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Muslims and the US

A global poll released yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that the US-led war on terrorism isn't winning friends in the Muslim world, where friends are needed.

The survey of some 16,000 people in 20 countries found that since the US-led war in Iraq, "the bottom has fallen out [of] support for Americans in the Muslim world." Anger in the Muslim world has widened, too. Negative views of the US have drastically deepened in Nigeria and Indonesia, two large nations outside the Middle East with big Muslim populations.

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Many Muslims feel Islam is under greater attack, while some fear a US invasion. Yet they also feel closer to the US in sharing the belief that it's "necessary to believe in God to be moral" more than Europeans do.

Another convergence with the US is revealed in the poll's showing of a widespread appetite among Muslims for democratic values. People in most Muslim countries put an especially high premium on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, multiparty systems, and equal treatment under the law. Eleven countries with majority Muslim populations say Western-style democracy "can work here."

The need now is to take the things that the US has in common with the Muslim world and build on them. The president's meeting with Arab leaders this week in seeking a Palestinian-Israeli peace is a hopeful sign.

If the US and its allies can demonstrate equal treatment for people in the Middle East, that should go a long way toward healing the rifts this new poll highlights.