ABU DHABI // Qatar topped a poll of young people who believe non-Muslims should have the same rights as Muslims when in their country.
But many states were split and half the respondents in some countries thought they should not be treated the same.
The findings came in a survey of almost 7,000 young Arabs by the Tabah Foundation in Abu Dhabi.
The findings raise concerns about a lack of understanding of other cultures and religions, the survey’s authors said.
“The view that citizenship is subject to a hierarchy of prominence, determined primarily by one’s faith, is precisely the frame that extremist groups want normalised,” said Abaas Yunas, head of the Tabah Futures Initiative that designed the study.
“This raises a profound question: why do they think non-Muslim citizens should not have equal rights? Where is that coming from?”
It could be derived from extremist ideologies that take concepts from Islam and distort them, he said.
It is in contrast to measures taken to grant equal treatment for all religious minorities, such as at the Marrakech Declaration last year.
“But ignorance plays a very important role in all of this and they [extremists] exploit it,” Mr Yunas said.
Such ideas could also be propagated among insecure Muslims, who fear that non-Muslim residents of their country could spread un-Islamic behaviour.
“A person who is comfortable with their religious identity does not fear having non-Muslims living among them,” Mr Yunas said.
The largest rate of young people who said non-Muslims should not have equal rights was in Libya, at 54 per cent.
That was followed by Mauritania, with 47 per cent.
In Oman, the figure was 41 per cent.
Rania Abou, a 32-year-old resident of Qatar, said such views are driven by ignorance and perhaps political instability in some countries.
“When people are under pressure to survive on a daily basis, they tend to stick to people from their own sect,” Ms Abou said.
“Our Islamic religion says there should be no difference between people of different faiths.
“If the religion does not deprive them of their rights, who are we to do that?
“Moral and ethical behaviour are also not entirely religion based.
“There are many Muslims who spread negative behaviour in society.
“It has nothing to do with being Muslim or not.”