Survey: Muslim-Western tensions persist, although common concerns about extremism

According to the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey, a greater percentage of Western publics now see relations between themselves and Muslims as generally good compared with 2006. In contrast, Muslims in predominantly Muslim nations are as inclined to say relations are generally bad as they were five years ago. And, as in the past, Muslims express more unfavorable opinions about Christians than Americans or Europeans express about Muslims.

One note of agreement between Westerners and Muslims is that both believe Muslim nations should be more economically prosperous than they are today. But they gauge the problem quite differently. Muslim publics have an aggrieved view of the West – they blame Western policies for their own lack of prosperity. Across the Muslim publics surveyed, a median of 53% say U.S. and Western policies are one of the top two reasons why Muslim nations are not wealthier.

In contrast, few Americans or Western Europeans think the economic challenges facing Muslim countries are a result of Western policies. And although Westerners have become less likely over the last five years to say Islamic fundamentalism is a chief cause of economic problems in Muslim nations, they remain much more likely than Muslims to hold this view. However, both Muslims and Westerners believe corrupt governments and inadequate education in Muslim nations are at least partly responsible for the lack of prosperity.

Both Muslims and Westerners are concerned about Islamic extremism. More than two-thirds in Russia, Germany, Britain, the U.S. and France are worried about Islamic extremists in their country. But extremism is considered a threat in predominantly Muslim nations as well. More than seven-in-ten Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims are worried about Islamic extremists in their countries, as are most Muslims in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey. For Muslims, the most common concern about extremism is that it is violent.

Majority-Muslim Indonesia was the only ASEAN counry to be polled. Highlights, as announced by Pew, included:

  • A narrow majority of Indonesian Muslims (52%) gave Christians a favourable rating (Jews received only 9%, although this is double the positive opinion in any other Muslim country);
  • Since 2006, Indonesian Muslims have become more likely to associate positive traits with Westerners. Just 41% of Indonesian Muslims say relations are bad, down from 54% five years ago; 43% currently believe relations between Muslims are Westerners are good;
  • In Indonesia, more Muslims say that all religions are the same when it comes to violence (45%) than say some are more violent than others (23%).
  • Fewer than half of Muslims in Indonesia are concerned about Islamic extremism. About four-in-ten (42%) of Indonesian Muslims are at least somewhat concerned, while 51% are not concerned about Islamic extremism.

An extensive summary of the report with tables can be downloaded in pdf format here.