Despite a sharp increase in anti-Muslim incidents in France since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, new research suggests that French public opinion is still very favorable towards Muslims.
The research, by the US-based Pew Research Center, appears to indicate that while a minority of French people have become more Islamophobic after the attacks (thus leading to incidents of violence) the vast majority have travelled in the opposite direction.
The new Pew survey found that 76% of people in France say they have a “favorable view” of Muslims living in their country, similar to the 72% registered in 2014.
Meanwhile, the percentage with a “very favorable opinion” of Muslims has increased significantly, rising from 14% last year to 25% today.
Attitudes toward Muslims tend to be more positive on the political left in France, but ratings improved across the ideological spectrum.
The findings will surprise many French Muslims who routinely complain of Islamophobia promoted by the authorities and media.
But a Pew analyst explained this apparent contradiction by focusing on the appeals for national unity by French president Francois Hollande in the aftermath of the attacks, who also made it clear that “violent extremists” do not represent Islam.
It’s also possible that (as with Americans after the 9/11 attacks) French people’s interest in finding out about Islam has increased since the Charlie Hebdo incident.
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