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How America is earning respect abroad

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We have grown sadly used to hearing that the rest of the world, particularly the Islamic world, hates America. But here is some good news. It comes from hundreds of first-hand reports by participants in exhange programs under the American Councils for International Education. Here are samples from participants in some Islamic countries.

People from these countries who spend time in the United States under exchange programs not only prize the democratic culture they find here; more important, they typically go home bent on instilling the virtues of America in their own nations - like the teacher who exclaimed: "I was back in Turkmenistan! Back in my home country! I made up my mind to do whatever I could to make my country a better place to live" because "America inspired me and showed me what was possible."

Here are some similar examples of this good news from the predominantly Islamic region of the former Soviet Union, a crucial front in the war of ideas with autocracy and Islamic fundamentalism.

In Azerbaijan, a young woman declares, "My understanding of the meaning of life has totally changed" since she resided in the US. Surprisingly, she reports that this is partly because after experiencing America's "freedom of speech and belief and the respect for law and government ... I started to read the Koran and came to my religion and understanding of it only in the US, not in my country." At the same time, touched by "how the American people care about and help" others, she vowed to "do my best to have an open and big heart and help those who need it." Today she is a Muslim with democratic ideals who has thrown herself into the work of securing rights for children.

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