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Islamophobia: Definitions, Diagnosis, and Solutions. A Comparative Empirical Study of American and European Students’ Attitudes and Opinions on Arabs/Islam Today

Russell F. Farnen

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This study is concerned with answering the following basic questions: Is this conflict part of a clash of civilizations or between tradition and modernity? Islam – how do you define it and what forms does it take in the US, UK, and Netherlands? Our working definition agrees with the Dutch one but is a bit more elaborate. It refers to having negative attitudes and behaviors among non-Muslims and non-Arabs toward Muslims/Islam and/or Arabs/Middle Easterners. What do recent poll results in the US and other countries tell us about what the public thinks of Islam as well as what US Muslims think of the US, fellow Muslims, wars, the events of September 11, 2001, and current events? How do the US results from a recent university survey of 63 students compare with a recent Dutch study of Islam among four levels of high schoolers there? For example, the Dutch study found that 54 % of their students had negative views of Arabs/Islam while the US study found that 46% had a high/positive general feeling and 29% a low/negative feeling (with the rest answering do not know, no response, no opinion). Having Arabs as new neighbors had a negative, positive, neutral split of 32%, 35%, 33%, respectively. In grading religions, Islam got 53% positive, 27% neutral, and 21% negative scores. How do we interpret these results and what can done to alleviate such overall hostility toward Arabs and Islam? What can schools, parents, peers, religious institutions, and mass media do to relieve/offset Islamophobia’s most hateful aspects? What have we learned and what may we conclude from our researches?

Keywords: Islamaphobia – Europe – USA – hostility – students – civilization