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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Polling Data on Views of Muslims

Date: September 24, 2002

Event Recap

On September 24th Richard Burkholder, head of international research at Gallup, delivered a presentation based on an extensive survey Gallup International had conducted in nine Muslim countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Jordan. Among other topics, Muslims were interviewed on their views of the U.S. after the September 11th bombing. Surprisingly, with the exception of Turkey (43%), the majority of people in these countries did not believe the news reports that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Although there was no consensus as to who might have been responsible, many believed that the USA itself, Jews/Israel, or non-Muslim terrorists may have been responsible.

Overall, the Gallup report showed a surprisingly wide gap in the worldview of Americans and those in Muslim countries on religious, moral, and political issues. The majority of Muslims, again with the exception of Turkey (35%), found the US military action in Afghanistan to be morally unjustifiable. Generally less than 1/3 of the populations in these countries felt that western societies showed great concern for the Islamic/Arabic world and were not hopeful that a better understanding between western and Islamic worlds would ever occur. The discouraging view Muslims have of America was in sharp contrast to the positive view Americans appear to have of Muslim Americans according to a survey conducted after 9/11 by the Pew Center for Religion and the Press.

In these polls, presented by Andrew Kohut, the Director of the Pew Center, 54% of Americans who were surveyed have a favorable view of Muslim-Americans. While Kohut admitted that this attitude has eroded somewhat overtime, the poll data did serve as a counter weight to the many reports the scholars had heard about the persecution of Muslims in America after 9/11. “After the attacks of 9/11, one question my students frequently asked was ‘Why do they hate us?’ I think the Gallup poll is a sobering reality check, and shows that while many Muslims may like Americans as individuals, collectively they may see us as arrogant and ill-informed” commented assistant director Patricia Chang. More information on the Gallup and Pew polls can be viewed on their websites www.gallup.com and www.pewforum.org.