Arab-Western perceptions-kuwait grand mosque.yalonis
Cross Cultural Perceptions between Arab Muslims and the WestKuwait Grand MosquePresentation, June 13, 2006Chris Yalonis, Communique Partners
2 Agenda• Study/Campaign Objectives, Background, Methodology• Western Perception of Islam and Muslims• Arab Perception of the West• Drivers of Perception• Awqaf Campaigns and Other Initiatives• What can be done to Improve Perception?• Q&A
3 Background• Early 2005 impetus was recognition of worsening perceptions between Middle East Muslims and the West• 2 Perception studies lay the foundation for long term initiatives to improve Islamic-Arab World- West understanding and perception – 2005 study on Western Perception of Islam and Muslims – 2006 study on Arab Perception of the West• Studies sponsored by Kuwait’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs
4 Objectives:• 2005 Western Perception of Islam study: – Better understand the image and perception of Islam and Muslims in Western Europe and the US• 2006 Arab Perception of the West Study – Better understand Arab Perception of the West, drivers, foreign policy vs other “products” and values of the West.• Identify the key drivers and influences• Uncover the role of the media and other sources of information• Identify means of improving perception and intercultural understanding between Arab Muslims and the Western public
5 Study components• Public opinion poll of 2750 US and European citizens (Western Perception study) and 2000 Arabs (2006 study on Arab Perceptions)• Interviews of Islamic, media, public diplomacy experts• An analysis of online and offline media and articles and topical association with Islam• A review and summary of important research sources, reports, reports• A review and summary of other third party public polls
7 Public Opinion Survey Results• Muslims rated the lowest in overall favorability among various religious groups.• 26% overall had a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of “Muslims who live inside my country” – 37% of US respondents-unfavorable opinion – 19% and 24% of UK and French respondents respectively• For “Muslims who live outside my country”, and “Arab Muslims”, 5-10% more respondents (depending on country) had a unfavorable opinion
8 Ignorance of and lack of empathy with Islam is widespread• Half of the respondents say they have very little or no knowledge• 80% said that “my religion and Islam are very different” or that they “do not know enough to determine if their religion and Islam have a lot in common”• 46% believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence• 34% believe that the US is fighting a war on Islam or both Islam and terrorism• 60% do not know the difference between Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims
9 Framers of Perception• Stereotyping in movies, TV shows, cartoons, and other media.• Television: “If it bleeds, it leads”. Simplistic depiction of “Islamic terrorists”• Anti-Western Islamist extremists who condemn the West in the name of Islam• “Experts” in academia and thinktanks
10 Framers of Perception• Christian Fundamentalists, Jewish Lobby• The absence of a countering view.• Western Muslim communities do not have strong PR or lobbying efforts.• Lack of personal interaction between American Muslims and non-Muslims
11 Media has a Critical Role• TV documentaries and news are the most influential followed by newspapers• 40% have very limited exposure to news and information about Islam and Muslims (once every 2 months or more or never in the past year)• 3/4 of respondents believe that the media depicts Arab Muslims and Islam accurately only half of the time, not often or never
12 Personal Interactions Shape Perceptions• 60-70% are comfortable with having Arab Muslims as neighbors, friends, co-workers• Only a quarter of the US and UK respondents have Arab Muslims friends, colleagues or family members (versus 59% of the French)• Very small percentage (<5% have ever participated in an Islamic activity (such as Ramadan)
13 Issues in Resetting the Perception Frame• Islam is not a Monolith.• Who speaks for Islam?• Is Islam inherently extremist and militant?• Is Islam anti-West?• Women’s empowerment• Religious tolerance/pluralism• Modernism• Democracy• Reducing the root causes of violent extremism.
14 Recommendations on Improving Perception: Practitioners and Scholars• Build a message consensus among Muslims and friends – A moderate and balanced view of Islam – Objective debate on contentious issues• Create balanced content on Islam – Supply proper information nationwide – Counter the lack of good, objective books about Islam• Show Muslims as normal, professional, modern, diverse, anti-militant: have spokespeople reflect these images• Call for more media balance and more positive coverage, not just negatives
15 Improving Perception• Invest in media-tours and campaigns, PSA’s, press relations• Encourage Muslims groups to share more educational and celebration interactions with local communities• Build and resource more Islamic cultural centers and museums• Encourage business and cultural exchanges between Islamic states (especially ME) and US/EU
16 “Drying up the Swamp” of Extremism• Address the root causes of extremist violence to reduce it long term• Marginalize religious zealotry by extremists-return to peaceful teachings• Continue to encourage Arab region development (UN Arab Human Development Report (2002,03,04,05) recommendations
17 Guidelines for Journalists• Use language that is informatory and not inflammatory• Portray Muslims and Islam in its richness and diversity• Seek truth through a full, balanced Outlook database and help convey Islam complexities and ME-West relations• Do not represent Arabs and Muslims as monolithic groups• Use photos and features to demystify veils, turbans, and cultural articles/customs
18 Guidelines for Journalists• Avoid using word combinations such as “Islamic terrorist” or “Muslim extremist” that are misleading• Do not use religious characterizations as shorthand• Include olive complexioned and darker men and women, Sikhs, Muslims, and devote religious groups in the arts, business, society columns, and other news and features, not just in terrorist coverage• Ask Muslims to review your coverage and make suggestions
