Study: Germans pessimistic on Islam

Public opinion believes a "clash of civilizations" is under way.

muslims praying 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
muslims praying 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
German public opinion believes a "clash of civilizations" is under way between Christians and Muslims that will lead to further domestic and international conflict, a report commissioned by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung finds. Germany is in the midst of "a conflict spiral," researchers from the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research reported last week. "Conceptions of Islam were already negative" but have hardened "noticeably in recent times," the survey's authors Elisabeth Noelle and Thomas Petersen reported. "Germans are increasingly of the opinion that a lasting, peaceful coexistence with the Islamic world will not be possible," Noelle and Petersen concluded. Esteem for Islam in Germany has been falling precipitously since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has been driven down further by outrage over the 2004 Beslan school attack in Russia and by a recent series of high-profile stories in the German press. Concerns over an "honor killing" in Berlin, demands that schoolgirls be permitted to wear burkas, a surge in schoolyard violence involving Muslim immigrants, and the failure of Germany's three million Muslim immigrants to assimilate have deepened a "crisis of cultures." The Allensbach survey of 1,076 German adults in early May found that 83% of the respondents associated Islam with "fanaticism," an increase of 8% from a similar poll in 2004. Over 71% believed Islam to be "intolerant," a rise from 66% in 2004; 62% saw it as "backward," up from 49%; while 60% saw it as "undemocratic," an increase of 8% since 2004. Only 8% of the survey participants characterized Islam as peaceful. When asked what keyword or phrase they associated with Islam, 91% of respondents stated that Islam implied discrimination against women. Some 61% of Germans said they believed a "clash of cultures" already existed, while 65% said "they counted on such conflicts" to worsen in the future. While two-thirds of the survey participants said they blamed religious fanatics, not Islam, for the conflict with the West, 40% of the participants said they would favor curtailing Germany's constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of religion in order to safeguard national security. Asked if there should be a ban on the building of mosques in Germany as long as Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states banned church construction, 56% agreed, the survey found. The Muhammad cartoon controversy had also exhausted the average German's willingness to engage in dialogue, Noelle and Peterson noted. "In view of the widespread feeling of being under threat, and the suspected intolerance of Islam, the readiness of Germans to show tolerance to the Muslim faith is sinking." The survey findings were extraordinary in light of Germany's "special dislike of conflict," Noelle and Peterson noted. "One could even speak of a pronounced need for harmony by Germans," they said. However, the "ditch has become deeper" between Islam and the West, the survey concluded, as "in most people's minds the Kampf der Kulturer has already begun."