Negative American views about Islam ‘worrying’

Attitudes towards Arabs, Muslims and Islam in the US are troubling and have not been improving over the last few years, Arab-American academic Dr Samer S. Shehata has stated, quoting results of a number of opinion polls conducted in the US. “A high percentage of Americans hold negative attitudes toward Islam, and many Americans believe that Islam – more than other religions – encourages violence,” he told Gulf Times.

An Assistant Professor of Arab Politics at the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies in the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University, Washington DC, Dr Shehata had given a presentation on Thursday at the inaugural symposium of SFS in Qatar.

“Americans are generally more willing to impose extra security measures on Arab and Muslim-Americans and limit Arab and Muslim immigration into the US,” he explained.

The academic pointed out that although survey data about American attitudes towards Arabs, Muslims and Islam before September 11, 2001, is not readily available, one could reasonably assume that there has been a significant increase in negative feelings toward these groups and religion since 9/11.

According to the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press, attitudes toward Islam have been holding relatively stable during the last three years with about 33-36% of respondents saying they hold unfavourable attitudes towards Islam compared with 38-40% who hold favourable attitudes toward the religion. Pew is a highly respected and non-partisan research organisation that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

Other polling has produced slightly more troubling findings. According to the Washington Post/ABC News polls, the percentage of Americans who hold unfavourable views of Islam has risen over the last three years.

Gulf Times, 15 April 2006

A useful summary of polls testing US opinion about Islam, though it omits this recent CBS poll, which found that 45% of Americans hold negative views of Islam, confirming the result of an ABC poll in March.