This is quite disturbing:

2006 Gal­lup sur­vey of Amer­ic­an pub­lic opin­ion found that “many Amer­ic­ans har­bour strong bias against U.S. Muslims”. 

  • 22% say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour.
  • 34% believe U.S. Muslims sup­port al-Qaeda.
  • Only 49% believe U.S. Muslims are loy­al to the United States.
  • 39% advoc­ate that U.S. Muslims should carry spe­cial ID

The fact that such a large per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion har­bours resent­ment against Muslims may explain much of America’s aggress­ive Middle East policy from Israel to Iraq. It’s a lot easi­er to play with the lives of mil­lions of people if you don’t think of them as civ­il­ised human beings, but ter­ror­ist supporters. 

This appears to be con­sist­ent with oth­er stud­ies:

The Media and Soci­ety Research Group of Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity con­duc­ted a sur­vey in Novem­ber of Amer­ic­ans with respect to their atti­tudes towards Muslims. Nearly half (44%) of respond­ents favoured restrict­ing the civil rights of Muslims in some way. 

Such atti­tudes often stem from ignor­ance. It is exceed­ingly easy to dehu­man­ise a race/​religion/​culture if you know noth­ing about them:

A sur­vey com­mis­sioned and pub­lished by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic shows that a large major­ity of young Amer­ic­ans between the age of 1824 are geo­graph­ic­ally illiterate.

Less than 15% of the sub­jects could loc­ate Iraq or Israel on a map. Only 17% could loc­ate Afgh­anistan, even though the sur­vey was car­ried out after the war. 11% could not loc­ate the U.S. on a map.

Now, I am not post­ing this to pick on Amer­ic­ans. In fact, I feel that at least to some extent these res­ults also apply to Aus­tralia and oth­er West­ern coun­tries (e.g. the UK). We like to think of ourselves as ‘enlightened’ soci­et­ies, yet the ignor­ance many people appear to exhib­it is astound­ing. There is much in the way of mis­in­form­a­tion and FUD being spread around, inten­tion­al and oth­er­wise. The solu­tion, I feel, is edu­ca­tion. For instance, I bet that the aver­age Aus­trali­an knows very little about Islam: its beliefs, its his­tory and the cul­tures sur­round­ing it. It is all to easy to judge people and events by our own val­ues, the prin­ciples by which we were raised. People need to under­stand that what may look like ‘com­mon sense’ to them is in fact a cul­tur­al con­struct, and that oth­er cul­tures may see things dif­fer­ently. This diversity is what makes the world inter­est­ing, and this abund­ance of dif­fer­ent views is what has pro­pelled human devel­op­ment since the very beginning.

Those who like to argue that Islam is a back­wards reli­gion or that its people cel­eb­rate an ana­chron­ist­ic cul­ture ought to invest­ig­ate the 1001 Inven­tions Web site:

A unique UK based edu­ca­tion­al pro­ject that reveals the rich her­it­age that the Muslim com­munity share with oth­er com­munit­ies in the UK and Europe. 

1001 Inven­tions is a non-reli­gious and non-polit­ic­al pro­ject seek­ing to allow the pos­it­ive aspects of pro­gress in sci­ence and tech­no­logy to act as a bridge in under­stand­ing the inter­de­pend­ence of com­munit­ies through­out human history. 

Pia has very elo­quently indic­ated the divide between reli­gion and cul­ture, and in doing so I feel she has demon­strated how truly close many world reli­gions are in their core beliefs and values.

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