WASHINGTON – Many people in the West see Muslims as fanatical,violent and lacking tolerance for them. Meanwhile,Muslims in the Middle East and Asia see Westerners as selfish,immoral and greedy,as well as violent and fanatical.
These are two realities uncovered by a Pew Global Attitudes Project survey released Thursday at a press conference,“Islam and the west: a great divide?”
This project is one of six that make up the Pew research Center,and it provides information on the issues and the attitudes shaping the United States and the world. Its objective is to show how Westerners and Muslims view each other.
Andrew Kohut,president of the Pew Research Center,joined Pew Global Attitudes Project co-chairs former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S senator John Danforth to discuss the results.
“The main issues are the complete and very large misunderstanding between the different communities,and there are different ideas between different Muslims,” Albright said.
The survey found that the views of Europe's Muslim are more moderate. They have favorable opinions of Christians and more positive views of Jews than other Muslims,rising to a 71 percent favorable view of Jews by French Muslims. British Muslims' views more closely resemble views of Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries.
Albright also said that those Muslims have an important role to play to moderate other Muslims' opinions.
The chasm between Muslims and the West is also seen in judgments about how the other civilization treats women,according to the survey.
Asked if Muslims are “respectful of women,” 83 percent of non-Muslims in Spain said no. Germany was next,at 80 percent,followed by France at 77 percent and the U.S. at 69 percent.
But many Muslims surveyed said the same thing about people in the West. In Spain,82 percent said Westerners are respectful of women. In France and Germany,more than 70 percent said yes,but the numbers fell to less than half in Great Britain,Turkey,Egypt,Indonesia and Jordan. Pakistan was at the bottom of the list,with 22 percent saying Westerners respected women.
A rare point of agreement between Westerners and Muslims is that both believe that Muslim nations should be more economically prosperous than they are today,the study found.
The survey also shows that America's image has slipped,but allies share U.S. concerns over Iran and Hamas. Kohut said that support for the war on terrorism has declined,even among close U.S. allies such as Japan.
In Great Britain,56 percent of both the Muslim and non-Muslim population have favorable opinions of the U.S.,down from 75 percent in 2002. In Turkey,by contrast,just 12 percent have favorable opinions of the U.S.,down from 52 percent in 2000.
The survey explains that the war in Iraq is a continuing drag on opinions of the United States,not only in predominately Muslim countries but also in Europe and Asia.
The survey clarifies that,despite growing concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions,the U.S presence in Iraq is cited at least as often as Iran's policies as a danger to world peace.
“We have to engage to understand the misunderstanding with Muslims. The more we know each other,the better we are,” Danforth said.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project is a series of worldwide public opinion surveys that encompasses a broad array of subjects,from people's assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. More than 100,000 interviews in 50 countries have been conducted as part of the project's work.
This survey was conduced in 15 countries,including the United States,from March 31 to May 14. It includes special over samples of Muslim minorities living in Great Britain,France,Germany and Spain. Princeton Survey Research Associates Inc. conducted telephone or face-to-face interviews. The margin of error varies by country,from plus or minus 6 percentage points in Great Britain and Germany to as low as 2 percentage points in China and India,although in both of those countries,few rural residents were surveyed.
For more details on “Islam and the west: a great divide?” go to http://www.pewglobal.org