America and the Middle East

Dalia Mogahed: I guess I would go back to the idea that my world is the world of perception.

I guess I’ll answer it this way: How are America’s actions perceived? And then therefore: How are they affecting the issues?

Many of America’s actions are definitely perceived very negatively. And in some cases, like the abuses of Abu Ghraib, and the reported abuses in Guantanamo are directly feeding into the perception that America is at war with Islam. The war in Iraq, likewise, is also being perceived very negatively by Muslims at large.

So there is a lot that America can do to counteract some of these perceptions. In some cases, there will be no way to counteract the perceptions, and there will have to be discussions about whether or not policy needs to change on the ground.

One of the most important first steps toward that peace is just simply understanding the point of view of Muslims. Where are they coming from, and how are they perceiving America’s actions? Right now, I feel that there is too much talking and maybe not enough listening of the point of view of Muslims. And more of an emphasis needs to be put on understanding rather than trying to get Muslims to understand America’s perspective. That is counterproductive. Unless Muslims feel validated by being understood, it’ll be very difficult for them to be convinced of anything America has to say.

I have no reason to believe that no matter what there will be problems in the Middle East, simply because the Middle East was a place of relative peace for hundreds of years. So I don’t think there is anything about the region that genetically makes it prone to violence or conflict.

But I do think that certain geopolitical realities make conflict more likely in the Middle East for several reasons; but all of these things; it is possible to work past them and to make the Middle East a place of stability and peace.

 

Recorded on: July 3, 2007. 

Mogahed on mutually negative perceptions.

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