Foundation, NJ U. S. A
the Message Continues ... 4/107
Newsletter for July 2010
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American perception of Islam improving
By Shaahid Jaffer
A large majority of Americans (70%) believe that Muslims want
peace, according to a survey carried out by The Muslim West
Facts Project, a sister body of the Gallup Foundation.
Almost 2 out of 3 respondents said they felt no prejudice at
all toward Muslims, another encouraging statistic thrown up by
the survey, published January 21, which was part of a project to
find ways of increasing understanding between Muslims and the
rest of the American population. Still, the results weren’t all
positive, with only 42% feeling at least “somewhat favourable”
towards Islam, compared to 58% for Buddhism, 71% for Judaism and
a staggering 91% towards Christianity. Knowing a Muslim
personally, as half of respondents did, made no difference to
the level of prejudice a person felt.
Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center
for Muslim Studies, Dalia Mogahed, explained that “...one person
being nice enough could simply be explained as that person being
an exception. What really seems to impact one’s perception of a
group much more than knowing an individual is having a positive
opinion of that group’s distinguishing characteristic, which in
this case is their faith.”
Religious people have a positive impression of Islam with
those attending religious services at least once a week more
likely to claim they felt no prejudice towards Muslims. Mogahed
explained that people who are more religious generally consider
prejudice a moral evil and often have respect for the devout of
other faiths. Non-white respondents also felt less prejudice
towards Muslims and Islam than their white counterparts.
Researchers also found a link between anti-Semitism and
Islamophobia. Americans who felt “a great deal” of prejudice
against Jews were much more likely to feel the same about
Muslims, although the results could not explain why the two
prejudices are linked. Mogahed said bias against both faiths
should be studied together in order to understand the
phenomenon. “Groups working against the two types of prejudices
should perhaps form a closer alliance,” she said.
Public knowledge of Islam is also slowly increasing, but
still lags behind other major religions, with 37% of respondents
saying they knew at least “a little” about Islam, compared with
51% for Judaism and 94% for Christianity, but only 28% for
Perhaps resentment towards Islam is fuelled by the
unrelenting media negativity towards the faith, with
Mediatenor’s recently published figures for the last three years
showing a general trend where more than 60% of media coverage
regarding Islam is negative, with less than 10% positive.
Corresponding figures for Christianity show the majority of
reporting being neutral, with equally small amounts of negative
and positive coverage.
The survey ends with a series of recommendations, calling on
Muslim Americans to do more to teach others about their faith,
and build coalitions with “other minority groups and faith
institutions.” It also recommends that the Government “study and
track anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment together as
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