63% of Americans know little of Muslims; 50% don't like them

Voice of America gets us rolling:

Two-thirds of Americans say they have little or no knowledge of Islam. But a new survey finds that more than half of Americans have an unfavorable view of the faith, with nearly as many people expressing negative feelings toward its followers.

Bloomberg News advances the story:

Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup center, said that, while other religious extremists are portrayed as being outside the mainstream, Islamic terrorists are described as representatives of their religion.

"Where a deranged person of a certain faith commits a crime in the name of their faith, we look at these incidents as someone misinterpreting faith," Mogahed said. "When a terrorist commits an act of violence in the name of Islam, it is often times framed as being devoted to the faith rather than being deviant."

And The Washington Post picks up on an interesting correlation:

In the Gallup poll, respondents who said they feel "a great deal" of prejudice toward Jews are very likely to report feeling the same level of bias toward Muslims.

The full report of the Gallup poll results is available at the Muslim West Project. There you'll find more about the correlation referred to above: "Respondents who say they feel 'a great deal' of prejudice — or extreme prejudice — toward Jews are about 32 times as likely [than those without that prejudice] to report feeling 'a great deal' of prejudice toward Muslims." Further, "Those who report feeling no prejudice toward Jews are more than 11 times as likely to feel the same about Muslims. Although, to a lesser degree, the same pattern is evident in attitudes toward Christians. Those who report no prejudice toward Christians are more than four times as likely to also report no prejudice toward Muslims." And evangelical Christians were 1.4 times more likely than the general population to report prejudice toward Muslims.

The Pew Forum has also studied the issue of American attitudes about Muslims.

Comments (2)

It's always important to know the source of a poll. The agenda of the Muslim West Project is to foster understanding. That's a worthy agenda, but one wonders if it biased the design of the poll, the way the results are presented or which results are revealed.

It's curious that those with less the high school education are less prejudiced. This may point to something the report takes pains to make clear -- these are after all self-reported prejudices. Are those with college educations more circumspect about revealing their true feelings?

Other doubts I have delve into the interpretation of the questions that the (American) respondents may have put on the questions. When asked about Christians, they may have thought about American Christians. When asked about Muslims they may have very naturally thought about Muslims they know through TV in other countries -- and very often those are not representative of Muslims as a whole.

The report asks about equal rights for men and women. It reports that in this poll of Americans most do not believe Muslims believe in equal rights for men and women. But the report says that when Muslims around the world are asked about equal rights for women strong majorities say they believe in them.

It's just my assessment, but my sense is that the two groups have very different views of "equal rights." Muslims around the world are, I think, answering what most of us think is a different question which is: are women separate but equal (or even superior in treatment) to men.

Finally, it would be interesting to see levels of self reported prejudice towards evangelical Christians, mainstream Christians, Catholics, (not to mention Mormons, Scientologists, etc.). All, I suspect, would have higher levels of prejudice than the generic Christian category.

And evangelical Christians were 1.4 times more likely than the general population to report prejudice toward Muslims.

I'm shocked, shocked! (Not.)

My only question: how does that "1.4 times" compare to evangelical Christian prejudice toward progressive LGBT Christians? Higher or lower?

JC Fisher

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