A new public opinion survey shows there are major differences between the perceptions people in Muslim and Western countries have of each other, and both believe that relations between the West and the Islamic world are poor. The poll was released during a news conference in Washington.
The president of the Pew Research Center, Andrew Kohut, says the survey of more than 14,000 people in 13 nations shows a real divide between Muslims and people in Western countries.
"Muslims and westerners are convinced that relationships between the two peoples are generally bad," said Andrew Kohut. "Westerners see Muslims as fanatical, violent and not tolerant people. Muslims see westerners as selfish, immoral, greedy as well as violent and fanatical."
Kohut says the survey shows that many Muslims blame the West and Western policies for their lack of prosperity, while Westerners point to government corruption, lack of education and Islamic fundamentalism as the biggest obstacles to economic improvement in Muslim nations.
"One of the surprising findings of this survey, shocking findings of this survey, is that most Muslims remain unconvinced that Arabs carried out the September 11th attacks," he said.
Kohut says this attitude is not limited to Muslims living in predominantly Islamic countries. For example, 56 percent of British Muslims say they do not believe Arabs carried out the terror attacks against the United States.
Despite that result, Kohut says support for terrorism is dropping in some Muslim countries. In Indonesia, Pakistan and especially in Jordan, there are declines from previous polls in the number of people who say suicide bombings against civilian targets can be justified.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who co-chairs the Pew Global Attitudes Project, says she is disheartened by the survey's results.
"I am quite depressed when I see the view of the United States through the eyes of Muslims, or the view of the West, in terms of how it is viewed as greedy, decadent, etcetera, when in fact we know that there are many attempts made to try to improve the situation, especially in terms of natural disasters in a variety of ways that we try to be helpful and to mitigate difficult problems," said Madeleine Albright.
Majorities in the Muslim countries polled say the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections will be helpful to a fair settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. That position is solidly rejected in the non-Muslim countries.
The Pew poll found confidence in al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has fallen in most Muslim countries in recent years. This is especially the case in Jordan, where 24 percent express some confidence in bin Laden now, compared to 60 percent a year ago.