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Why do Some Islamic Nations Resent the U.S.?

Aired September 28, 2001 - 17:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: There were anti-American demonstrations again today in Pakistan and in Indonesia. In his fight against U.S. interests, Osama bin Laden has tapped a deep vein of resentment that runs through Islamic countries inside and outside the Middle East.

Peter Ford is senior European correspondent for the "Christian Science Monitor." He joins us late this evening Paris time -- he is in Paris. We appreciate your being with us, Mr. Ford.

We have a number of questions from our Web chat audience -- they're typing away at CNN.com/community -- and we'd like to get those questions directly to you.

First up, a question from an audience member in New Mexico, who asks: "What do the Muslims of the Middle East think of Muslims in America?"

PETER FORD, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": I'm not sure that they're really very aware of how many Muslims there are in America or how different they all -- how similar they are. I think that they know that there is a considerable amount of Muslim life in the states. Many of the people in the Middle East would love to come and live in America and be American Muslims, or at least Muslims in the states. But I don't think that makes a great deal of difference to the way they think about the United States and its policies.

CHEN: Well, more on that now. We've got a question from the Netherlands. This questioner asks: "How much of the anti-American sentiment is caused by mistranslations or misinterpretations?"

FORD: Less than you might hope, perhaps. I think the fundamental reasons for the sort of broad mood of resentment that can be found across the Middle East and across the Muslim world has more to do with the source of American policies that Washington has carried out in the Middle East over the last 20 or 30 years. They range from the American troops in Saudi Arabia, which upset some of the more religious people there, who feel that the holy land should not be polluted, as they say, by foreigners.

Through to sympathy for Iraqi civilians and children who suffer because of the bombing and the sanctions. Through about the broadest common denominator in the Middle East, which is sympathy for the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, and the perception that the United States stands four-square behind Israel in that conflict. I think it's more a question of real policies than mistranslation and misunderstanding.

CHEN: This is a subject I know that you have written about in the "Christian Science Monitor." A questioner from Hattiesburg -- and I'm guessing that is Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but I cannot be sure about that -- asks: "I keep hearing people say the Islamic world is jealous of the United States. Is there an element of truth to this?"

FORD: I think there is, in a certain sense, yes. I think a tremendous number of people throughout the Arab world and throughout the Muslim world are jealous of American's freedoms, America's prosperity and the way Americans can enjoy their life, up until September the 11th, relatively free of any immediate threats.

People would love to live in the states. People love Americans values. I think they're jealous, too -- "jealous" is perhaps the wrong word -- they wish they could share in that prosperity and in that freedom.

CHEN: One more question here now, Mr. Ford, from Canada; a viewer there asking -- if we could see the question again: "Is this about much more than religious differences?"

And you talked to this subject.

FORD: Yes, I think it's certainly about more than religious differences. And any -- there is, in the minds of the most extreme Muslim fundamentalists, and perhaps the ones who piloted those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon September the 11th -- there is obviously an enormous religious influence in what they're thinking and the way they justify what they're doing. And, indeed, the way they justify the fake they're going to commit suicide and go to heaven, as they think.

But for most people in the Middle East, it's not a religious question, it's more of a political question. And I think that any suggestion that we're getting involved here in a clash of civilizations -- this is a battle between good Christianity and evil Islam -- is very, very dangerous. And I think it's why Mr. Bush and his Cabinet officials have been very careful recently to make it absolutely clear to American Muslims and to Muslims outside the United States that this is not a religious war. This is not a Crusade -- that's a word that Mr. Bush used once, but he was careful to -- never to use it again.

CHEN: OK, Peter Ford from the "Christian Science Monitor" -- European correspondent for that organization -- we appreciate your insight today.

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