PARIS, June 22 — Non-Muslim Westerners and Muslims around the world have widely different views of world events, and each group tends to view the other as violent, intolerant, and lacking in respect for women, a new international survey of more than 14,000 people in 13 nations indicates.
In what the survey, part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project for 2006, called one of its most striking findings, majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey — Muslim countries with fairly strong ties to America — said, for example, that they did not believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The findings, illustrating the chasm in beliefs, follow another year of violence and tension centered around that divide. In the past 12 months, there have been terrorist bombings in London, riots in France by unemployed youths, many of them Muslim, a global uproar over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and no letup to the war in Iraq.
Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday.
The poll, by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, asked Muslims and non-Muslims about each other in 13 countries. In most, it found suspicion and contempt to be mostly mutual, but uncovered a significant mismatch in Britain.
The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year’s London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.
Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).
By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a “notable exception” in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims.
Across the board, Muslim attitudes in Britain more resembled public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe. And on the whole, British Muslims were more pessimistic than those in Germany, France and Spain about the feasibility of living in a modern society while remaining devout.
The Pew poll found that British Muslims are far more likely than their European counterparts to harbour conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks. Only 17% believed that Arabs were involved, compared with 48% in France.