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Humanitarian Assistance Key to Favorable Public Opinion in World’s Largest Muslim Countries

Reposted from – Terror Free Tomorrow
WASHINGTON, DC— While people from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan—the world’s three largest Muslim countries—increasingly oppose US-led efforts to fight terrorism, most are favorable to the United States for past aid and want deeper American assistance in the future. In fact, American assistance results in a substantial favorable change in opinion toward the United States.

The findings are part of a new series of polls released by Terror Free Tomorrow.
The consensus approval of the role of direct American aid cuts across every element of society. Whether they are supporters of Bin Laden, or opposed to the US war on terrorism, or even favorable to suicide terrorist attacks, American assistance leads to favorable opinions of the U.S. from countries representing close to half the world’s Muslim population.
“The bottom line is that American aid is the single most important action the people of the three largest Muslim countries want from the United States,” writes Ken Ballen, Terror Free Tomorrow’s President, in the report’s executive summary. “And here’s the key to winning hearts and minds: deeper American assistance directly to the people, following their expressed priorities.”
In Indonesia, almost two years after the tsunami, American aid to tsunami victims continues to be the single biggest factor resulting in favorable opinion towards the United States. Almost 60 percent of Indonesians surveyed nationwide said that American assistance made them favorable to the United States. This number has remained solid following tsunami relief, despite a growing number of Indonesians who oppose American-led efforts to fight terrorism.
The favorable shift in Muslim public opinion defies conventional wisdom that American humanitarian aid only results in short-term changes of the public’s view. The fact that almost two years after U.S. help, Indonesians continue to appreciate America’s role is stunning proof of the sustained power of positive and substantial assistance to radically change Muslim public opinion. These findings in Indonesia are indeed part of a larger trend. 75 percent of Pakistanis surveyed also continue to have a more favorable opinion of the United States—at the same time support for Bin Laden and suicide attacks dropped to their lowest levels since 9/11—as a direct consequence of American earthquake relief to Pakistan.
The most powerful finding from the Indonesian survey is that even with increasing disapproval towards the United States because of the US-led fight against terror, Indonesians want American assistance—and would view the United States in a considerably better light if assistance is increased. Nearly four-fifths of Indonesians believe their country needs foreign assistance, and most consider American aid as critical in forming a favorable opinion of the United States.
Similarly, in the first nationwide survey throughout Bangladesh on these issues in almost five years, 97 percent of Bangladeshis surveyed think their country needs foreign assistance, while 81 percent of Bangladeshis say that American foreign assistance makes them favorable to the United States.
The view of the people in the world’s three most populous Muslim countries on future American assistance is a striking testament to the ability of tangible humanitarian aid to win favorable public opinion for the United States in the Muslim world. Indeed, the country that people in Indonesia and Bangladesh agree helps them more than any other is the United States.
Yet while humanitarian help is a bridge, the U.S.-led war on terror is the divide. The same consensus view on the approval of American aid is mirrored by an equally strong unfavorable view of the anti-Muslim character of the US-led fight against terrorism.
About Terror Free Tomorrow
Terror Free Tomorrow is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, whose mission includes understanding the popular support behind global terrorists. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former 9/11 Commission Chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton lead Terror Free Tomorrow’s Advisory Board.

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