Muslim-Western suspicions remain on both sides

AP News
Posted: Jul 21, 2011 7:29 PM
Muslim-Western suspicions remain on both sides

Attitudes about Muslim-Western relations have become slightly more positive in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Russia compared with five years ago, though negative views between Muslim countries and the West persist on both sides, a Pew Research Center survey found.

The survey, by Pew'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 of the six Western countries surveyed, fewer than 30 percent of non-Muslims said they consider Muslims respectful of women.

Ten years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia and non-Muslims, both have concern 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 in the last five years.

Westerners are less likely to believe relations are poor today than they were five years ago.

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 U.S. and Britain held this view. In Russia, fewer than four in 10 said relations were bad.

Both sides tend to blame the other for those bad relations, but more than a quarter of those in the U.S., 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 attorney who is writing a book about Muslims post-Osama bin Laden.

"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," Iftikhar said.

Negative views among Muslims reflect a "nosedive" of their expectations after President Barack Obama pledged to improve U.S.-Muslim relations during a speech in Cairo last year, said John Esposito, founder of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center 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," Esposito said. He cited the continued detentions at Guantanamo Bay, 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 Pew survey found people in Spain held the most negative attitudes among countries in Western Europe and the U.S. toward Muslims, even though there was slight improvement compared with five years ago. Just over a third of survey respondents in Spain had favorable opinions of Muslims and more than half expressed negative views.

Majorities of Muslims in most of those countries say people in the U.S., Western Europe and Russia are immoral, greedy, violent and selfish and more than half in most of those countries associate fanaticism and arrogance with Westerners. Substantial minorities of Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries said Westerners in those countries are honest, tolerant or generous. Fewer than half of Muslims in five of the predominantly Muslim countries say Westerners are respectful of women.

Muslims were included in the interviews in the Western countries, but were filtered out in the questions about traits associated with Muslims.

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. Results were subject to margins of error ranging from 3.5 percentage points for results from Britain and France to 5 percentage points in Israel.



Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Project:


Suzanne Gamboa can be reached at