"Anti-Americanism" in the Arab World: an Interpretation of a Brief History Makdisi

Topics: Israel, Jordan, United Arab Emirates Pages: 12 (4214 words) Published: February 9, 2013
"Anti-Americanism" in the Arab World:
An Interpretation of a Brief History

This essay turns to history to answer the oft-asked question "Why do they (Arabs) hate us (America)?" True, you cannot generalize about 280 million Arabs each with its own tradition and history. However, there are certain historical and political contexts that can explain the rise of anti-American sentiment. The claim: Anti-Americanism is a recent phenomenon fueled by American foreign policy, NOT an epochal "clash of civilizations". * At the time of WW1 the image of the US in the Arab provinces of the OE was generally positive: Arabs saw it as a great power that was not imperialist like Britain, France or Russia. Americans, who lived in the region, to a large extent the missionaries, were pioneers in the realm of higher education. American colleges and universities were established in many places in the ME and many Arabs experienced "Liberal America". * BUT the 20th century American policies in the region complicated the meaning of America for Arabs: Those anti-American feelings stem less from a blind hatred of the US or its values but from a profound ambivalence about America: on the one hand an object of admiration for its films, its technology (and for some its secularism, law, order) and on the other hand, a source of deep disappointment given the ongoing repressive US policy in ME. * In the aftermath of 9/11 anti-American sentiments are present more than ever thus it is important to understand their nature and origins.

Benevolent America
End 18th- Beginning 19th century – beginning of American involvement in the Arab world. American ships were captured in the Mediterranean and taken captive by Moroccans and Algerians. The negotiations and skirmishes are known as the Barbary wars. The most famous case: 1803 - the capture of the "Philadelphia" that was on the way to Tripoli and the ransom and release of the American captives in 1805. The image of Islam in the US during this period crystalized the existing negative Western images of the Muslim and Ottoman world such as: * "Mohammedanism" signified the antithesis of true religion, that is to say, Christianity.

The development of an American-genre orientalism:
19th century U.S. travelers' discourses of the Orient – intensified such perspectives, specifically of Palestine:
* a "Holy Land mania" - religious obsession with Palestine that gripped American travelers, artists and writers. * The Arab inhabitants of Palestine were described as dirty natives or impious Mohammedans. * the sacred landscape was often separated from its native Arab inhabitants.

The New England led Missionaries
* prejudiced, with feelings of superiority to the natives, they sought to reclaim the lands of the Bible from Muslim and Eastern Christian control. * They were the first Americans to seriously engage with the local population: they wanted to change the Ottoman world, not just to describe or experience it. * Proclaiming the urgent need to save the "perishing souls" of the East. * Religious achievements: almost none. There was some local interest in the evangelical message of the missionaries and in their new unmediated approach to the Scriptures, but usually it fell on deaf ears and was effectively countered by the native churches that warned their communities. * A Maronite Christian was the first Arab convert to Protestantism, but he was imprisoned by the Maronite Church. * Their function as a bridge between cultures: except for introducing religious messages, they also brought with them American manners and customs, clothes, education, and medicine. Simultaneously, they sought to introduce Americans to actual inhabitants, societies, histories, and geographies that were excluded by the exotic discourse of American orientalism. * Arabs were described as "promising objects of missionary endeavor" being a "very talented race" (praised their science,...
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