Most people believe, common ground exists between the West and the Islamic world despite current global tensions, a new BBC World Service poll suggests. In a survey of people in 27 countries, an average of 56 percent said they saw positive links between the cultures. Yet, 28 percent of respondents told questioners that violent conflict was inevitable. Asked twice about the existing causes of friction, 52 percent said they were a result of political disputes and 58 percent said minority groups stoked tensions. Only in one country, Nigeria, where Christian and Muslim groups often clash violently, did a majority of those polled (56 percent) cite religious and cultural differences between communities as the root cause of conflict.
Doug Miller, president of the polling company Globescan, said the results suggested that the world was not heading towards an inevitable and wide-ranging “clash of civilizations”. “Most people feel this is about political power and interests, not religion and culture,” he said. He pointed to the polarization of communities in Nigeria as a warning sign to others, but hailed the results from Lebanon, a country frequently caught up in conflicts.
Some 78 percent of Lebanese strongly believed West-East tensions were politically motivated, while 68 percent felt common ground could be found between the West and the Islamic world. The poll asked approximately 1,000 people in each of the 27 countries three questions about their interpretation of the world they live in. Most expressed the belief that ongoing clashes could be resolved without violent conflict.
Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, was the only nation where most people (51 percent) said violence was inevitable. But the results showed that a significant minority of those polled appeared pessimistic about the future. “There is clearly pessimism about the inevitability of events,” Miller added. “But twice as many people believe common ground can be found. There are real opportunities for peacemakers here.”
The most positive respondents came from Western nations, with 78 percent of Italians, 77 percent of Britons and 73 percent of Canadians saying it is possible to find common ground. Many blamed intolerant minorities for fuelling disputes and disagreements. Some 39 percent of all respondents said minorities on both sides were to blame. Just 12 percent said mainly Muslim minorities were to blame, and only 7 percent pointed the finger at Western fringe groups.
(Doug Miller, President Globe-Scan Incorporated, London)