White Americans are twice as likely as minorities to support satirizing religion, according to a Pew Research Center study.
The survey, which was conducted between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25, 2015, asked respondents whether they approve of cartoons satirizing religion or religious figures, like France's Charlie Hebdo magazine covers featuring Islamic prophet Mohammad.
Seventy percent of white respondents said they support the right to satirize religion with cartoons, while only 37 percent of non-whites approved, according to the survey. Almost 50 percent of non-whites disapproved.
Experts in politics and religious studies told McClatchy's news service that the sharp divide could be attributed to the way minorities perceive jokes by a society's "dominant culture."
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“Non-white Americans might be more sensitive than whites to negative media images of Islam (and religious diversity in general) because they understand how it feels to believe, rightly or wrongly, that one’s community is under attack by the media and mainstream society,” Henry Goldschmidt, director of education programs at the Interfaith Center of New York, told McClatchy.
While he said the Pew survey didn't adequately cover the reasons why non-whites disapprove of such images, the University of California's Howard Winant agreed with Goldschmidt.
“They are responding to the echoes in the cartoons of other, longstanding hurts and grievances that are very real,” Winant, director of the Center for New Racial Studies, told McClatchy in an email.
The survey found that while racial background was a factor in whether people approve or disapprove of religious satire, religious affiliation didn't seem to influence the responses. For instance, people who said they were not affiliated with a major religion supported religious satire in roughly the same numbers as Catholics and Protestants, Pew found.
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While the survey measured differences in responses based on gender and education level, it did not include sub-categories for minority religious groups in America.
“I’d be far more interested to learn what American Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., think of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons," Goldschmidt said.