Thursday, October 28, 2004

If Muslims could vote for their American Idol 

Some interesting perspectives from the Middle East on preferred candidates in American Presidential elections.

First, this report from Iraq, and another endorsement Kerry could do without:
"Leaders and supporters of the anti-U.S. insurgency say their attacks in recent weeks have a clear objective: The greater the violence, the greater the chances that President Bush will be defeated on Tuesday and the Americans will go home. 'If the U.S. Army suffered numerous humiliating losses, [Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John] Kerry would emerge as the superman of the American people,' said Mohammad Amin Bashar, a leader of the Muslim Scholars Association, a hard-line clerical group that vocally supports the resistance."
The Muslim Scholars Association seems to represent the more strategically minded wing of insurgency - for there is also the "all the infidels are bad" school of thought:
" 'The nation of infidels is one, and Bush and Kerry are two faces of the same coin,' said Abu Obeida, nom de guerre of a leader of Fallujah's al-Noor Jihadi regiment. 'What is taken by force will be returned only by force, and we don't care what the results of the elections are'."
Isn't it fascinating to see how similar the worldviews of the hysterical jihad and the hysterical far-left really are? Mowafaq Al-Tai, an architect and intellectual, sums up the spectrum of insurgent views:
"The most pro-Kerry, he said, are the former Saddam Hussein loyalists — Ba'ath Party members and others who think Washington might scale back its ambitions for Iraq if Mr. Kerry wins, allowing them to re-enter civic life. The most pro-Bush, he said, are the foreign extremists. 'They prefer Bush, because he's a provocative figure, and the more they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case'."
But what of the ordinary Iraqis? "Mr. Bashar, a professor at Baghdad's Islamic University, said he and many of those who oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq were rooting for Mr. Kerry. 'I think if Kerry wins, he's going to try to get world support and United Nations involvement,' he said during an interview at Baghdad's Um al-Qura mosque. 'You'll see a different situation in Iraq if the United Nations is involved'." And isn't it also fascinating to see how similar the worldviews at universities are, whether Boston or Baghdad? But, needless to say, But Nazar Judi, a 41-year-old money trader who had his right hand cut off by Saddam Hussein's security forces nine years ago and replaced with a prosthetic limb by the US Army "is squarely in the Bush camp."

A broader, regional perspective comes from this opinion piece by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid in "Arab News". Al-Rashid concludes that:

Palestinians, although never quite happy with any occupant of the White House, would prefer to see Bush re-elected, as the Democrats are perceived as being more pro-Israel.

The Saudis also opt for Bush. Kerry is seen as hostile to the Kingdom.

Iraqis, according to Al-Rashid, are grateful to Bush for the liberation but think that Kerry's presidency would be more conducive to reconciliation, both within Iraq as well as in the international community.

"The Syrians, more than any other Arabs, would wish to see Bush go down in the hope that it would end the pressure on their country." Al-Rashid thinks they're kidding themselves.

The Egyptians are also anti-Bush. Al-Rashid observes: "This Egyptian mood is no different from the Europeans’. Bush’s defeat will make it easy for those who want to reconcile with the American government without risking losing face. This is a position that best suits Washington’s former allies before the invasion of Iraq, the French and the Germans, who will need to cooperate with Washington in Iraq and the war against terrorism. The Europeans need reconciliation but it will not be easy for them to change their earlier positions with Bush in office."

And moving east of the Arab world, Ayaz Gul reports on how Pakistan and Afghanistan are looking at the American elections. His conclusion: the Pakistani elites tend to prefer Bush, whom they see as having established a good relationship with their country; the average Pakistanis, however are counting on Kerry to reduce the tensions between the United States and the Muslim world. Afghanistan, according to Gul, doesn't really care who the next president will be, as long as their country is not forgotten again.

Update: More on Iraq: "A survey of 2,000 Iraqis around the country conducted last week by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies in Baghdad shows 58% of Iraqis say they don't care who wins the U.S. presidential elections. Of those who do care, 22.5% prefer Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry and 16% prefer President Bush. Bush has the strongest support in the Kurdish north, a semi-autonomous region where opposition to former leader Saddam Hussein was strong. Kerry is preferred by the minority Sunni Muslims and even many Shiites, according to the poll."

The article makes an interesting point: "During the three decades Saddam was in power, the only exposure Iraqis had to the United States was through government propaganda. So Iraqis tend to see U.S. politics and government through the prism of their own system. Iraq's history is one of domination. From that perspective, invasions are about gaining riches and land, not about building democracy in another country. That's why Iraqis have a hard time believing that the United States is spending billions of dollars to foster democracy."

Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder, anyone?


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