A recent poll of 2,100 Americans shows that many harbor negative views of American Muslims and Arab-Americans. Arabs, Muslims, Arab-Americans and American Muslims have the highest unfavorable rating among 13 religious and ethnic groups covered in the poll, conducted this month by the Arab American Institute.
VOA’s Mohammed Elshinnawi spoke to Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, about the implications of these results.
Anti-Muslim campaigns provide ‘a continued drumbeat of hysteria’
“I think that the numbers tell us that when you have a decade-long [anti-Muslim] campaign, it takes a toll. It is not 9-11 [the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States] that did it, because the numbers after 9-11 were not as significant as they are today. It is a decade of people asking questions– who are [Muslims]? – and people like Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Fox News providing the answer, an answer born of bigotry, fear and suspicion, a continued drumbeat of hysteria.”
Closing the divide with the Muslim world not the greatest challenge
“I think the president will have more success closing the divide with the Muslim world than he will have here at home, with closing the divide [between him] and conservatives who are out to get him … I think the president tried, but what he could do was limited by what the other party would let him do. An issue we have to address as Americans is the degree to which we have tied the hands of the president … by the very campaign against him which has defined him as part of the problem.”
‘Arabs and Muslims have become … part of the partisan debate’
“Arabs and Muslims have become like abortion and gay marriage: Part of the partisan debate in America. Obama is at the center of it. De-legitimizing Muslims [has come to] mean you’re de-legitimizing the president, and that’s what this is really all about. This is not about Huma Abedin or Park 51, this is about continuing the campaign to de-legitimize what the president is doing and what he is trying to do.”
Listen to more of James Zogby’s thoughts (6:30):
Egyptian-American Mohamed Elshinnawi is a senior reporter at VOA. He covered the Middle East peace process from Camp David in 1978 through the 1993 Oslo Agreements to Syrian-Israeli talks in 2000. He interviewed Arab heads of state, prime ministers, foreign ministers and as well as ranking U.S. officials, including members of Congress. He hosted "Dialogue with the West," a live TV show which, broadcast via satellite from Washington, reached 35 million Arabs. He is fluent in Arabic and English.