Large numbers of people in Christian-majority countries in the west see a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of their nation, according to a survey.
However, significantly fewer people in the Middle East and North Africa view Christianity in the same way.
Nearly half the people taking part in the poll in France and Germany, and nearly one-third in the US and the UK, thought there was a clash between Islam and the values of society in their country.
When asked the same question about Christianity, 25% of people in Saudi Arabia and 22% of Algerians said there was a clash with the values of their country, but the proportions fell to 13% in the United Arab Emirates and 7% in Egypt.
The poll on attitudes towards religion, carried out by YouGov, was commissioned by the Muslim Council of Elders to mark the first papal visit to the Arabian peninsula. Pope Francis is attending an interfaith conference in Abu Dhabi and will hold an open-air mass on Tuesday expected to be attended by 120,000 people.
Campaigners for religious freedom are highlighting the significance of the historic papal visit to the birthplace of Islam, and hope Francis’s message of peaceful coexistence will be heard in other countries in the region, where many Christians are denied rights or face persecution and death.
The proportion of Christians in the Middle East has fallen to about 4% of the population from about 20% before the first world war, according to the Vatican.
Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, said: “The pope’s visit will send a strong signal across the region and world: people with different beliefs can live, work and worship together.
“Not everyone will welcome or embrace the message. Across the Middle East, we face the menace of extremism … Ignoring the threat or being complacent is too dangerous and will only feed the cycle of sectarian violence that has gripped the region for more than a generation.”
Meanwhile, human rights campaigners have urged the pope to use his landmark visit to address the war in Yemen. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led military coalition that has been accused of human rights violations in the country.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood