In the past few years, people in the US and UK have been horrified to discover that many of the terrorists in their midst are "home grown," that is, citizens of their countries who have embraced a radical version of Islam. What’s causing this? A new study suggests that residents of the Middle East who are heavy viewers of Arab television news networks like Al Jazeera are more likely to view their primary identity as that of Muslims, rather than as citizens of their own country.
Researcher Erik Nisbet says, "The goal of these relatively new networks is not to represent specific national interests, but to appeal to audiences across the region. They tap into the idea that all viewers are connected through a Muslim or Arab identity." This is particularly significant because other research suggests that Arabs who identify themselves primarily as Muslim have a more unfavorable view of the United States than are those who see themselves chiefly as citizens of their country. Nisbet found that the more days a week that participants said they viewed Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya, the more likely they were to claim "Muslim" as their main political identity, rather than their national identity. "If there’s a growing transnational Muslim identity, the United States will have to reevaluate traditional foreign policy strategies that are currently based on dealing with individual countries," Nisbet says. "It will make diplomacy more complex."
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