Issue 269, Friday 30 September 2011 - 25 Shawwal 1432
USA: American Muslims seeking integration are met with discrimination
By Sara Asaria
In a survey conducted earlier this year, a large majority of Muslims demonstrated their affiliation with the American way of life. However, the value of these findings, which were published on August 30, is somewhat diminished by the treatment and perception of American Muslims by the general public.
Nearly 30% of the 1,033 Muslim Americans questioned by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, claimed to have faced negative views about Muslims including stereotyping, distrust and being viewed as terrorists.
American Muslims are calling for more to be done in the fight against extremism. Nearly half (48%) of Muslim Americans say that Muslim leaders in the US have not done enough to speak out against “Islamic” (the word was used by the Pew and not the Muslims) extremists and 81% assert that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are never justified. Yet in the last three years, the number of Muslims in the US who answered that life has become more difficult since 9/11 has increased from 53% to 55%.
A resounding majority of 96% of Muslim Americans would also disagree that Muslim support for extremism is on the increase. However, more than half of American Muslims claim they continue to be singled out by anti-terrorism policies, including increased surveillance and monitoring - 21% insist they have been singled out by airport security officials because of their faith, whilst an additional 13% have been targeted by other law enforcement officials.
Furthermore, 24% of the general public claim that support for extremism is on the rise amongst American Muslims. American Muslims who complain over ignorance or misconceptions about Islam speculate that this is due to the cultural differences between Muslims and non-Muslims (7%) and a negative portrayal of Muslims by the media (5%).
In the last year, 50% of American Muslims have been met with suspicion or verbal abuse and 6% say they have been physically threatened or attacked.
The presence of mosques and community centres also provides ammunition for hostility, with 25% claiming that such buildings have been the target of controversy or outright hostility. A further 15% of those interviewed admit that a mosque or Islamic center in their community has been the target of vandalism or other hostile acts in the past 12 months.
Undeterred by these incidents, almost 50% of Muslim Americans would describe ordinary Americans as friendly, with only 16% claiming the opposite. An additional 82% of American Muslims are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with the way things are going on in their lives – and nearly 80% rate their communities as “excellent” or “good” places to live.
This relates to findings that two-thirds of American Muslims believe that the quality of life for Muslims is higher in the US than most Muslim countries. Such is the Muslim affinity with the States that more than a quarter of American Muslims would think of themselves first of American and second as Muslim. However, American Muslims are not met with equal enthusiasm by the general public, the majority of whom believing that Muslim immigrants would prefer to remain distinct from larger culture.
Though 56% of Muslim Americans argue that Muslim immigrants are ready to adopt American customs and ways of life, only 51% of the general public would agree and the financial status of American Muslims remains ambiguous. The proportion of Muslim Americans claiming to be in good or excellent shape financially continues to grow (46% of Muslims, compared with 36% of the general public), yet American Muslims are 2% less likely to than other Americans to report household incomes of $100,000 Muslim and 2% less likely to have graduated from college. However, Muslims are 3% more likely to be self employed or own a small business and are in general, twice as likely to be happy with the way their lives are going than the general public.
This may be linked to the political affiliations of American Muslims: whilst a majority 76% of US Muslims approve of Obama’s job performance, the President only gained a 46% minority of the general public’s approval.
The survey of 1,033 Muslim Americans and 1,500 general public was conducted April 14-July 22 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.