A recent survey has found that Europeans and Americans believe to a great extent that Islam is incompatible with Western values.
According to the poll, conducted last month by the British Internet-based data analysis firm YouGov, nearly half of respondents in France and Germany — 46 and 47 percent, respectively — perceive a "fundamental clash" between Islam and the values of their society.
In Britain, 38 percent of respondents exhibited unfavourable attitudes toward Islam and in the United States, 36 percent perceived a clash of values.
Only 24 percent of those polled in Britain indicated favourable impressions of Islam, which was received warmly by an even smaller proportion of respondents in France (22 percent), Germany (20 percent), and the US (17 percent).
Comparative online surveys reveal that a much higher number of Western respondents tend to have a particularly unfavourable attitude to Islam, versus other religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity.
"Clear majorities of Western respondents in the study also described themselves as either very or fairly concerned about the possible rise of extremism in Islam, including 72% in both France and Germany, 66% in Britain and 56% in the United States," YouGov said.
Unlike in Western countries, smaller portions of respondents in the Middle East and North Africa feel the same way toward Christianity, with as few as 25 percent in Saudi Arabia, 22 percent in Algeria, 13 percent in the UAE, and 7 percent in Egypt perceiving a clash with Christianity.
Half of those surveyed in Egypt and a third in the UAE said that Christianity is generally compatible with the values of their society, with respondents in Saudi Arabia and Algeria displaying a less favourable attitude (13 percent and 9 percent, respectively).
Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the predominantly Muslim Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Egypt said their values were incompatible with other religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The attitude toward Judaism is slightly warmer in Algeria (55 percent), Saudi Arabia (54 percent), and Egypt (49 percent).
Respondents in these countries appear to be less concerned about the possible rise of extremism in Islam that those polled in Western countries: 52 percent in the UAE said they were either very or fairly concerned, compared with 39 percent in Algeria, 38 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 37 percent in Egypt.
The survey was timed to coincide with Pope Francis' visit to Abu Dhabi. The Pope arrived in the UAE on Sunday, becoming the first Roman Catholic pontiff ever to visit the Arabian peninsula. He is set to meet with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and members of the Muslim Council of Elders, an international organization that seeks to promote peace in Muslim societies.
The Pope is expected to deliver a message of peace to encourage a dialogue between Muslims and Christians and promote mutual understanding and peace-making in the Middle East.
It comes at a time when Europe is seeing a resurgence of right-wing politicians and anti-immigrant sentiment, triggered by the massive inflow of refugees and asylum-seekers from the mostly Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria, Christians have faced widespread violence at the hands of Islamic extremists since the 2011 Arab Spring.