Thursday, October 24, 2013

What money cannot buy long term: Saudi Arabia’s Image Falters among Middle East Neighbors

    Thursday, October 24, 2013   No comments

Each year, the world is reminded of Saudi Arabia’s influential status as the birthplace of Islam, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims from across the globe make the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to the city of Mecca. Perhaps owing to its pivotal role within the Islamic faith, Saudi Arabia tends to be viewed favorably in countries that are home to large or majority-Muslim populations.

However, a Pew Research Center survey reveals that Saudi Arabia’s standing has slipped substantially among key Middle Eastern publics, including in Lebanon
where favorable opinion has plummeted 31 percentage points since 2007. In contrast, opinion of Saudi Arabia has not soured in other predominately Muslim countries outside of the region.

The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s worsening image in the Middle East are likely multiple. Criticism of the influence the Saudis wield in the Middle East is significant in Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey. And substantial disapproval of the Saudi government’s track record on protecting the personal freedoms of its citizens is evident in Turkey, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia, as it is in much of the world.

Saudi Arabia is viewed favorably in many countries outside the Middle East where Muslims make up a substantial percentage, if not a majority, of the population. In Pakistan, for example, 95% express a favorable opinion of the Saudi kingdom, while six-in-ten or more in Indonesia, Senegal and Malaysia share this view. However, among its Muslim neighbors, opinions of Saudi Arabia are more varied. Only in Jordan and Egypt is opinion of the desert kingdom overwhelmingly positive (88% and 78%, respectively). Elsewhere in the Middle East, views are mixed or even decidedly negative, as in the case of Turkey (26% favorable vs. 53% unfavorable).



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