19 Resources• www.islamperceptions.org – Journalist’s Guide to Islam and Muslims – Western Perceptions of Islam and Muslims – Arab Perceptions of The West• Professor John Esposito’s – What Everyone should Know about Islam – Unholy War• Q&A
20 Follow-Up Actions• NewsXchange (Media conference) in Amsterdam in November, 2005 and to US Muslim Leaders, coverage of Western Perception study• Presented Arab Perception study at the first annual Arab Broadcaster’s Forum in Abu Dhabi last week• Moderation Conferences in EU, US,Russia (tentative), – Build internal Muslim community consensus (London in May) – Key external stakeholders (London in May, more planned for late 2006/2007• Moderation Center in Grand Mosque• Distribution of books and DVD’s• Translation Center• Cultural Centers• Debate Centers in London• www.islamperceptions.org
22 The Campaign Live Web Discussions Event & Agenda InternationalLaunch of Study Management The Media Campaign Interview Features & PlacementDocumentary Campaign Monitoring & Evaluation
23 Other 2006 Initiatives• The Speakup.com – ME’s first Online Opinion Panel of 50,000 consumers, opinion leaders in government, business, education, religion• Used by government, NGO’s and corporations for public policy polls, community needs, social/developmental program assessments• Representative “Voice of the Arab Public”• More insightful, faster and economical alternative to offline and anecdotal reporting/research
24 Institute for East-West Perception Research• First fact-tank focusing on monitoring and strategic consul for Middle East-West cross cultural perceptions• Online panel of 4 million consumers and opinion leaders in the EU, US and Middle East• Serving decision makers in public diplomacy, NGO’s, business, interfaith entities• Manage improvements in perception and relations through ROI measurements• Looking for advisory board members and founding sponsors
Arab Perceptions of the West: Study Highlights
26 Why does Arab Perception of the West Matter?• Popular negative resentment has strong negative consequences for the US and EU governments.• Limits long term cooperation for business, educational, cultural and religious groups.• Jeopardizes formal government-to-government relations.• Broad anti-Americanism facilitates broad base recruiting for extremist groups and financial and political support• Arab governments cannot ignore popular sentiment indefinitely. Public opinion affects policy making.• Cycle of mutually reinforcing animosity.
31 Prism of National Perception– Science and technology– People– Companies in their country– Aid to their country– Education– Place to visit– Movies/TV/Entertainment– Promotion of Human Rights/democracy– Government policy in Israeli/Palestinian conflict– Military presence in Iraq– Treatment of Muslims
34 Framers of Perception• Perceptions vary by country, interpersonal exposure, Western travel, media consumption diversity• Religion is not the basis of tensions between Arabs and the West• Arab perceptions of Western values do not determine their attitudes toward Western foreign policies
36 The Role of Western Foreign Policy• Arabs support the professed goals of the West’s foreign policies toward the Arab world• Arabs disagree fundamentally with US positions on the definition of terrorism, the Palestinians, Iraq occupation, support of autocratic regimes• Hypocrisy of US professed values and “situation on the ground”
38 Media has a Critical Role• Arab TV and Newspapers news are the most influential information sources on the West• 3/4 of respondents believe that the media depicts the US accurately only HALF OF THE TIME OR LESS.
39 Improving Perception: What the US and EU Governments can do:• Evolve Middle East Foreign Policy.• Rethink how the US and EU governments formulate and communicate their foreign policy.• Develop new institutions to strengthen public diplomacy efforts.• Improve practices of public diplomacy.• Increase funding and resources.
40 9/11/01: 5 year report card: US Battle for Hearts and Minds• Accomplishments – Elevated democracy promotion on U.S. foreign policy agenda – Organized State Department to strengthen public diplomacy – Created Millennium Challenge Corporation/increased foreign assistance funding – Launched “Transformational Diplomacy”• Continuing Challenges – Public diplomacy undermined by perceived U.S. unilateralism – U.S. moral authority/image eroded by Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, etc. – Public diplomacy weakened by domestic security paranoia (visa frustrations, Dubai Ports, etc.) – Democracy and development assistance agendas viewed skeptically in many countries – Fortress mentality at embassies stifl es public access and outreach – Failure to create counternarrative to global radicalism
41 What NGO’s can do:• Build and maintain Arabic and English translation entities and training programs• Build and maintain student, scientific, sports, cultural, interfaith exchange programs.• Fund and produce books, documentaries, videos using advanced digital technology, to improve inter-cultural understanding and appreciation.• Fund and facilitate the development of dialogue programs and digital community building• Use call in programs and interactive programs on satellite TV to engage Arab and American audiences.
42 What Arab Governments can do:• Build and resource public diplomacy programs• Encourage and facilitate a free media.• Encourage translations and digital access of the best English (and other language) books into Arabic.• Encourage freedom of expression, opinion and association.• Popularize ICT as a tool for knowledge acquisition.• Promote literacy, especially among women.• Lower barriers on information access, especially Internet access costs.
43 What Media Organizations can do:• Break the cycle of mutually reinforcing animosity• Provide context around Western foreign policy news• Avoid story images that are sensational or inflammatory that do not improve context• Promote professional journalist training and Western journalist exchanges• Encourage open, free, objective editorial coverage.• Open and expand sources for unbiased Western experts and spokespeople• Look for Western diversity stories• Showcase Arab Americans or Arab British success stories
44 Thank you! Chris Yalonis + firstname.lastname@example.org www.islamperceptions.org