Fear of Muslims declines when all sides put their case

Australians’ worries about the threat of terrorism posed by Muslims falls dramatically once they have a chance to hear all sides of the issue. That is the finding of before-and-after polling of 329 randomly selected people who attended a national conference on attitudes to Muslims in Canberra at the weekend.

The “national deliberative poll” taken before the conference found 49 per cent thought incompatibility between Muslim and Western values was a big contributor to terrorism. That figure fell to 22 per cent when the same people were polled yesterday, after spending two days hearing views ranging from hostile to sympathetic about the presence of Islam in Australia.

A similar trend emerged on related issues. Before the conference 44 per cent thought Muslims coming to Australia had made a bad impact on national security; that dropped to 23 per cent yesterday. More than one third thought beforehand that Muslims were a threat to the Australian way of life, but that fell to 21 per cent.

Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 2007