WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As global business and political elites convene today for this year's gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaders will address, among other issues, the importance of the dialogue between the Muslim world and the West. Many previous initiatives have relied on anecdotal evidence, underscoring knowledge gaps and perpetuating age-old stereotypes. Instead of fostering a better cross-cultural understanding, such efforts often lead to greater polarization.
In light of the vital need to have reliable information, Gallup partnered with the Forum to measure public opinion in several countries to produce a Muslim-West Dialogue Index. The Index, based on public opinion polls conducted in 2007, ranks how optimistic people in 21 Muslim and non-Muslim countries are about the state of Muslim-West relations. The research focuses on the current state of the Muslim-West dialogue and its direction, peoples' commitment to improve relations, perceptions of respect, and attitudes about violent conflict. Gallup's research, which covers countries as diverse as Italy, Sweden, and the United States as well as Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, provides a comprehensive and deep foundation on which to build and inform the dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.
Key Findings from the Gallup Muslim-West Dialogue Index:
* Majorities in populations around the world say violent conflict between the West and the Muslim world can be avoided. However, they express much pessimism about the direction of the Muslim-West relationship.
* In most countries surveyed, majorities believe the "other side" is not committed to improving the relationship. But they also say that having better relations is important to them.
* Many of those in Muslim populations say the Muslim world respects the West, but they don't believe the West respects the Muslim world.
* In several Western nations, only minorities believe their "side" respects the Muslim world, but majorities in most nations believe the Muslim world doesn't respect them.
* In European nations surveyed, majorities perceive greater interaction with the Muslim world as a threat rather than a benefit.
In Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (Gallup Press, March 2008), Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and lead analyst of the Muslim-West Dialogue Index, writes with John Esposito, professor and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, that "critical to the fight against global terrorism is an ability to move beyond presuppositions and stereotypes in our attitudes and policies and to form partnerships that transcend an 'us' and 'them' view of the world."Click the link, "Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue," in Related Items to see the full World Economic Forum report.