Gallup- the well-known worldwide polling organization – teamed up with The Coexist Foundation to study how people of different faiths around the world view each other, and to examine with greater depth some specific attitudes and beliefs among persons of the Muslim faith in Germany, France and the UK - comparing these to the general public in those countries. The product of this effort is the recently released report: The Gallup Coexist Index 2009: A Global Study of Interfaith Relations With an in-depth analysis of Muslim integration in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. I will briefly review here the results of interfaith integration (for context) and the results of attitudes toward the justifiability of using violence toward civilians and using violence for a noble cause.
The first part involved a 27-country survey, spanning four continents examining the extent of isolation or integration among religious groups. Researchers created The Gallup Coexist Index as a metric, based on respondents’ attitudes toward, and interactions with, people of other religions. Index scores were used to classify people into one of three categories, defined as follows:
• Isolated: Isolated individuals tend not to be members of any particular faith group, but if they are, they tend to believe in the truth of their perspective above all others. They do not want to know about other religions. They also neither respect nor feel respected by those of other faiths.
• Tolerant: Tolerant individuals have a “live-and-let-live” attitude toward people of other faiths, and they generally feel that they treat others of different faiths with respect. However, they are not likely to learn from or about other religions.
• Integrated: Integrated individuals go beyond a “live-and-let-live” attitude and actively seek to know more about and learn from others of different religious traditions. They believe that most faiths make a positive contribution to society. Furthermore, integrated people not only feel they respect people from other faith traditions, but they also feel respected by them.
A greater proportion of the general public is “integrated” in the United States and Canada than in the European countries. Only 15% of Americans and 20% of Canadians, were classified as isolated, while this was true for 35% of Britons and 38% of Germans.
Religion and Views on Violence:
The second part of the study focused on the various views and values of Muslims in Germany, France and the UK. I will focus here just on questions concerning violence; specifically (1) the justifiability of attacks targeting civilians and (2) use of violence for a noble cause.
Muslims Compared to the General Public
The majority of European Muslims surveyed reject violence and the degree of religiosity (defined as religion being an important part of daily life) was not a reliable indicator of radicalism or the extent to which they believed that attacks on civilians were morally justified.
A substantial majority of Muslims (at least 82%) in each of the three countries said that attacks targeting civilians could not be morally justified at all. Small or very small proportions of Muslims and of the general public in each country say such attacks are completely justifiable.
- Four percent of French Muslims and 2% of the French public overall said that violence targeting civilians could be morally justified.
- Less than one half of 1% of German Muslims – and 1% of the German public overall- said that violence targeting civilians could be morally justified.
- Less than one half of 1% of British Muslims – and 3% of the British public overall- said that violence targeting civilians could be morally justified.
Regarding the use of violence for a noble cause, there was more variability between countries, but Muslims in each capital city were at least as likely as their country’s general public to reject the justifiability of violence for a noble cause.
- 80% of German Muslims (and 94% of Berlin Muslims) said that use of violence for a noble cause could not be justified at all, with 2% saying it is completely justifiable. 2% of Berlin Muslims and 10% of the German public thought such attacks were justifiable.
- 75% of French Muslims said that use of violence for a noble cause could not be justified at all, with 5% saying it is completely justifiable. 8% of Paris Muslims and 7% of the French public thought such attacks were justifiable.
- 48% of British Muslims said that use of violence for a noble cause could not be justified at all, with 6% saying it is completely justifiable. 8% of London Muslims and 10% of the British public thought such attacks were justifiable.
Comparing Those Who Think Religion is Important to Those Who Do Not
Across all three nations, the Gallup researcher found that those who said religion is an important of their lives were at least as likely as those saying religion is not important to believe the use of violence for a noble cause cannot be morally justified at all.
For context, a 2007 Gallup poll of the general European public found roughly equal percentages of respondents for whom religion is an important part of their daily lives and those for whom religion is not important to say that violence for a noble cause cannot be morally justified. Similarly, in this poll there was no statistically significant difference between religious and nonreligious respondents with regard to whether they thought attacks targeting civilians were morally justifiable.