Islamic Views on Western Culture

by The Gallup Poll Editorial Staff

Majorities of residents in all nine countries surveyed in Gallup's Poll of the Islamic World say Western nations do not care about poorer nations, nor are they willing to share their technological knowledge with them. Residents also think that Western nations do not treat the minorities in their own countries fairly, and that Westerners have immoral lifestyles and weak family values.

When it comes to the way that Western nations treat Arab/Islamic countries, residents are even more negative -- they say Western nations do not respect Arab/Islamic values, do not support Arab causes in international organizations and do not exhibit fairness toward Arab/Islamic countries in general.

More positively, majorities of residents in four of the nine countries surveyed believe that citizens of Western nations do have equal rights and duties. Majorities of residents in five of the nine countries say that Western nations produce enjoyable films and music (although in three of the nine countries, Pakistan, Iran and Morocco, the vast majority of residents disagree with this statement).

Respondents volunteer these same sentiments when asked two open-ended questions: "What, if anything, do you, yourself, like best or admire most about the West?" and "What, if anything, do you, yourself, like least, admire the least, or resent about the West?"

Respondents are most likely to say they admire the West for its scientific and technological expertise, particularly in the area of advanced technology. In Indonesia, Kuwait, and Iran, more than half of those interviewed refer to the West's technological accomplishments, as do nearly as high a percentage of Jordanians and Moroccans.

Residents also express considerable admiration for the West's political values and structures. When residents of Lebanon and Turkey are asked what they find praiseworthy about the West, respect for human values, rights, freedom, and democracy are the most frequently occurring responses. Residents of Jordan and Kuwait also respond with these types of sentiments.

Smaller numbers of respondents identify other aspects of the West as admirable, including its level of economic advancement; its cultural appreciation of the value of time and (personal) discipline; the educational level attained by individuals in Western societies; and the creativity, reliability, and way of thinking characteristic of Western society.

The image that dominates respondents' negative perceptions of the West is clear-cut: the immoral lifestyles, a weakening of family structure, a decline in social courtesy, and the loss of traditional deference to elders in Western nations. Over half of those interviewed in Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait mention these types of negative social influences as the aspect of the West they most resent, as do large numbers of Pakistanis and Iranians.

Additionally, a significant number of respondents resent what they perceive as negative Western attitudes toward Muslims generally or Arabs specifically.

Still others mention resenting what they perceive to be a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse in the West, coupled with high rates of crime, violence, and corruption.

Completing the list of the most frequently volunteered sources of resentment of the West are perceptions that Westerners:

  • are arrogant and believe their societies and civilization are more superior and advanced
  • are excessively prone to interfere in the internal and political affairs of other nations
  • are insufficiently attached to their own religion, religious beliefs, and ethnicity
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