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Many Issues Fueling Muslim World's Anti-American Backlash
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Anti-U.S. uprisings in the Muslim world reveal old and new tensions despite hope for better relations with the West since the Arab Spring.
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Political Science, Duke University
Maghraoui specializes in political identity, political culture, and Islam and politics, with a focus on North Africa and the Middle East.
"The current anti-American backlash in the region is the byproduct of genuine misunderstanding, real ignorance and political jockeying among Islamic groups. In the Muslim world, there is a widespread belief that the sanctity of 'freedom of expression,' often evoked in the West in these circumstances, is a cover for allowing anti-Muslim bigotry. The familiar complaint is that racist, sexist or anti-Semitic remarks are formally or informally prohibited, yet not Islamophobia. Cases where the U.S. government, the media, a court or a community has actually acted to protect Muslims' rights are rarely reported.
"A second factor is the inability of many people in the region to distinguish between an individual action and the U.S. government. Because religious insult is heavily censured and sanctioned by Muslim states, it is assumed that the U.S. government can do the same. Therefore, an isolated act is summarily associated with a nation and its government.
"The third and more serious source of the violent backlash is the growing influence of radical, conservative Islamic groups in the region. While still a tiny minority, these groups use crises involving morality to challenge the less conservative, governing Islamic parties.
"These crises are unlikely to disappear in the near future, and the question for the U.S. is how to continue engaging moderate Islamic parties without compromising on key political values. The challenge for the governing Islamic parties is how to tell their constituencies that a video disparaging the prophet is far less important than their country's social, economic and security priorities."
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