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Shifting sands in Middle East (2)

By He Wenping (China Daily)

08:23, September 19, 2012

Second, North African countries such as Libya and Egypt have been through political and social reforms. As a result, radical Islamic groups that have gained popular support by safeguarding religious purity are becoming increasingly influential in opposing the US' pro-Israel diplomatic policies. Islamist groups were suppressed by the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt and the Gadhafi regime in Libya. However, after these regimes collapsed, Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood soon emerged as a leading political force. Anti-US and anti-US-backed-Israel groups seem politically justifiable in Arab countries, as people there believe that the former dictatorial regimes worked too closely with Washington to defend their own interests, and now they no longer want to subject themselves to the US' command.

Anti-US sentiment has long existed among people in Arab countries. Political forces that have risen to power on the back of such sentiments are more than willing to keep catering to anti-US public opinion and thus consolidate the foundations of their rule. The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, called for peaceful protests over the US film outside all the main mosques in Egypt, despite pressure from Washington after the US diplomats were killed. While Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has condemned the film as an attack on Islam and requested the Egyptian embassy in the US to take legal measures against the filmmakers.

Third, the US has obviously not prepared for the changes in these countries, and its inherent sense of cultural superiority and its lack of tolerance for other religions are deep-rooted causes for widespread hostility toward the US.

Islamic civilization enjoys a time-honored history, with a global Muslim population of 1.5 billion, and the Vatican announced in March 2008 that Islam had overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world. However, Islam is often misinterpreted by the West and viewed as an extreme religion, especially since the Sept 11, 2001 al-Qaida attacks on the US.

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