Muslim-Western Tensions – British Experiences

‘Muslim and Western publics continue to see relations between them as generally bad, with both sides holding negative stereotypes of the other.’ However, there has been ‘somewhat of a thaw in the U.S. and Europe compared with five years ago’.

This is according to the latest findings from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, released on 21 July. It was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between 21 March and 15 May 2011 among 23 publics, including Great Britain (where 1,000 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone).

The Muslim-related questions have been analysed by Pew for six Western publics (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, and the USA), seven Muslim publics (Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, and Turkey) and for Israel.  

The present post mainly focuses on the British data, but the international results may be readily viewed in the report Muslim-Western Tensions Persist, which is available for download at:

64% of Britons held a favourable opinion of Muslims. This represented a fall of seven points since 2005 (just before 7/7) but a 4% recovery from 2010. It was also, jointly with France, the best figure among the six Western nations, higher than Russia (62%), USA (57%), Germany (45%), and Spain (37%).

Nevertheless, 22% of Britons regarded Muslims unfavourably, which was far more than took the same view of Christians (6%) or Jews (7%). 83% were well-disposed to Christians and 76% to Jews, much the same as in 2004.

Moreover, only 39% of Britons assigned no negative traits to Muslims. Specifically, 43% described them as fanatical, 38% as arrogant, 32% as violent, 29% as selfish, 18% as immoral, and 16% as greedy. Similarly, 61% did not associate Muslims with respect for women, 45% with tolerance, 34% with generosity, and 22% with honesty.

52% in Britain saw most Muslims as wanting to remain distinct from mainstream society, rising to 59% for those without degree-level education. Apart from the USA (51%), other Western countries recorded even higher figures, as much as 72% in Germany. Just 28% of Britons thought Muslims wanted to adopt British customs, albeit an improvement on 19% in 2005 and 22% in 2006.

52% of British adults assessed relations between Muslims around the world and Westerners as being generally bad (nine points less than in 2006) and 40% as generally good. 48% of Americans also said bad, 58% of Spaniards, 61% of Germans, and 62% of French.

Of Britons who said relations were bad, 34% believed Muslims were mostly to blame for this state of affairs (compared with 25% in 2006), 26% Western people, and 24% both groups.

So-called ‘Islamic extremism’ seems to have soured relations. 70% in Britain were concerned about this and a mere 28% unconcerned. Notwithstanding, 70% represented a fall of 7% since the 2006 (post-7/7) survey and a return to 2005 (pre-7/7) levels. Russians (76%) and Germans (73%) were more concerned than Britons, Americans (69%), French (68%), and Spaniards (61%) somewhat less.

In similar vein, 52% in Britain claimed that some religions were more prone to violence than others, and three-quarters of these cited Islam as the single most violent religion (against 63% immediately before 7/7).

59% of Britons thought Muslim nations should be more economically prosperous than they were. This lack of prosperity was largely attributed to internal deficiencies in those nations: government corruption (51%), lack of democracy (46%), lack of education (36%), and Islamic fundamentalism (31%). No more than 15% were willing to allocate blame to US and Western policies.

Finally, a footnote on religion more generally. Professing Christians in the Western countries were asked whether they first considered themselves as citizens of their nation or as Christians. In Britain 63% of Christians placed their nationality first, exactly three times the proportion which put their Christian identity first. This reflected a shift since 2006, when the figures had been 59% and 24%. Americans were most likely to put Christianity (46%) above nationality, French the least (8%).

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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3 Responses to Muslim-Western Tensions – British Experiences

  1. Pingback: British Attitudes Towards Muslims | eChurch Blog

  2. Pingback: As a Christian do you view yourself primarily as a Christian and citizen of the Kingdom of God, or primarily in terms of you nationality? | eChurch Blog

  3. Pingback: British Religion in Numbers: news

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