The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other
The world views of Muslims and Westerners in many respects are mirror images, according to the results of a major new survey, which suggests that European Muslims, who held the most tolerant views, could be a bridge between the two groups.
“Many in the West see Muslims as fanatical, violent and lacking tolerance,” according to an analysis of the survey by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project. “Muslims in the Middle East and Asia generally see Westerners as selfish, immoral and greedy as well as violent and fanatical.”
But the survey also found that was less true among European Muslims. “In many ways, the views of Europe’s Muslims represent a middle ground between the way Western publics and Muslims in the Middle East and Asia view each other,” it said.
The survey and analysis, which were released by Pew in Washington last month found that positive views held by Muslims of Osama bin Laden and terror tactics associated with him have declined over the past year, in Pakistan and Jordan.
At the same time, the percentage of Muslims who believe that Arabs did not carry out the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon has increased. Majority in Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan and among the Muslim community in Britain doubt that Arabs had any role.
The survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project which was conducted in 13 countries, including the United States, from March 31-May 14, 2006 found that negative views of Muslims had become pronounced in Germany and Spain, where only 36% and 29% of respondents, respectively, expressed favour-able opinions of Muslims. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of French and British citizens said they had favourable views of Muslims.
Interestingly, British and French respondents were the most upbeat as well about the prospects for democracy in Muslim countries. Six in 10 respondents in France and Britain said democracy could work well there, while only 49% of US citizens and an average of four in 10 Spanish and Germans agreed. More than 60% of Indonesians and Jordanians said they had favourable views of Christians, followed by 48% of Egyptians. But only about one-quarter of Pakistanis described their views as favourable.
By contrast, Muslims living in Europe were much more positive about Christians, one of a number of indications in the survey that European Muslims are not only considerably less alienated from the societies in which they reside, but also that they could act as a moderating force in the Muslim-Western divide. Of all Muslim populations surveyed, French Muslims were by far the most positive towards Jews - 71% said they had favourable opinions, roughly twice the percentage of Muslims in Britain, Germany and Spain.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world, views of Jews were far more negative: in Indonesia, 17% of respondents said they had favourable opinions; in Turkey, 15%; in Pakistan 6%; and Egypt and Jordan, only 2% and 1%, respectively.
As to relations between Muslims and Westerners, majority in 10 out of 12 countries described them as “generally bad”. In Europe, the most negative views were found in Germany (70% said “generally bad”) and France (66%). Fifty-five percent of US respondents described it the same way.
The Pew analysis concluded that Muslims held an aggrieved view of the West. (Full report at www.pewglobal.org)