Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Muslim-West animosity persists

Ten years after the September 11 attacks, both Muslims and non-Muslims continue to express worries about Islamic extremism

Attitudes about Muslim-Western relations have become slightly more positive in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia compared with five years ago, but negative views persist on both sides, a survey has shown.

The survey, by US-based Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project, found majorities of Muslims surveyed in five of six Muslim-dominant countries and the Palestinian territories described non-Muslim Westerners as selfish and greedy.

In all six Western countries surveyed, fewer than 30% of non-Muslims said they considered Muslims respectful of women, while ten years after the September 11 attacks, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia and non-Muslims, all have worries about Islamic extremism.

Majorities of Muslims interviewed in most of the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed were inclined to say relations with people in Western countries are bad. There has been no overall improvement in those views in the predominantly Muslim nations during the past five years.

Among Western nations, France, Germany and Spain were the most likely to hold negative views of relations between Western nations and Muslims, with about six in 10 holding that view. About half in the US and Britain held this view. In Russia, fewer than four in 10 said relations were bad.

Both sides tend to blame the other for bad relations, but more than a quarter of those in the US, Britain and France who say relations are bad blame the West.

Pew's survey shows significant mistrust remains between the average person on the "Muslim street" and the general public in Western nations, said Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer who is writing a book about Muslims in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death. "Both Westerners and Muslims alike tend to point the proverbial finger at the 'other' in order to not fully accept responsibility for their own societal shortcomings," Mr Iftikhar said.

Negative views among Muslims reflect a "nosedive" of their expectations after President Barack Obama pledged to improve US-Muslim relations during a speech in Cairo last year, said John Esposito, founder of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington.

"People don't see a difference on a number of critical points between the Obama and Bush administrations," Mr Esposito said. He cited the continued detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prosecution of detainees in military courts, the administration's position on Israel and its hesitance to back demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt this year.

The survey was conducted between late March and mid-May. Sample sizes ranged from 825 in the Palestinian territories to 1,251 in Pakistan, but were generally around 1,000 people interviewed either in person or by telephone.

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