This is quite disturbing:
A 2006 Gallup survey of American public opinion found that “many Americans harbour strong bias against U.S. Muslims”.
- 22% say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour.
- 34% believe U.S. Muslims support al-Qaeda.
- Only 49% believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States.
- 39% advocate that U.S. Muslims should carry special ID
The fact that such a large percentage of the population harbours resentment against Muslims may explain much of America’s aggressive Middle East policy from Israel to Iraq. It’s a lot easier to play with the lives of millions of people if you don’t think of them as civilised human beings, but terrorist supporters.
This appears to be consistent with other studies:
The Media and Society Research Group of Cornell University conducted a survey in November of Americans with respect to their attitudes towards Muslims. Nearly half (44%) of respondents favoured restricting the civil rights of Muslims in some way.
Such attitudes often stem from ignorance. It is exceedingly easy to dehumanise a race/religion/culture if you know nothing about them:
A survey commissioned and published by National Geographic shows that a large majority of young Americans between the age of 18–24 are geographically illiterate.
Less than 15% of the subjects could locate Iraq or Israel on a map. Only 17% could locate Afghanistan, even though the survey was carried out after the war. 11% could not locate the U.S. on a map.
Now, I am not posting this to pick on Americans. In fact, I feel that at least to some extent these results also apply to Australia and other Western countries (e.g. the UK). We like to think of ourselves as ‘enlightened’ societies, yet the ignorance many people appear to exhibit is astounding. There is much in the way of misinformation and FUD being spread around, intentional and otherwise. The solution, I feel, is education. For instance, I bet that the average Australian knows very little about Islam: its beliefs, its history and the cultures surrounding it. It is all to easy to judge people and events by our own values, the principles by which we were raised. People need to understand that what may look like ‘common sense’ to them is in fact a cultural construct, and that other cultures may see things differently. This diversity is what makes the world interesting, and this abundance of different views is what has propelled human development since the very beginning.
Those who like to argue that Islam is a backwards religion or that its people celebrate an anachronistic culture ought to investigate the 1001 Inventions Web site:
A unique UK based educational project that reveals the rich heritage that the Muslim community share with other communities in the UK and Europe.
1001 Inventions is a non-religious and non-political project seeking to allow the positive aspects of progress in science and technology to act as a bridge in understanding the interdependence of communities throughout human history.
Pia has very eloquently indicated the divide between religion and culture, and in doing so I feel she has demonstrated how truly close many world religions are in their core beliefs and values.