July 24, 2007
Written by C.N.
In a previous post, I wrote about a new comprehensive report that describes the socioeconomic characteristics and cultural attitudes of Muslim Americans. Of course, the flip side of this topic is, now that we know what Muslim Americans are like and what they think, what do other Americans think about them — how does American society see Muslim Americans? To try to answer that question, Newsweek just released their own public opinion survey about American attitudes towards Muslim Americans:
Forty percent of those surveyed believe Muslims in the United States are as loyal to the U.S. as they are to Islam. (Thirty-two percent believe American Muslims are less loyal to the U.S.) But close to half (46 percent) of Americans say this country allows too many immigrants to come here from Muslim countries.
A solid majority of Americans (63 percent) believe most Muslims in this country do not condone violence, and 40 percent tend to believe the Qur’an itself does not condone violence (28 percent feel it does). But 41 percent of Americans feel Muslim culture glorifies suicide.
Most Americans surveyed (52 percent) view Muslims who live here as more peaceable than those living outside the United States. (Only 7 percent think Muslims here are less peaceable.) Still, there is a high level of concern among Americans about Islamic radicals inside the United States. A majority of Americans report being either “somewhat” (38 percent) or “very worried” (16 percent) about radicals within the American Muslim community.
The concern over radicalism seems to translate into some support for FBI wiretapping of mosques. Roughly half (52 percent) of the poll’s respondents favor this kind of surveillance. The same number rejects the notion that Muslim Americans are unfairly singled out or profiled by law enforcement, while more than a third (38 percent) do think Muslims are unfairly targeted. Yet if a 9/11-style terrorist attack were to occur again, only 25 percent of Americans would support mass detentions of U.S. Muslims; a solid majority (60 percent) would oppose such detentions.
The main drawback to this Newsweek survey is that we don’t have any other racial/ethnic/religious group with which to compare these attitudes about Muslim Americans. In other words, when 32% of Americans say Muslim Americans are more loyal to Islam than to the U.S., how would that compare to, say, Asians. In other words, how many Americans believe that Asian Americans are more loyal to their Asian ancestral country than to the U.S.?
Despite this particular weakness of the survey, my interpretation of the results is that while Newsweek seems to portray Americans’ attitudes as largely accepting of Muslim Americans, I tend to think otherwise. To me, 40% of Americans saying that Muslim Americans are more loyal to the U.S. than to Islam is not something to celebrate.
In other words, while it may seem as though “most” Americans tend to be more sympathetic rather than hostile towards Muslim Americans, ultimately, the relatively tepid level of support and understanding that comes across in these results does not suggest to me that most Americans are accepting of Muslims in the U.S.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Attitudes Towards Muslim Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/07/attitudes-towards-muslim-americans/> ().
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