Most Americans support Obama's outreach to Muslims

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Barack Obama Views: 3826
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WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama surprise visit to Iraq yesterday came on the heels of a two-day visit to Turkey where he said: "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam."

Obama used his speech as a chance to continue his outreach to Muslims and to signal an approach to the region based more on pragmatism than ideology.

His words introduced what many here say is a sense of America's new vision throughout the world. "A sense that, finally, an American leader understands," wrote the New York Times yesterday.

According to the Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week, most Americans think Obama's pledge to "seek a new way forward" with the Muslim world is an important goal, even as nearly half hold negative views about Islam and a sizable number say that even mainstream adherents to the religion encourage violence against non-Muslims, 

An overwhelming 81 percent of Americans in the poll called it important for Obama to try to improve US relations with Muslim nations; 46 percent say it's "very important." 

While slightly more than one in five expressed concerns that he'll "go too far" in that effort, most by far, 65 percent, expect him to handle it about right. 

In a CNN/Opinion Research Poll also released this week, 51 percent of Americans said the US should trust Muslim allies as it would other allies. Forty-eight percent said the US should trust Muslim allies less.

A large majority, 79 percent, said people in other countries will have a more positive view of the US because of Obama, while only 19 percent said it would be more negative, according to the CNN poll.

Asked whether Obama has accomplished anything on his trip, 16 percent said that he had accomplished a great deal, while 45 percent thought he had accomplished a fair amount during his trip.

"Obama seems to have made a good first impression on the world stage, and Americans appear to have noticed," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland

But if the US has a leader who understands Islam, the poll said most Americans do not.

Americans by 48-41 percent hold an unfavorable opinion of Islam - its highest unfavorable rating in ABC/Post polls since 2001. And 29 percent expressed the belief that mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims - double what it was early in 2002. 

Unfamiliarity is a central factor in these views. Fifty-five percent of Americans concede that they lack a good basic understanding of Islam; about as many, 53 percent, don't personally know a Muslim. 

Perceptions of Islam as a peaceful faith are the highest among non-religious Americans, with about two-thirds holding that view. Among Catholics, 60 percent see mainstream Islam as a peaceful faith; it is 55 percent among all Protestants, but drops to 48 percent among white evangelical Protestants. 

There are deep divisions in perceptions of Islam between younger and older Americans as well: More than six in 10 younger than 65 said Islam is a peaceful religion, but that drops to 39 percent among seniors. 

Republicans are also more apt than others to hold negative attitudes toward Islam, with six in 10 having unfavorable views, compared with about four in 10 for Democrats and independents. Among conservative Republicans, 65 percent view Islam unfavorably; liberal Democrats, in contrast, are 60 percent positive. 

This partisan divide is also apparent on the question of whether mainstream Islam encourages hostility toward non-Muslims, with Republicans about twice as likely as Democrats to say it does. Nearly half of conservative Republicans see centrist Islam as a promoter of violence. 

The polls found that those who profess an understanding of Islam, or know a Muslim, have much more positive views of the religion. 

This may be why President Obama said in Turkey: "The Untied States has been enriched by Muslim-Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country. I know, because I am one of them."

The line was a bold one for Obama, who has been falsely accused of being Muslim. The claim persists on some right-right Web sites, which now may try to twist his remarks as proof.

Obama's Kenyan father and grandfather were Muslims, and he spent time as a child in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

But other factors also are at play, and negative views of Islam remain the same even amongst those who say they have become more familiar with the religion. 

Forty-five percent now feel they basically understand the religion, 5 points above its previous high and 20 points above its low in 2002. And the 47 percent who know a Muslim is up from 41 percent in October 2001. 

Barbara Ferguson writes for the Arab News


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Barack Obama
Views: 3826

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Older Comments:
KATENDE FROM UGANDA said:
we should practice islam according to its teachings not according to peoples sayings and opinions even though are leaders or the led ones.
2009-04-13

ACE FROM CANADA said:
Obama is full of double speak. Muslims would do well to be weary of this guy.He surrounded himself with zionists and he remained silent when they ravaged Gaza.Recently he was in Turkey saying they are not at war with Islam while at the same time the drones he ordered into Pakistan were killing women and children and creating thousands of refugees.So I guess it's okay to voilate the sovereignty of Muslims countries and kill women and children but at the sametime tell the Muslims "we are not at war with Islam".I guess in their eyes Muslims and Islam are separate.He showed empathy for Israel's action in Gaza by imaginining what he would do if his daughters were living in Israel and Hamas rockets were falling on them.I wondered if he ever imagined his daughters living in Gaza or the drone ravaged regions of Pakistan? Under Bush they were called "war on terror", "Iraq and Afganistan war" now Obama called them "overseas contingency", nothing changed, just the wordings are a little more pleasant for the Muslim ear.Muslims, beware of the silver tongue serpent.

Salaam
2009-04-11

JOHN FROM SINGAPORE said:
How far Obama's outreach to the Muslims depend on his Master Benjamin Netanyahu . Knowing Bibi, he will never want to have peace with Muslim world.

Sad to say ,as long as the American Government is controlled by the Jewish Lobby the REAL Americans who wanted peace can only dream.
2009-04-10

ABDUL J FROM USA said:
Bismillah. As to the person that wrote the first comment you are far out of touch with reality. Your way is on the way out. If this country is inclined toward peace then why haven't they removed their soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan? Why are the attacking innocent people in Pakistan and are talking about stepping up operations in Afghanistan? Why hasn't the new president condoned what the previous administration did concerning torture or what the zionist-israelis have done to the Palestinians. Why didn't America attend the Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa? Are they inclined towards peace. If they are I hear it but I don't see it. It looks like more of the same to me. Then if she is truly about peace then stop the wars and stop aiding and abiding known criminals. Clean up your own house before you try to clean out others. As muslims we need to stop listening to what people say and see what they do.
2009-04-10

JON YOUNG FROM USA said:
Obama not with standing. And whether he or Muslims likes it or not, Biblical Christianity will continue to be spread into the Muslim world and everywhere else. How popular or unpopular it is does not matter because Biblical Christianity is a Christ centered not man centered.
2009-04-08