This week, the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo printed controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, raising fears of violent protests, particularly in the Middle East. The events are reminiscent of a similar incident in 2006 when cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper sparked demonstrations. At the time the Pew Research Center found a huge gulf between public opinion in the Middle East and opinion in Europe and the United States over what was to blame for the confrontations.

For example, 67% of those who had heard about the cartoons in France blamed the controversy mostly on Muslims’ intolerance to different points of view; only 28% put most of the blame on Western nations’ disrespect for Islam. Around six-in-ten of those who knew about the publication in Germany (62%), the U.S. (60%) and Britain (59%) agreed that intolerance by Muslims was mostly to blame.

In contrast, fewer than 10% in Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, and Turkey who had heard about the controversy believed that it was caused by Muslim intolerance. Instead, overwhelming majorities in those countries, including 90% in Jordan and 87% in Egypt, thought that Western disrespect for Islam was the root cause of the problem. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.