Outlook Positive for European Muslims, Poll Finds

Paris, France - One year after bombings by Islamic militants in London set off intensive soul-searching across Europe about Muslim integration, a new survey has turned up surprisingly positive attitudes, both among European Muslims toward Europe and among society in general toward Muslims.

The poll, carried out by the Pew Global Attitudes Project this spring in 13 countries, with additional samples of Muslims living in Britain, Germany, France and Spain, indicated that "Muslims are generally positive about conditions" in their countries of residence.

"In fact," Pew said, "they are more positive than the general publics in all four European countries about the way things are going in their countries."

Among non-Muslim Europeans, overall attitudes toward Muslims did not worsen and, in fact, in some ways improved, despite the events of the past year: the July 7 attack in London, which killed 52 people; rioting across France in the fall by youths, many of Muslim origin; and the rage ignited by Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The survey also found that European Muslims polled largely welcomed the entry of women into modern roles; favored a moderate version of Islam, and do not see many or most Europeans as hostile toward Muslims. Compared with a similar poll a year ago, more French non-Muslims polled said that immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing.The survey, released today, also indicated that European Muslims polled shared with other Europeans a concern about unemployment.

Pew surveyed 14,030 people from March 31 to May 14 in Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United States. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus two to four percentage points, except in Britain and Germany, where it was six points.

Among Muslims in Europe who see a struggle within Islam between moderates and militants, most support the moderates. But allegiance to militant Islamic political movements is not insignificant; in Britain, 15 percent of the Muslims polled side with the militants.

The majority populations often worry that a growing Islamic identity could lead to violence. But many also worry that it could keep Muslims from adopting the national customs and way of life. In Germany, Britain and Spain, big majorities saw immigrants as wanting to remain distinct, as did a small majority in France.

The survey found no perceptible rise in animosity toward Muslim immigration in Spain, France or Germany. But in Germany, with its large Turkish population, immigration from the Middle East and North Africa was seen as "a good thing" by only 34 percent of the general public, with the majority — 59 percent — describing it as a bad thing. Even among the Muslims living in Germany, most did not favor immigration from these areas.

In Britain, 57 percent said that such immigration was a good thing, in line with previous surveys in May of last year and in 2002. In France, 58 percent saw it as a good thing, up from 53 percent last year.

Where European Muslims differed most sharply from general populations was on foreign affairs, Pew found.

While general publics in the four countries surveyed did not give the United States high ratings — Britons were most favorable, at 56 percent — Muslim views were far less favorable, toward both the country and Americans. The American "war on terror" is also extremely unpopular among Muslim populations, with 83 percent opposed in Spain, 78 percent in France, 77 percent in Britain and 62 percent in Germany.

By contrast, Iran — which has upset the West with its nuclear program — has the support of many Muslims, especially in Britain and Spain.