As a boy, I never hated America,” my father told me a few months after 9/11. “If anything, I wanted to be American. Americans had freedom and were wealthy.”

Both he and my mother, unbeknownst to each other, spent their pre-marriage days in the same American library in Lahore, Pakistan. Growing up, my mother loved the beautiful American books at the library, as well as the air conditioning – a rare delight in Pakistan. Peace Corps volunteers – young men and women – visited Pakistan then, too, with the optimism and energy all American youth have, inspiring young Muslims like my parents all over the world.

In truth, the Muslims of the world do not hate America or Americans. They actually love us! Many of them go through great hardship or economic loss – like my parents did – to become Americans and are among the most patriotic citizens of our country. A recent report by a congressional commission stated that Americans are well liked by Muslims and the American educational system, in particular, is greatly admired. Blue jeans – the quintessential American cultural symbol – are the most sought after item in the Islamic world, with DVDs of American movies a close second.

What is objected to, though, by Muslims is not Americans or American products but the policies implemented by American leaders. The same libraries that exposed my parents to the values of American culture are now closed. After the Cold War, these and other avenues to the Muslim world were terminated in budget cuts. By then, the United States had also reneged on a treaty it had signed with Pakistan during the Cold War. The treaty bound both parties to help each other in times of conflict. Throughout the Cold War, Pakistan held up its end of the bargain, dutifully providing airspace, military bases, even soldiers to help the United States fight the Soviet Union. Years later, when Pakistan asked the United States for help in a war with India, the United States claimed the treaty did not apply by construing the treaty language very narrowly.

Besides Pakistan, many of the world’s countries – including non-Muslim ones – can claim similar abandonment by an American administration or worse. In 1953, the CIA and British intelligence secretly ousted then Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq. Mossadeq was a national hero who was had been democratically elected several times to Iranian Parliament. The people of Iran were naturally outraged, and the unrest led to the Iranian Revolution and the reign of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who felt he was avenging U.S. interference with Iran’s domestic affairs.

What was Mossadeq’s offense that prompted a brutal overthrow by the United States and Britain? Upon his election in 1944, Mossadeq had tried to reclaim Iranian oil for Iran. The British actually had taken the oil rights in 1909 during the era of colonization and enjoyed extremely low oil costs. Mossadeq felt that the colonization period was now over and that the natural resources of Iran belonged to the Iranian people. Time Magazine named Mossadeq its “Man of the Year” in 1951. One would assume that Mossadeq’s policy would have been praised by the United States. Instead, the United States publicly denounced it and secretly overthrew him because of it. Nearly every Muslim in the world knows the story of Mossadeq’s downfall. The lesson is that freedom and self-rule is less important than America’s own interests.

Even today, the cost of gas is an issue in the upcoming presidential elections. In order to have cheap gas, we need to have a friendly regime in the countries that produce oil. If the regime were independent, we would have to pay top dollar for the oil. Although we clamor for promises of cheap gasoline, we will eventually pay the difference – not financially but in further losing the goodwill of the Muslims who live in oil-producing countries. While they would like to able to vote for their leaders, they instead have leaders the United States supports militarily, making it impossible for any movement of the people to rise up and claim their own autonomy. Perhaps it would be cheaper simply to pay full price for the gasoline now in order to gain a long-term sense of security.

Beyond Pakistan and Iran’s history with the United States, the entire Islamic world has suffered immensely from colonization by European powers. The British stole everything from priceless artifacts and jewels to Major Grey’s Chutney from India during colonization. When European forces left the colonies behind, they arbitrarily divided regions into countries, disregarding ethnic and geographic divisions. Some countries are practically doomed to permanent unrest simply because their borders were drawn hastily by diplomats who resided a world away. Many of the colonizers installed a parliamentary form of government before they left. The parliament system confused the locals left behind. Corruption and bribery ensued, frustrating hard working individuals, like my father, who had the means to leave. Others are not as lucky.

Although the United States is not to blame for colonization, it has, as today’s superpower, inherited the mantle of responsibility. The United States is the only country that can give aid to develop democracy and increase literacy. In fact, the United States already does provide a tremendous amount of aid to Islamic countries. As Americans though, we fail to promote the assistance we give. Muslims are left thinking that the United States only gives money to Israel, a false and dangerous perception, further widening the rift between America and the Islamic world.

We, as Americans, must not be dismayed though. America still stands for freedom, and we must never give up or allow our enemies to portray us as uncaring. The Islamic world is counting on us, if not to help them, then simply to inspire them as my parents once were. This past summer, in the heat of the same Lahore my parents grew up in, my brother, Ali, visited a ghetto neighborhood in the innermost part of the old city, filming video for his latest documentary. The third world “inner city” was more like an urban village, with its mud homes and storefronts.

“Are you American?” the children of the old walled city inhabitants asked Ali.

“Yes,” he said. A crush of children emerged from all corners of the neighborhood. They set upon my brother in waves – but not out of rage. They were genuinely elated that he was American. They crowded around him, jumping up and down, trying to touch him, each exhorting him to take their picture. These young boys and girls, like my own father, did not hate the American they met. To them, he was a smiling and walking monument to freedom, his video camera a symbol of wealth they could attain, too, someday. We should all hope that they do.

Asma Gull Hasan, a Pueblo native, is the author of the new book “Why I Am A Muslim: An American Odyssey” (Thorsons/Element 2004). Her Web site is