A “great divide” separates the worldviews of Muslims and Westerners, 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 as 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, which was carried out in 13 countries from the beginning of April until mid-May, found that negative views of Muslims have become especially pronounced in Germany and Spain, where only 36 percent and 29 percent of respondents, respectively, expressed favorable opinions of Muslims. Both marked major declines from the last Pew poll one year ago.
By contrast, nearly two-thirds of French and British citizens said they had favorable views of Muslims. Fifty-six percent of Russians agreed with that opinion, as did 54 percent of U.S. respondents.
But only about one in four Pakistanis described their views as favorable, while only about one in seven Turks agreed, a possible reflection of growing anti-European and anti-U.S. opinion resulting from negotiations over Turkey’s admission to the European Union and the popular anger there against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The Pew analysis concluded that Muslims hold “an aggrieved view of the West – they are much more likely than Americans or Western Europeans to blame Western policies for their own lack of prosperity. For their part, Western publics instead point to government corruption, lack of education, and Islamic fundamentalism as the biggest obstacles to Muslim prosperity.”
Thus, Muslims, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, tended to blame the controversy over the Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammed earlier this year on Western disrespect for Islam. Majorities in the U.S. and Europe, on the other hand, blamed the crisis on Muslim intolerance.
In many respects, the two groups hold mirror images, however. When asked to choose among a list of negative traits Muslim and non-Muslim respondents saw in the other group, the survey found that Muslims in the Middle East and Asia – often by large majorities – generally view Westerns as selfish, arrogant, and violent. European Muslims, particularly those in France and Spain, however, tended to be far less damning about the traits of non-Muslims than in predominantly Muslim countries.