Obama’s Muslim Engagement: Still a Long Way to Go

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A couple of weeks ago I looked back on Barack Obama’s heralded address to the Muslim world in Cairo last June, and found little evidence that the president’s “new beginning” had done much to improve America’s standing in those nations. Now comes more downbeat data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. While opinions of Obama still run high around the world, especially in Western Europe, views of the U.S. as a whole are still mixed to poor–particularly among majority-Muslim countries:

Publics of other largely Muslim countries continue to hold overwhelmingly negative views of the U.S. In both Turkey and Pakistan – where ratings for the U.S. have been consistently low in recent years – only 17% hold a positive opinion. Indeed, the new poll finds opinion of the U.S. slipping in some Muslim countries where opinion had edged up in 2009. In Egypt, America’s favorability rating dropped from 27% to 17% – the lowest percentage observed in any of the Pew Global Attitudes surveys conducted in that country since 2006.

Not that this should come as a shock. Whatever good intentions Obama may have, the reality is that many of the substantive American policies that have enraged Muslims around the world are still in effect–from the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan to the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay to drone missile strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other places. Obama warned in Cairo that repairing America’s image wouldn’t be easy, and unfortunately he was entirely right.