US Muslims concerned about place in society

Survey finds Muslims feel out of place in society, displeased with their president, and are targets of discrimination.

    Despite their concerns and perceived challenges, Muslims in the US said they were proud to be American [File: Reuters]
    Despite their concerns and perceived challenges, Muslims in the US said they were proud to be American [File: Reuters]

    The early days of Donald Trump's presidency caused anxiety among Muslim Americans, with many reporting concern about their place in US society, a new survey has found.

    Half of the 1,001 respondents said it has become harder to be Muslim, with 48 percent saying they had experienced at least one incident of discrimination in the past year.

    The Pew Research Center said in its report on Wednesday that Muslims in the US "perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream US society".

    READ MORE: Can Muslim politicians survive in today's US?

    The organisation estimates that there are 3.35 million Muslims of all ages living in the US - up from about 2.75 million in 2011 and 2.35 million in 2007.

    Nearly two-thirds of Muslim Americans surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the direction in which the US was heading, and 74 percent said Trump was unfriendly towards Americans.

    When asked: "Does Donald Trump make you feel worried?", 68 percent said yes.

    The report's findings mark a stark reversal since 2011, when Democrat Barack Obama was president. Then, most Muslims thought the country was heading in the right direction and viewed the president as friendly toward them.

    Proud Americans

    About a third of those surveyed reported being treated with suspicion, while nearly one in five said they had been called offensive names or singled out by airport security.

    Some 6 percent reported being physically threatened or attacked, Pew said. 

    One Muslim woman respondent, who used to wear the niqab, the veil that covers the face, told Pew she had been called a terrorist on a public bus. 

    "No one came to my defence," she said. "If you cover your face, people assume you are dangerous. I don't wear the niqab any more."

    Nearly one in five reported seeing anti-Muslim graffiti in their neighbourhood in the past year.

    The US media covered Islam unfairly, more than half of the respondents said.

    Pew's survey follows a report published last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, saying Islamophobic abuse rose by 91 percent in the first half of 2017, as compared to the same period last year. 

    Still, there was some optimism within Pew's findings.

    Nine in ten surveyed said they were both proud to be American and proud to be Muslim.

    And the number of US Muslims who said they received expressions of support in the past year has grown, with 49 percent saying someone had expressed support for them because of their religion compared with 37 percent in 2007.

    Six in ten US Muslims also said they had a lot in common with most Americans.

    READ MORE: Texas Muslims threatened amid increasing Islamophobia

    The survey also showed that Muslims shared the general public's concerns about religious "extremism", with 80 percent saying they were very concerned or somewhat concerned.

    "Indeed, if anything, Muslims may be more concerned than non-Muslims about extremism in the name of Islam," Pew said.

    "Yet most Muslims say there is little support for extremism in the US Muslim community, and few say they think violence against civilians can be justified in pursuit of religious, political or social causes," it added. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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