Islam and the West: Hopeful Indicators
BBC February 18, 2007
Most people believe common ground exists between the West and the Islamic world despite current global tensions, a BBC World Service poll has found.
In a survey of people in 27 countries, an average of 56% said they saw positive links between the cultures.
Yet 28% of respondents told questioners that violent conflict was inevitable.
Asked twice about the existing causes of friction, 52% said they were a result of political disputes and 58% said minority groups stoked tensions.
Only in one country, Nigeria, where Christian and Muslim groups often clash violently, did a majority of those polled (56%) cite religious and cultural differences between communities as the root cause of conflict.
Doug Miller, president of polling company Globescan, said the results suggested that the world was not heading towards an inevitable and wide-ranging "clash of civilisations".
"Most people feel this is about political power and interests, not religion and culture," he said.
He pointed to the polarisation of communities in Nigeria as a warning sign to others, but hailed the results from Lebanon, a country frequently caught up in conflicts.
Some 78% of Lebanese strongly believed West-East tensions were politically motivated, while 68% felt common ground could be found between the West and the Islamic world.
The BBC poll asked approximately 1,000 people in each of 27 countries three questions about their interpretation of the world they live in.
Most expressed the belief that ongoing clashes could be resolved without violent conflict.
Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, was the only nation where most people (51%) said violence was inevitable.
But the results showed that a significant minority of those polled appeared pessimistic about the future.
"There is clearly pessimism about the inevitability of events," Mr Miller added.
"But twice as many people believe common ground can be found. There are real opportunities for peacemakers here."
The most positive respondents came from Western nations, with 78% of Italians, 77% of Britons and 73% of Canadians saying it is possible to find common ground.
Many blamed intolerant minorities for fuelling disputes and disagreements.
Some 39% of all respondents said minorities on both sides were to blame.
Just 12% said mainly Muslim minorities were to blame, and only 7% pointed the finger at Western fringe groups.
VIEWS OF RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MUSLIM AND WESTERN CULTURES
Can find common ground Violent conflict inevitable
France 69% 23%
Germany 49% 39%
Great Britain 77% 15%
India 35% 24%
Indonesia 40% 51%
Italy 78% 14%
Kenya 46% 35%
Lebanon 68% 26%
Nigeria 53% 37%
Russia 49% 23%
Turkey 49% 29%
US 64% 31%
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Published: 2007/02/19 00:00:26 GMT