CAIRO: Only 26 percent of the 937 respondents to a recent poll conducted in Middle Eastern countries believe that the United States is either very or somewhat committed to improving economic conditions in the Muslim world.
Concerning America’s ability to improve them, the respondents are not more optimistic.
These are the main results of the survey conducted by the InterMedia Survey Institute in Washington DC and Yahoo! Maktoob Research among respondents from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
The aim of the poll was to reveal the Arab world’s reaction to US administration’s new approach towards the Middle East, focusing on economic cooperation rather than on foreign policy.
The Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit held end of April 2010 in Washington DC and initiated by President Obama brought together more than 200 entrepreneurs of the Muslim world, as well as America, to encourage innovation and growth in Muslim countries, and to discuss possibilities of enhancing economic cooperation and best-practice exchange in the field of entrepreneurship.
The survey showed that 62 percent of the respondents were aware of Obama’s speech to enhance dialogue with Muslim entrepreneurs, with the highest awareness of America’s activities towards the Middle East among men (compared to women) and Egyptians (compared to the other countries).
The summit concretized Obama’s promises during his Cairo speech in June 2009, advertising it as a new beginning in relations between the United States and the Muslim world. Hillary Clinton concluded her closing speech, saying: “This summit reflects a new approach to foreign policy, one that we have been putting into practice through partnerships based on shared values, mutual respect, and mutual responsibility.”
By the end of the conference, the American administration announced some projects in order to concretize the promises and to enhance private-public partnerships, increase funding opportunities and create training and networking programs for entrepreneurs.
But the majority of the respondents to the poll – not among the privileged that were present at the Washington summit – do not seem to easily overcome the US foreign policy’s bitter aftertaste of the last decade and are less enthusiastic in embracing this new economic cooperation.
Eighty-two percent of the respondents cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important issue for the United States to address in order to prove its commitment to improving relations with individual citizens in the Muslim world – and not economic cooperation.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is followed by democracy and justice in the Muslim world, with 40 percent citing it the most important issue to address, 37 percent cited the war in Iraq followed by 29 percent citing, 27 percent citing nuclear proliferation, 24 percent citing economic development and employment as well as religious freedom and only three percent citing women’s rights.