US Muslims see friendly neighbours but wary about Trump

Sunday 06/08/2017

New York - US Muslims said they have experienced widespread suspicion about their faith in the first months of Don­ald Trump’s presidency but also received more support from in­dividual Americans and remain hopeful they can be fully accepted in American society, a new survey indicated.
Nearly three-quarters of US Mus­lims asked said they view Trump as unfriendly to them, a Pew Research Centre report stated. Approximate­ly 62% of respondents said Ameri­cans do not view Islam as part of the mainstream after a presidential election that saw a surge in hostility towards Muslims and immigrants.
At the same time, nearly half of Muslims polled said they received expressions of encouragement from non-Muslims in the past year, an increase over past polls. Mus­lims said they remain optimistic about their future: 70% of those asked said they believe hard work can bring success in America, a fig­ure largely unchanged for a decade.
“There’s a sense among the American-Muslim population that others are beginning to understand them and beginning to sympathise with them,” said Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political sci­entist and adviser to Pew research­ers. Prejudice against Muslims has “pushed the average American to say: ‘This is really not fair. I’m going to knock on my neighbour’s door to see if they’re all right,’” Jamal said.
The Pew survey is the centre’s third on American Muslims since 2007 and its first since Trump took office January 20. He promised to fight terrorism through “extreme vetting” of refugees and had a plan to temporarily ban travellers from six Muslim-majority countries.
The latest poll of 1,001 adults was conducted by phone, both landline and cell phones, from January 23- May 2, in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu and has a margin of error of 5.8 percentage points.
The last several months have seen an uptick in reports of anti- Muslim harassment, including ar­son and vandalism at mosques and bullying at schools. In the Pew sur­vey, nearly half of US Muslims said they faced some discrimination in the last year, such as being treated with distrust, threatened or called an offensive name. That percentage is a slight increase over previous surveys.
However, the figure is much higher for respondents who said they were more visibly identified as Muslim, for example by a hijab for women. Nearly two-thirds of respondents with a more distinct Muslim identity said they had re­cently faced some type of discrimi­nation.
The survey reported evidence of a growing sense of Muslim belong­ing in the United States. While 89% said they were proud to be both Muslim and American, nearly two-thirds said there was no conflict be­tween Islam and democracy.
A larger share of American Mus­lims told Pew they had registered to vote and actually voted. About 44% of Muslims eligible to vote said they cast ballots in last year’s presidential election, compared to 37% reported in a poll in 2007. Those numbers on Muslim voting are compared to 60% of eligible voters overall who cast ballots in 2016.
American-Muslim leaders, alarmed by anti-Muslim rhetoric in the campaign, made an unprec­edented push to register voters in mosques and at community events. Turnout overall was higher after the highly contested 2016 campaign.
Muslims overwhelmingly backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clin­ton, who drew 78% of their vote compared to 8% for Trump.
Following a trend found in other American faith groups, a slight ma­jority of US Muslims polled said they now accept homosexuality, a dramatic reversal from a decade ago when 61% said same-sex rela­tionships should be discouraged.
Pew researchers estimate the number of US Muslims has been growing by 100,000 per year, reach­ing 3.35 million, or 1% of the Ameri­can population. Just more than half of US Muslims identify as Sunni and 16% say they are Shia. Nearly 60% adult American Muslims were born outside the United States.
The largest share of immigrants was from South Asian countries, such as Pakistan, India and Bang­ladesh. Others were from Iraq, Iran, sub-Saharan Africa and Eu­rope. American-born blacks com­prise about 13% of all Muslims in the United States but their share is shrinking. Overall, 80% are US citi­zens, the survey indicated.
Eight-in-ten American-Muslim poll respondents said they were concerned about Islamic extrem­ism and more than 70% said they were very or somewhat concerned about Islamic extremism in the United States. However, three-of-ten said most of those arrested re­cently on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack had been tricked by law enforcement authorities and did not represent a real threat.
(The Associated Press)