A 2019 sur­vey shows how rela­tion­ships curb Islam­o­pho­bia and improve under­stand­ing between the two faiths.

Ear­li­er this week, a Bap­tist church in Michi­gan can­celed an event titled, “9/11 For­got­ten? Is Michi­gan Sur­ren­der­ing to Islam?” due to push­back from fel­low Chris­tians and politi­cians.

The pas­tor of Bloom­field Hills Bap­tist Church iden­ti­fies as an Islam­o­phobe and orga­nized the gath­er­ing because he sees Islam as a grow­ing threat in the US, The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed.

While some fel­low white evan­gel­i­cals share his sus­pi­cions, research has shown that those who know Mus­lims in their com­mu­ni­ties tend to hold more pos­i­tive views and are more like­ly to see com­mon­al­i­ties between their two faiths.

“The per­son­al rela­tion­ships with Mus­lims, that’s a game chang­er,” Todd Green, Luther Col­lege pro­fes­sor and for­mer Islam­o­pho­bia advis­er to the US State Depart­ment, told ThePost. “It tends to make you less Islam­o­pho­bic.”

Yet sur­veys from var­i­ous sources have not­ed the friend­ship gap between evan­gel­i­cals and their Mus­lim neigh­bors. More than a third (35%) of white evan­gel­i­cals knew a Mus­lim per­son­al­ly in a 2017 Pew Research Cen­ter release, few­er than any oth­er reli­gious group, and evan­gel­i­cals sur­veyed rat­ed Mus­lims more neg­a­tive­ly than oth­er faiths.

The South­ern Bap­tist-affil­i­at­ed Life­Way Research found in 2017 that 17 per­cent of those with evan­gel­i­cal beliefs report­ed hav­ing a Mus­lim friend, while the Foun­da­tion for Eth­nic Under­stand­ing (FFEU) report­ed this year that only 22 per­cent of evan­gel­i­cals say they inter­act fre­quent­ly with Mus­lims. FFEU, led by a rab­bi seek­ing to improve Mus­lim-Jew­ish rela­tions, also not­ed that 1 in 3 evan­gel­i­cals with fre­quent inter­ac­tion with Mus­lims viewed Islam as sim­i­lar to their own faith com­pared to 1 in 4 evan­gel­i­cals over­all.

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