Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Panel shocked at Muslim hostility toward America

THE GUARDIAN , NEW YORK

Hostility towards the US has reached "shocking levels" among Arabs and Muslims around the world and left the country "vulnerable to lethal threats" unless it improves its image, according to a panel chosen by the White House.

The bipartisan group of Arab-American scholars, former diplomats and opinion formers concluded that America's efforts to promote itself positively to Muslims and Arabs was in need of an urgent overhaul.

"What is required is not merely tactical adaptation but strategic, and radical, transformation," the panel stated in its report, Changing Minds, Winning Peace, which was leaked to the New York Times.

"A process of unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy over the last decade has contributed to widespread hostility toward Americans and left us vulnerable to lethal threats," the report concluded.

The US advisory group on public diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world, which was assembled in June, found that the state department spent only three-tenths of 1percent of the defence department's budget on advocating US policies.

Just over 10 percent of this spending was in mainly Muslim countries, and once costs and exchange programs were taken into account, just US$25 million went on "outreach programs."

"You know, Woody Allen said 90 percent of life is just showing up," said Edward Djerejian, an Arab specialist, former ambassador and White House spokesman, who led the group. "In the Arab world, the US just doesn't show up."

The panel recognized that the problems were most likely rooted in US foreign policy, but that Washington could do far more to present its side and rebut misinformation.

The report called for the establishment of a White House coordinator for PR efforts abroad. Other suggestions were for libraries and information centers in the Muslim world, the translation of more western books into Arabic.

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