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Negative View of Islam Growing in US


As the U.S.-led war in Iraq enters its fourth year, an opinion poll released Thursday shows a rising number of Americans have a negative view of Islam.

In the years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the number of Americans expressing negative views of Islam has been on the rise.

A poll released Thursday by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 46 percent of Americans view Islam negatively. That's up seven percent from the months following the 9/11 attacks.

The survey comes as violence continues to grip Iraq, and U.S. lawmakers consider blocking a Dubai-based company from taking over management of cargo operations at six major American ports.

The survey indicates that one in three Americans believe Islam helps fuel violence against non-Muslims, while one in four admit to being prejudiced against Muslims.

Officials at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington say rising anti-Islam sentiment is a result of America's global war on terror, three years of violence in Iraq, and constant media coverage of the Iran nuclear crisis.

Given reports of violence in the Middle East, including kidnappings, killings and videotaped beheadings, the same officials at MEI said it is understandable that Americans would view Islam in a negative way.

Laila Al-Qatami, the Communications Director for Washington's American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee agrees, saying recent violent reactions to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad did not help Islam's image.

"It's one thing to be upset," said Laila Al-Qatami. "It's another thing to perhaps have a protest. It's also another thing to have a boycott. But when embassies are trashed and there's violence and looting, this doesn't do us any good. We also need to understand how that affects people's perceptions of Islam."

Al-Qatami says the American public should learn more about the religion and the lives of Arabs in the Middle East.

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