This would seem to be a bleak time for Muslims in America. They've been targeted for police questioning, singled out on airplanes, seen mosques vandalized and heard popular religious figures such as Franklin Graham describe Islam as "evil." Not surprisingly, surveys show that Muslims believe other Americans don't like them.
Americans' View of Islam
Does Islam teach respect for beliefs of non-Muslims?
Does Islam encourage violence or is it a peaceful religion?
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But a new ABC News/Beliefnet poll points to a different reality. Despite the fact that America is at war with a terrorist who regularly invokes Islam to justify mass murder, Americans have a surprisingly positive view of the religion:
41% of Americans view Islam favorably, compared to 24% whose views are unfavorable.
42% of Americans believe Islam teaches respect for the beliefs of non-Muslims, compared to 22% who believe it doesn't.
57% of Americans don't believe Islam encourages violence, versus 14% who view it as a violent religion.
The percentage of Americans with an unfavorable view of Islam has been dropping. In an Oct. 9 poll 47% had a favorable view, 39% said unfavorable and 13% said they didn't know. Today: 41% said favorable, 24% said unfavorable and 35% said don't know.
These positive impressions persist, even though 61% say they know little about the religion.
Part of the explanation may lie with President Bush. Since Sept. 11, he's gone out of his way to portray Islam positively. Primarily, he has done this to to further his anti-terrorism goals, but he has mentioned Muslims favorably since his days in Texas, before his run for the Presidency. In November, Bush hosted a Ramadan dinner at the White House (a first). Earlier, he posed for pictures with the "holy Qur'an" on his desk and declared Islam a peaceful religion.