Friday, March 10, 2006


What we think of Islam

Yesterday's Washington Post reports the results of a recent poll that shows that Americans' negative perception of Islam is increasing:

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.The poll found that nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.
The article goes on to say this:
One in four Americans admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims, the same proportion that expressed some personal bias against Arabs.
and, of a school bus driver in Chicago:
But his good feelings do not extend to Islam. "I don't mean to sound harsh or anything, but I don't like what the Muslim people believe in, according to the Koran. Because I think they preach hate," he said.

This sort of thing scares me. When Catholic IRA members would bomb a pub in Northern Ireland, no one said that Catholicism promotes violence. When fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion activists would bomb an clinic or shoot a doctor, no one said that Christians are prone to violence. We are, when we want to be, able to separate the actions of a few from the beliefs of the vast majority. And yet in this case, we don't. I have to conclude that it's because we don't want to.

I think we don't understand Islam, and we fear what we don't understand, and come to quick, and often unfair and inaccurate conclusions. The Koran does not preach hate, nor do most Muslim leaders. I know a good number of Muslims. Some are friends, some are co-workers, some are just people I encounter from time to time. I'm very fond of some, while there are others whom I don't like very much. None are any more likely to hurt anyone than are you or I. All whom I've talked with about it deplore the actions of those who do harm.

As we fight terrorism, we must also fight prejudice, misunderstanding, and faulty conclusions. If we don't, we'll destroy our own society without further help from anyone else. And the Washington Post's article even gives us a good place to start in correcting this issue:

Conservative and liberal experts said Americans' attitudes about Islam are fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists.

The message is supported by our leadership and our communications media. Change it there, and public opinion will follow. Let's demand better from them, and effect a change.

Villager, angrily:  An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
Tevye:  Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.

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