Correction to This Article
A March 9 article incorrectly said that the Bush administration was attempting to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of U.S. ports. The issue is the administration's initial approval of an Arab company's purchase of another company that is managing operations at the ports.

Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Claudia Deane and Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 9, 2006

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 survey comes at a time of increasing tension; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show little sign of ending, and members of Congress are seeking to block the Bush administration's attempt to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of the nation's ports. Also, Americans are reading news of deadly protests by Muslims over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

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.

According to the poll, the proportion of Americans who believe that Islam helps to stoke violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled since the attacks, from 14 percent in January 2002 to 33 percent today.

The survey also found that one in three Americans have heard prejudiced comments about Muslims lately. In a separate question, slightly more (43 percent) reported having heard negative remarks about Arabs. One in four Americans admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims, the same proportion that expressed some personal bias against Arabs.

Though the two groups are often linked in popular discourse, most of the world's Muslims are not of Arab descent. For example, the country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia.

As a school bus driver in Chicago, Gary McCord, 65, dealt with many children of Arab descent. "Some of the best families I've ever had were some of my Muslim families," he said in a follow-up interview. "They were so nice to me." He now works for a Palestinian Christian family, whose members he says are "really marvelous."

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.

As for the controversial cartoons of Muhammad, he said Arabs seem hypersensitive about religion. "I think it's been blown out of proportion," he said.

Frederick Cole, a welder in Roosevelt, Utah, acknowledged: "As far as being prejudiced against them, I'd have to say maybe a little bit. If I were to go through an airport and I saw one out of the corner of my eye, I'd say, 'I wonder what he's thinking.' " Still, Cole, 30, said, "I don't think the religion is based on just wanting to terrorize people."

A total of 1,000 randomly selected Americans were interviewed March 2-5 for this Post-ABC News poll. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus three percentage points.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity