Can the USA improve its image in the Muslim World?

US President George W Bush has said he will name an envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OCI) , to a coalition of Muslim countries. The would-be envoy will have a hard task to bring the American views and those of the Muslim public any closer. The USA popularity has a very low rate among the Muslims. They still feel unwelcome in the USA because of the heavy restrictions and conditions to get a visa. A Muslim name on a passport still raises suspicion at the US airports.

As long as its foreign policy in the Middle East, especially regarding Iraq and Israel doesn’t change, there is little it can do to change the views of Muslims, especially those imbued with anti-American propaganda. Many Muslims take delight in the rising power of countries like China and India to offset its global influence. Many see its threat towards Iran as a form of crusade aimed at weakening the Muslims at all levels.

For the US to improve its image among the Muslims, it should redress its foreign policies by winning the friendship of hardliner regimes like that of Iran. Friendly Muslim governments should work to spread moderate Islam and to implement democratic rules. Many moderate governments in the Muslim worlds are seen by their opponents as puppets of the USA. The USA remains a synonym of corrupt values threatening their traditions.

On a different note, Bush seems to be ignorant about Muslim countries, at least in the first years of his presidency. After 9/11 attacks he had a Muslim adviser to “teach” him about Islamic values following the misinterpretation or the exploitation of the term “crusade” he used. On Larry King, Bill Maher invoked an incident; I don’t if it was a joke or a reality. Bush was told by one of his advisers, “ In Iraq there are Sunnis and Shiaas.” To which bush responded, “ I thought there were only Muslims in Iraq.”

Perhaps both the Americans and the Muslims should know more about each other. They should know the good sides of each other. Focussing just on the negative sides or choosing to ignore basic facts about each other’s civilisation will just deepen the divide that can’t go any deeper.

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