New polls show negative perception of Islam

The first time Glenn Koehler can remember learning about Muslims and the Islamic faith was in September 1972, when a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September murdered 11 Israeli hostages during the Olympics in Munich, Germany. “Then the second was Sept. 11,” Koehler said. “So there’s really been no pleasant introductions.”

Koehler is a 58-year-old Fremont engineer. He describes himself as a Lutheran, politically conservative and a registered Republican who receives much of his news from the Drudge Report, Michael Savage and the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal advocacy group for Christian rights. He does not have Muslim friends, and he says he agrees with the statements that Muslims teach their children to hate unbelievers, Muslims value life less than other people and Islam teaches violence and hatred.

Koehler is not alone. Two polls released last week indicate almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam, and one in four of those surveyed have extreme anti-Muslim views.

An independent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations shows 23 to 27 percent of all Americans believe Muslims value life less than other people and that Islam teaches violence and hatred. The survey also showed only 6 percent of Americans have a positive first impression of Islam and Muslims. A similar poll released by the Washington Post and ABC News found that one in four Americans “admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims,” and 46 percent had a negative view of Islam, a 7 percent jump since the months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

When asked to respond to the open-ended question, “When you hear the word ‘Muslim,’ what is the first thought that comes to your mind?” Koehler said: “Religion of death.”

The Argus, 13 March 2006