Muslims happy with life in US despite discrimination30 august 2011, 10:32
US Muslims are far more satisfied with the direction of their country than most Americans even though nearly half of them have faced discrimination and prejudice in the past year, a poll found Tuesday.
The survey was conducted ahead of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and aimed to provide a portrait of the 2.75 million Muslims living in the United States.
"Despite headlines and discussions about the possibility of Islamic radicalism and extremism, what our data shows today is that the Muslim American community is quite mainstream and moderate," said Pew Research Center analyst Greg Smith.
"The vast majority of (US) Muslims continue to oppose extremism, telling us things like suicide bombing in defense of Islam can never be justified."
While 55% of respondents said being a Muslim in the United States has become more difficult since the 9/11 attacks, 48% said they think ordinary Americans are generally "friendly" towards Muslims.
For Muslims in the United States, concerns about Islamic extremism coexist with the view that life for Muslim Americans in post-9/11 America is difficult in a number of ways. Significant numbers report being looked at with suspicion (28%), and being called offensive names (22%). And while 21% report being singled out by airport security, 13% say they have been singled out by other law enforcement. Overall, a 52% majority says that government anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims in the U.S. for increased surveillance and monitoring.
However, reports about such experiences and feelings of being subject to intense scrutiny have not changed substantially since 2007. Overall about the same percentage today as in 2007 say that life for Muslims in the U.S. has become more difficult since 9/11 (55% now, 53% in 2007). The percentage reporting they are bothered by their sense that Muslim Americans are being singled out for increased government surveillance also is no greater now than four years ago (38% bothered a lot or some today vs. 39% in 2007).
The controversies over the building of mosques in New York City and other parts of the country are resonating in the Muslim American community. Most Muslim Americans (81%) have heard about the proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center and a clear majority of those who are aware of the planned mosque (72%) say it should be allowed. However, 35% say either that the project should not be allowed (20%), or that it should be permitted but is a bad idea (15%).
A quarter of Muslim Americans (25%) report that mosques or Islamic centers in their communities have been the target of controversy or outright hostility. While 14% report that there has been opposition to the building of a mosque or Islamic center in their community in the past few years, 15% say that a mosque or Islamic center in their community has been the target of vandalism or other hostile acts in the past 12 months.
Many Muslims fault their own leaders for failing to challenge Islamic extremists. Nearly half (48%) say that Muslim leaders in the United States have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists; only about a third (34%) say Muslim leaders have done enough in challenging extremists. At the same time, 68% say that Muslim Americans themselves are cooperating as much as they should with law enforcement.
Currently, opinion is divided – 43% of Muslim Americans say U.S. efforts are a sincere attempt to reduce terrorism while 41% do not. Four years ago, during George Bush’s presidency, more than twice as many viewed U.S. anti-terrorism efforts as insincere rather than sincere (55% to 26%).
But at the same time some 56% of US Muslims said they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country compared with just 23% of the general public.
One reason could be because Muslims -- who overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party -- are more satisfied with the current political climate.
Just 38% of Muslims surveyed by Pew in 2007 said they were satisfied with the direction of the country.
About two-thirds (66%) say that the quality of life for Muslims in the U.S. is better than in most Muslim countries.
American Muslims are also much more integrated than the general public tends to believe, the survey found.
When it comes to many other aspects of American life, Muslim Americans look similar to the rest of the public. Comparable percentages say they watch entertainment television, follow professional or college sports, recycle household materials, and play video games. About one-in-three (33%) say they have worked with other people from their neighborhood to fix a problem or improve a condition in their community in the past 12 months, compared with 38% of the general public.
When asked to choose, nearly half of Muslims in the U.S. (49%) say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, while 26% see themselves first as an American; 18% volunteer that they are both. In a 2011 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 46% of Christians in the U.S. say they identify as Christian first while the same number identify as American first. White evangelicals are much more likely to identify first as Christian (70%).
The survey also finds that compared with Muslims elsewhere, Muslim Americans are more supportive of the role of women in society. Virtually all Muslim Americans (90%) agree that women should be able to work outside of the home. Most (68%) also think that there is no difference between men and women political leaders. These are not the prevailing views of Muslims in most predominantly Muslim countries surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
And on a key foreign policy issue, Muslim Americans are far more likely than Muslims in the Middle East to say that a way can be found for the state of Israel to exist so that the rights of the Palestinians are addressed (62% say this; 20% disagree). In this regard, the views of Muslim Americans resemble those of the general public, among whom 67% say a way can be found for the state of Israel to exist while protecting the rights of the Palestinians; 12% disagree.
The survey also found that while Muslim Americans are highly religious -- half report at least weekly mosque attendance -- they are not dogmatic. Just 37% of US Muslims say there is only one true way to interpret their religion, a view held by 28% of US Christians.
The survey also provided a demographic description of the US Muslim population which is generally hard to ascertain because the US census does not question respondents about religion.
It found that 63% of Muslim Americans were born abroad, of whom one in four arrived after 2000.
Foreign-born Muslims are a very diverse group, with no single country accounting for more than one in six immigrants. Four in ten immigrated from the Middle East or North Africa while about a quarter came from South Asia, 11% came from Sub-Sahara Africa and 7% came from Europe.
Among the roughly one in five Muslims whose parents were also born in the United States, 59% are African American, including a sizable majority who have converted to Islam.
It also found that the US Muslim population has grown by about 400,000 since 2007 to 2.75 million people, of whom 1.8 million are 18 or older.
Mira Oberman from AFP contributed to the report.
The complete research on Muslim Americans can be viewed in PDF at the Pew Research Center's website.