The Pew Research Center just released the results of a new survey on the American Muslim experience, and the findings are pretty much what you’d expect, unfortunately: A majority of American Muslims feel they face a lot of discrimination in the United States, they say life hasn’t become any easier for American Muslims in recent years and they’re understandably worried about President Donald Trump.
But there also were some encouraging findings: Nearly all of the study’s Muslim respondents said they were proud to be Americans, and 70 percent believe that hard work will allow them to “get ahead.”
It’s inspiring that American Muslims still believe in the American Dream, which includes the fundamental promise of religious freedom – that you have the right to believe, or not, as you see fit. It’s especially noteworthy because this faith in America comes in the face of Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban, attempts by state legislators to shepherd needless anti-Sharia bills, skyrocketing reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes and general anti-Muslim sentiment that seems to be flourishing in some corners of the United States.
Most of the study’s findings reflect this anti-Muslim rhetoric:
- “Indeed, nearly two-thirds of Muslim Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today. And about three-quarters say Donald Trump is unfriendly toward Muslims in America,” noted Pew. “On both of these counts, Muslim opinion has undergone a stark reversal since 2011, when Barack Obama was president, at which point most Muslims thought the country was headed in the right direction and viewed the president as friendly toward them.”
- Three-quarters of the respondents said Muslims face a lot of discrimination in the U.S., and about half said they personally had faced religion-based discrimination in the last year – including being “treated with suspicion,” being singled out by law enforcement or airport security, and being physically attacked or threatened. Muslim women and Muslims who wear Islamic garb or are otherwise perceived as having a Muslim appearance were the most likely to have experienced discrimination.
- Half of the respondents said being an American Muslim has become more difficult in recent years; only 3 percent said it’s become easier. The most common reasons cited for the difficulties include “statements about Muslim extremists in other countries, misconceptions and stereotyping about Islam among the U.S. public, and Trump’s attitudes and policies toward Muslims.”
Despte the anti-Muslim animus many American Muslims experience in the U.S., most still believe in the American Dream.
Pew included some illuminating comments from their respondents. A Muslim woman younger than 30 said, “A lot of us Muslims, we don’t feel safe here anymore. Trump is kind of painting a bad picture for Muslims.”
A male Muslim immigrant told Pew, “We have to take extra caution scanning our surroundings – know where we are, who is around and what kind of thoughts they might hold for Islam, about Islam or against Islam. Especially when the Muslim ban was introduced the first time around, I literally felt like the persecution had started. Because we had read the history of Europe and what happened to the Jewish people in Germany. These little steps lead to bigger issues later on. So, we really felt like we were threatened.”
And from a Muslim woman in her 40s: “What I have in common with most Americans is a dedication to this country. We also have in common our shared humanity. …We’re all struggling to earn, pay our taxes and raise our kids. More and more, I’m finding it hard to find common ground with people who don’t understand minority communities. The minorities are becoming the majority, and I know that’s hard for some people. I feel sympathy for them; empathy as well. But they need to accept this new reality.”
About half of the respondents said someone had expressed support for them in the past year specifically because they are Muslim. That’s 17 percentage points higher than the number of Muslims who said they’d received support 10 years ago, so that’s a plus. But it would be great if all of the respondents could feel supported. Earlier this year, AU teamed up with our allies at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative to offer advice on how everyone can support our Muslim neighbors.
Americans United will continue to support religious freedom for everyone. We’ll be in the courts fighting against the Muslim ban and other discriminatory practices. We’ll go to Capitol Hill and the statehouses to advocate for legislation that supports religious freedom and against laws that would harm it. And we’ll stand with our allies against attacks on our fundamental right to believe, or not, as we choose. Please join us.