CAIRO - Reflecting a distorted image of Islam drawn by media, a new study of attitudes towards religion has found that half of all Germans believe that Islam does not fit into the Western world, seeing it as a threat to their country.
"The picture the media give of Buddhism or Hinduism is that of peace-loving religions," Detlef Pollack, the sociologist who co-authored the study, told Deutsche Welle.
"Their picture of Islam is more about fanaticism and aggression."
The shocking attitudes towards Islam were revealed in a new study, the Religion Monitor, by the Bertelsmann Foundation.
Surveying into the views on the social significance of religion and values, the study was carried out in Germany and 12 other countries, and included the views of 14,000 people.
Among the Germans, 85 percent agreed or tended to agree that one should be open towards all religions.
Though considering most religions as an enrichment, especially Christianity, also Judaism and Buddhism, a majority of 51 percent of Germans saw Islam as a threat.
The opinion seeing Islam as a particular threat was shared in many western states.
This applies to 60 percent of Spaniards, 50 percent of the Swiss and 42 percent of US citizens.
In contrast, in India, only 30 percent see Islam as a threat, and in South Korea, it's just 16 percent.
In other western European countries, such as France, Britain, and the Netherlands, surveyed people saw Islam in a more positive light than does Germany.
These results, Pollack said, were related to the educational level of the Muslims in each country.
In Germany we have very few highly educated people among immigrants, he said.
That influences people's attitudes, especially towards the Muslim immigrants.
Shocked by the results, German Muslims agreed that media has a bad effect on their image, urging Muslims to engage more with the society to correct their image.
In the media we often see a very distorted picture of Islam, Aiman Mazyek, The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said.
He added that the negative perception could be due to the lack of personal contact between Christians and Muslims.
To overcome this negative perception, Mazyek urged Muslims to engage more with the society.
The Muslims have to roll up their sleeves, get more involved in society and make it clear that they are committed to this country, he said.
The Muslim communities have held an "Open Mosque Day" every October 3 since 1997, while Jewish communities also regularly invite non-Jews into their synagogues.
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Fear of Islam in Germany is not new.
An earlier study in 2010 by the University of Munster found that 66 percent of western Germans and 74 percent of eastern Germans had a negative attitude towards Muslims.
A more recent study from the Allensbach Institute suggested that this had not changed over the past two years.
Asking Germans about Islam, only 22 percent said they agreed with Germany's former president Christian Wulff's statement that Islam, like Christianity, was part of Germany.
According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer "a Germany without Islam."