Germans more negative towards Muslims than others

BERLIN (Reuters) - Only about one third of Germans think positively of their Muslim neighbours, a much lower proportion than in other western European countries, according to a new poll published on Thursday.

In contrast, 62 percent of Dutch and 56 percent of French people responding to the TNS Emnid survey indicated they had positive attitudes towards Muslims.

Detlef Pollack, a Muenster University sociologist who led the study, attributed Germans' views to their lack of contact with Muslims compared to people in other nations surveyed.

"The more often you meet Muslims, the more you view them as generally positive," he said.

The survey broke down the German results into western and eastern responses, reflecting continuing divisions in the once-divided country. Only 34 percent in the west and 26 percent in the east had positive impressions of Muslims, it said.

Contact with Muslims also showed regional differences, with 40 percent of westerners but only 16 percent of easterners saying they occasionally met Muslims.

French people appear to have the most contact with Muslims, 66 percent of those responding saying they had such contacts.

"If there were a terrorist attack now in Germany, as is feared, this would also be dramatic regarding Muslims," Pollack said. "The majority of the people would feel vindicated in their negative attitude."

The survey was conducted before former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin plunged Germany into a heated debate over Muslim integration in a controversial best-selling book published in August.

Pollack said Muslim integration had not been debated as seriously as in other countries, which could account for the more negative views Germans had.

More than half of Germans surveyed said they associated Islam with discrimination against women, fanaticism, propensity to violence and bigotry.

The survey polled 1,000 people in western Germany, eastern Germany, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Portugal each.

(Writing by Eric Kelsay; editing by Tom Heneghan)

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