An opinion poll suggests a majority of people living in Muslim countries do not believe the U.S. war in Afghanistan is justified. The poll also finds that people in those countries also question whether Arabs hijackers were responsible for last September's terrorist attacks.
This new Gallup poll samples the attitudes of nearly 10,000 people in nine Muslim countries - from Indonesia to Pakistan.
Even though a full two thirds believe last September's terrorist attacks were morally unjustifiable, only nine percent say they believe the events justify the U.S. military action in Afghanistan.
Underlying these views is what the survey found to be a widespread anti-U.S. sentiment in the Islamic world.
"That simply points to the need that we have to engage in a more active and aggressive form of public diplomacy," Arab American Institute President James Zogby said. He blames the United States for failing to refute stories in the Arab press immediately after September 11 that raised questions about who was responsible.
"We did not respond early enough to put them out [the rumors] and therefore they took hold and captured opinion. And so by going out late, we actually allowed these stories to gain a foothold and dominate the way people came to view the issue," Mr. Zogby said.
Many in the Arab world often point to what they consider a less than even-handed U.S. approach toward the Middle East peace process as an explanation for the attitudes found in this poll.
"There is no hate for America. There is admiration for America, there is deeply rooted friendship between the Arab people in particular, and America. They never hated America. But there is deep disagreement with certain aspects of policies of the United States, especially the one concerning the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said.
Vice President Dick Cheney heads to the Middle East in two weeks. His trip is partly intended to provide Arab nations with an explanation of what U.S. policy is toward the region, especially with regard to Iraq and the Middle East peace process.