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.