Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pew on views concerning Muslims

The West's opinions on Muslims are tough to make sense of. A Pew Global Attitudes Survey recently probed the feelings of Muslims living both in the West and in the Middle East, as well as those of non-Muslim Westerners. Occidental liberalism seems to dictate an accomodating, welcoming view of Islamic immigrants, even as concerns about local Islamic communities is strong and growing. Germany, where a substantial Turkish population has existed for several decades, is the least amiable toward the Islamic Middle East.

A couple of the findings are bemusing. The percentage of people in the following countries who think continued immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing: Spain - 62%, France - 58%, Great Britain - 57%, Germany - 34%. This even though an overwhelming majority of people in each country are concerned about rising Islamic extremism. And more people in each of these countries believe an Islamic identity distinct from a national identity is growing: Spain - 46% (compared to 36% holding a contrary view), France - 68%, Britain - 69%, Germany - 72%. The public in these places that feel a Muslim identity is growing firmly believe that this trend is a bad thing: Spain - 82%, France - 87%, Britain - 59%, Germany - 83%.

So at least 38% of the Spanish, 59% of the French, 41% of the British, and 60% of the Germans feel that what is happening in the Muslim community in their home countries is a bad thing (assuming, likely in error, that all respondents ambivalent toward or disagreeing with the assertion that Islamic identity is growing at home approve of the way the Muslim community conducts itself in their home countries). Why the French anomaly? A majority feels continued Islamic immigration is good but a similar majority believes what is happening in the French Islamic community is bad.

Curiously, the Spanish and French publics had the least sympathy for the Islamic rioters in France last year (37% and 46% sympathized, respectively, compared to 62% in Britain and 64% in Germany) even as these countries are quite enthusiastic for more Islamic immigration. Is it national rivalry that causes two-thirds of Germans to feel for the Muslim rioters because they have to live in France even as most Germans don't want anymore immigration from the Muslim world?

While Westerners continue to think of themselves in terms of their national identity (an average of 62% of Christian Europeans and Americans think of themselves in this way), Muslims see themselves as Muslims first (an average of 65.5% among Muslims in Europe and 60% among Muslims in Islamic lands) and denizens of their various countries second.

Also of interest, the Muslim world clearly favors Iran over the US (in all places both in the Middle East and Europe that were surveyed felt this way with the exception of German Muslims, who slightly favored the US with 44% supporting the US and 40% supporting Iran), has an unfavorable opinion of Americans (in every place the question was asked), and by an even greater magnitude despises the war on terror instead of supporting it at a rate of 6-to-1 for Muslims in Britain, almost 4-to-1 for Muslims in France, 2-to-1 for Muslims in Germany, 7-to-1 for Muslims in Spain, 8-to-1 in Egypt, 5.5-to-1 in Turkey, 3-to-2 in Indonesia, 2-to-1 in Pakistan, and 4.5-to-1 in Jordan.

The campaign to win the hearts and minds isn't going well. It's time we stopped spilling blood and treaure trying to make it work, and instead divert that money into making alternative energy sources economically viable so Islamic opinion of the US becomes about as important as what Nairobians think of America.

(Clash of civilizations)

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