Beyond Images Challenging myths and presenting facts about Israell
“America is anti-Muslim”
London - published on 11 March 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 20

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“America is Anti-Muslim” ….?

It is routinely claimed that America is anti-Muslim. In a November 2002 article in the international relations magazine Foreign Affairs, Middle East analyst Barry Rubin, director of global research at the US-based International Affairs Centre, counters this claim in the course of an article on anti-Americanism in the Arab world. Here is a summary of key points:-

American policies demonstrate consistent support for the Muslim perspective:

  • Rubin show that during the last half-century, America has repeatedly supported Muslim forces in major conflicts with non-Muslim states: supporting Turkey against Greece, Bosnia against Yugoslavia, the Muslims of Kosovo against Yugoslavia, Pakistan against India, the Islamic Afghan rebels against the USSR, and Azerbaijan against Armenia

  • During the Cold War, argues Rubin, America became Islam’s political patron in the Middle East, because traditional Islam was seen as a an obstacle both to secular communism, and to radical Arab nationalism

  • The USA has courted Syria, implicitly accepting Syria’s control over Lebanon for over 30 years

  • For decades, argues Rubin, the US kept its military forces out of the Persian Gulf to avoid offending Arabs and Muslims there. He maintains that they entered the Persian Gulf only when invited to do so to protect Arab oil tankers against Iran, and to lead the Arab-supported coalition to free Kuwait following Iraq’s invasion.
  • In Somalia, where no vital US interests were at stake, Rubin argues that the US engaged in a humanitarian effort to help a Muslim people suffering from “anarchy and murderous warlords”

  • When Al-Qaeda blew up two US embassies in 1998 in East Africa, causing immense loss of life, the US responded with only very limited retaliation

  • And since September 11, US leaders have taken pains to remind the world (and the American public) that Islam and Arabs are not enemies of the US

American policies in relation to Israel

In a similar vein, Rubin cites illustrations to challenge the myth that US policy has always “sided with” Israel against Muslim and Arab interests:

  • In the 1950s, America sought to demonstrate its sympathy for Arab nationalism, and for Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, by preventing his overthrow by the UK, France and Israel in the Suez war

  • In 1973 the US forced a ceasefire on Israel, thus ending the Arab-Israeli war and saving Egypt from overwhelming defeat (Egypt had started that war with a surprise attack on Israel)

  • In 1982 the US organised the safe passage of Yasser Arafat out of Beirut following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and the US pressured Tunisia to give him sanctuary

  • In the 1990s the US involved the Palestinians fully in three-way peace negotiations with Israel, despite a history of Palestinian terrorism and anti-Americanism, as well as its alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and with Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War

  • In the final stages of those peace negotiations (2000-1), America pushed for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that would create a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem [it was President Clinton who pressured Israel to accept East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital – Beyond Images]

So why the anti-Americanism in the Muslim world?

Rubin maintains that anti-American radicals - both Arab and non-Arab - distort America’s record, and ignore all positive examples of US backing for Muslim causes. He claims that this anti-Americanism serves various purposes:-

  • failing Arab regimes can improve their domestic standing and use anti-Americanism as an excuse for political and social oppression and for economic stagnation

  • by distracting the attention of Arab publics from their own countries’ shortcomings and instead focussing on hating America, Rubin argues that Arab rulers can avoid responding to demands for democracy, human rights, higher living standards, less corruption and incompetence, new leadership, equality for women, due process of law, freedom of speech and other developments which are “sorely needed” in the Arab world.

  • Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Rubin’s article appears, is one of the most widely read and respected international journals, sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations. It frequently carries articles by Arab journalists, academics and political figures. Barry Rubin’s article (of which this Briefing contains only short extracts) is called ‘The Real Roots of Arab Anti-Americanism’ (Foreign Affairs Magazine, November / December 2002, p73, and see the Foreign Affairs website: