reaction in Pakistan, US is not helping itself by cutting off funding for the Pakistani version of Sesame Street. Another interesting exception there is also India. Hmm...I don't know what to make of it. One possibility: May be South Asians are anglophiles. But in case of Pakistan, it may simply be anti-US sentiment.

Apart from Pakistan, things do change a bit in the younger generation. Look at Germany and France!

Read the full report here.


Anonymous said...

Big LOL for Japanese people...they deserved it.

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