A report released today by the Pew Research Center reveals that a majority of Muslims in several Middle Eastern countries believe that the Sept. 11 attacks were not carried out by Arabs. The report, titled "Muslim-Western Tensions Persist," sought to investigate public attitudes about the relationship between the two global communities.
For the portion of the survey related to the Sept. 11 attacks, responses were gathered from Muslims in Egypt, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Indonesia and Pakistan. A majority of Muslim respondents in each of these countries said they did not believe the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Arabs, the highest rate being in Egypt where 75 percent of Muslims said they did not believe that Arabs were responsible, closely followed by 73 percent of Muslim respondents in Turkey.
No more than 28 percent of Muslim respondents in any of these countries said they accept that the attack was carried out by Arabs, something seen as an inarguable fact in the United States and other Western nations.
The broader results of the survey, part of the Pew Center's Global Attitudes project, show that both Muslim and Western public opinion believes that relations between the two groups are problematic. A majority of respondents in France, Germany, Spain and Britain say that Muslim-Western relations are bad, while 48 percent of Americans and 38 percent of Russians agree. Similar majorities of the predominantly Muslim nations listed above agreed that relations were poor.
The two populations shared widespread concern over the influence of Islamic extremism and the lack of prosperity in Muslim nations, however, they diverged in explaining the causes of these conditions. A majority (53 percent) of Muslims believed that U.S. and Western foreign policy was a factor in the lack of prosperity for Muslim nations, while only 14 percent of Westerners believed this to be so.
Another major distinction arising from the survey was the preeminence of national versus religious identity. In each of the Muslim countries surveyed, with the exception of Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, respondents said they identified as a Muslim first and with their nationality second. Meanwhile, overwhelming majorities of respondents in the Western countries said their nationality took precedence over their religious identity, except in the United States where an equal split of 46 percent each said that they identified first as an American or first as a Christian.