Tuesday 22 January 2008

Europeans circumspect about benefits of interaction between Muslim and Western Worlds

A report "Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue" presented at the 38th World Economic Forum (Davos) found that Europeans are more circumspect than Americans and Israelis about the benefits of "interaction between Muslim and Western worlds":

"… majorities in the United States (70%) and Canada (72%) say greater interaction is a benefit. Majorities in Singapore (77%) and Israel (56%), both nations with majority-Muslim neighbours as well as significant Muslim minorities themselves, also believe that greater interaction between Muslim and Western societies is a benefit, not a threat.

In sharp contrast, clear majorities in all European countries surveyed - including Denmark (79%), Italy (67%), the Netherlands (67%), Spain (68%), Sweden (65%) and Belgium (59%) - see greater interaction between the West and the Muslim world as a threat. This reflects a growing fear among Europeans – driven in part by rising immigration from predominantly Muslim regions - of a perceived "Islamic threat" to their cultural identities. A recent poll found that only 21% of Europeans supported Turkey’s bid to become an EU member, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful presidential campaign in France included strong opposition to Turkish membership.

A 2006 poll found that the main reason Germans opposed Turkey’s membership was "fear of a growing influence of Islam in Europe"…"

This survey should be compared to the one carried out in 2003 by the European Commission which revealed that 60% Europeans believed that Israel poses the greatest threat to world peace.

What are the grounds for such pessimism among Europeans - whereas Americans, victims of 9/11, and Israelis, victims of human bombs, are much more optimistic and positive about relations with the Muslim World? Where is the logic for feeling threatened both by the Muslim World and by Israel? Not to mention the widespread antipathy felt for the U.S. If the media and opinion-makers did their job properly, Europeans would have a much better understanding of the world around them and feel less threatened.

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