Few U.S. Catholics have positive views of Islam or know a Muslim personally, according to a Georgetown University report.
Thirty percent have very or somewhat unfavorable views of Islam, compared to 18 percent with very or somewhat favorable views. Forty-five percent have neither favorable nor unfavorable views.
While only three in 10 U.S. Catholics said they have a Muslim acquaintance, those who did were much more likely to have favorable views of Islam.
Only 9.4 percent of Catholics who didn’t know a Muslim expressed very to somewhat favorable views, compared to 23.5 percent of those who did know a Muslim.
When asking Catholics about Islam and violence, the report found that “nearly half of Catholics (45 percent) believe Islam ‘encourages violence more than other religions around the world.'”
By comparison, “a quarter (24 percent) said Islam encourages violence ‘the same amount’ as other religions, and another quarter (28 percent) said they ‘don’t know.'”
These findings appear to conflict with a February 2016 Pew Research report noting that 70 percent of Catholics affirmed that people and groups use religion to justify violent actions rather than religious teachings being the cause of violence.
Pew also found that only 14 percent of Catholic respondents said Islam has teachings that promote violence.
The Georgetown University report also analyzed views of Islam presented in U.S. Catholic publications.
It found that the term “Islamic” was used nearly half of the time in connection with the Islamic State (Daesh), and that articles about Islam tended to have a negative tone and conveyed a sense of anger.
This “could play a role in why many Catholics. … have unfavorable views of Muslims and see Islam as more violent than other religions,” the report suggested.
“These findings provide an in-depth look at American Catholics’ views of Islam and dialogue, and can inform Catholic curriculum development and interfaith programming at the parish, diocesan or national level,” the report concluded.
In addition, since “among those authors who publish most frequently on Islam for Catholic readers are those who consider Islam a ‘threat’ and ‘challenge’ to Christians,” the report urged “ordinary lay people – as well as Catholic publishers, media outlets and bookstores – [to] be aware of writers’ connections to Islamophobia, as it would likely impact their decision to publicize or consume that material.”
The report “raises serious questions about how Catholics view their Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Catholic co-chairman of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. “The findings demonstrate the urgent need to cultivate positive dialogue with members of other faith traditions.”
He added, “It is incumbent upon Catholics to recognize and raise up the positive voices from the Muslim world who clearly reject violence by practicing and teaching an Islam of peace, compassion and mercy.”