U.S. Perceptions of Islam: Are We Right?

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INSTANBUL, Turkey - The majority of American's have a negative view of Islam, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey also found that a large number of Americans lack a basic understanding of the world's second-largest religion.

Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Senior Reporter George Thomas.

In Turkey, some Muslims believe it's to help change America's view of their religion.

Istiklal is the heart of Turkey. There, a mile-and-a-half long boulevard in the center of Istanbul is jammed with thousands of people everyday.

Lined with cafes, bookstores, bars, shops, a mosque and even a church, the street is a melting pot of Turkey's religious and secular flavor.

The word Istiklal means independence-- and those CBN News spoke to on the street say it's time for Muslims to step forward and help change America's perceptions of the Muslim world.

"Turkey is one of the most liberal Muslim countries in the world. There is no other Muslim country like ours," said store manager Ali San Cankaya. "Just look at the street, look at the people here... We can be a model and example for how Islam can thrive."

Cankaya runs the most famous sweet shop on Istiklal. His specialty is Baklava, a favorite Middle Eastern dessert.

In between making fresh batches, Chankaya worries about new polls released in America showing that 48 percent of people have an unfavorable view of Islam. That's the highest in polls since 2001.

"I really hope that the fact President Obama came to our country this week will help people in America better understand our faith and who we are as people," one resident said.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll also revealed that a majority of American's don't have a basic understanding of the Muslim faith, nor do they know anyone who is Muslim.

While the majority of those polled in the survey think that Islam is a peaceful religion, those CBN News interviewed said it's time for Muslims to show Americans and the world proof that they are indeed peaceful.

"Unfortunately, men like Osama bin Laden and other terrorists in Afghanistan have given a negative impression of our faith," another pointed out.

Nearly three in 10, or 29 percent in the poll said they see mainstream Islam as advocating violence against non-Muslims.

"It starts with all of us seeking to live together in peace, but I also blame the American press and Hollywood for just focusing on the bad things in our faith or the actions of these radical Muslims. No wonder Americans have a poor opinion of us," added one Muslim.

Many CBN News spoke to in Turkey are appreciative of Obama's efforts this week to reach out to the Muslim world. But now they say more needs to be done to reach out to America.

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CBN News
George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Senior Reporter

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