US Muslims see friendly neighbours but wary about Trump
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)