In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TWO NEW POLLS SHOW NEGATIVE IMAGE OF ISLAM IN U.S.
Islamic advocacy group says education key to improving perceptions
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/9/2006) – Two polls released today indicate that almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam and that one in four of those surveyed have “extreme” anti-Muslim views.
An independent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) shows that some one-fourth (23 to 27 percent) of Americans consistently believe stereotypes such as: “Muslims value life less than other people,” and “The Muslim religion teaches violence and hatred.” Those with the most negative attitudes toward Islam tended to be older, less-educated and politically conservative. (The results released today confirm those of a similar CAIR poll taken in 2004.)
CAIR’s survey also showed that only six percent of Americans have a positive first impression of Islam and Muslims, but that just two percent said they were “very knowledgeable” about Islam. Some 60 percent of respondents said they “are not very knowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable” about Islam. The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group says those figures demonstrate that education is the key to improving public perceptions of Islam.
A majority of the respondents in CAIR’s survey said they would change their views about Islam and Muslims if they perceived that: 1) Muslims condemn terrorism more strongly, 2) Muslims show more concern for issues important to ordinary Americans, 3) Muslims worked to improve the status of women, and 4) Muslims work to improve the image of America in the Muslim world.
A similar poll released today by the Washington Post and ABC News also found that one in four Americans “admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims.” That survey indicated that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam, a seven percent jump since the months following the 9/11 terror attacks. The Post-ABC poll also showed that the number of Americans who believe that Islam promotes violence has more than doubled since 2002.
The Post’s report on the poll findings quoted experts who say negative attitudes about Islam are “fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists.”
SEE: Negative Perception of Islam Increasing (Washington Post)
“The results of these polls indicate that there is a tremendous need for public education about Islam and the Muslim community’s stance on a number of issues,” said CAIR Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed. “While there seems to be a sizable minority of Americans who harbor extreme Islamophobic views, the majority has little knowledge of Islam and tends to base their perceptions on international events that do not reflect the daily reality experienced by the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.”
He noted that the poll results show that Muslims must do a better job of letting fellow Americans know what they are already doing to address public concerns.
Ahmed cited the many statements by CAIR and other American Muslim groups condemning terrorism of any kind, CAIR’s “Not in the Name of Islam” public service announcement campaign, efforts to increase the participation of Muslim women in American mosques, and repeated offers to help build bridges of understanding between the United States and the Islamic world.
He said CAIR has also launched a number of initiatives to educate ordinary Americans about Islam and Muslims, such as its “Explore the Life of Muhammad” campaign offering free DVDs or books about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, the “Explore the Quran” campaign in which Americans of all faiths may order a free copy of Islam’s revealed text and the recently concluded “Explore Islamic Civilization and Culture” campaign that distributed materials about Islam to more than 8,000 public libraries nationwide.
CAIR’s survey results were based on 1001 telephone interviews conducted by California-based Genesis Research Associates (http://www.genesisresearch.net) in November 2005. Margin of error for the poll (with 95 percent confidence) is +/-3.1 percent.
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices, chapters and affiliates nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail: email@example.com
NOTE: CAIR offers an e-mail list designed to be a journalist’s window to the American Muslim community. Subscribers to the list, called ISLAM-INFONET, receive news releases and other materials dealing with American Muslim positions on issues of importance to our society.
To SUBSCRIBE to ISLAM-INFONET, go to: http://cair.biglist.com/islam-infonet/