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Abbot Peter NovokoskyMuslims oppose ISIS

ISIS has changed our global climate.

The Nov. 14 attack on Paris and the subsequent city-wide lockdown in Brussels are both linked to ISIS. Broader yet is the near universal fear that ISIS will strike again, and so countries, cities and security forces are being held hostage — not to mention citizens who fear going about their ordinary business.

One of the byproducts of the ISIS terror campaign is the fear of Muslims in western countries. The fact that ISIS identifies itself as Muslim makes it easy to open the floodgates of prejudice and discrimination against all Muslims. Overlooked is the fact that in the Middle East Christians, Muslims and Jews generally lived together in harmony for centures.

As noted in last week’s editorial, the fact that Muslim faith leaders are speaking out against ISIS and labelling it a terrorist and extremist organization that has nothing to do with the Muslim faith helps to clarify, and rectify, the picture.

Another positive item to note is newly released data that the Pew Research Centre collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations. People from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS. Pakistan was an exception.

The nationally representative surveys were conducted in the centre’s annual global poll in April and May this year. In no country surveyed did more than 15 per cent of the population show favourable attitudes toward Islamic State. And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines.

In Lebanon, a victim of one of the most recent attacks, almost every person surveyed who gave an opinion had an unfavourable view of ISIS, including 99 per cent with a very unfavourable opinion. Distaste toward ISIS was shared by Lebanese Sunni Muslims (98 per cent unfavourable) and 100 per cent of Shia Muslims and Lebanese Christians.

In Nigeria, there was somewhat more support for ISIS (14 per cent favourable) compared with other countries, but attitudes differed sharply by religious affiliation. An overwhelming number of Nigerian Christians (71 per cent) had an unfavourable view of ISIS, as did 61 per cent of Nigerian Muslims. However, 20 per cent of Nigerian Muslims had a favourable view of ISIS when the poll was conducted in the spring of this year. The group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, is affiliated with ISIS, though the two are considered separate entities.

In a global world, where increased travel and migration are realities, citizens have to learn how to live together in a culturally mixed society. We also need to learn how to respect “the other” with their beliefs and customs. Along this line, Pope Francis is calling for “fervent dialogue” among Christians, Muslims and Jews during the coming Year of Mercy.

That dialogue needs to clarify what prejudices each faith community has held against the others, so that healing and understanding can replace fear and ignorance.