US Muslims find selves target of monitoring, abuse
Yet poll reveals satisfaction in life, home
WASHINGTON - More than half of Muslim-Americans in a new poll say government antiterrorism policies single them out for increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name-calling, threats, and harassment by airport security, law enforcement officers and others.
Still, most Muslim-Americans say they are satisfied with life in the United States and rate their communities highly.
The survey by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive of the country’s Muslims, finds no signs of rising alienation or anger among Muslim-Americans despite recent US government concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorism and controversy over the building of mosques.
“This confirms what we’ve said all along: American Muslims are well integrated and happy, but with a kind of lingering sense of being besieged by growing anti-Muslim sentiment in our society,’’ said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group based in Washington, D.C.
Muslim extremists hijacked four passenger planes on Sept. 11, 2001, crashing them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field.
In all, 52 percent of Muslim-Americans surveyed said their group is singled out by government for terrorist surveillance. Almost as many - 43 percent - reported they had experienced harassment in the past year, according to the poll released yesterday. That share of people reporting harassment is up from 40 percent in 2007, the first time Pew polled Muslim-Americans.
Asked to identify in what ways they felt bias, about 28 percent said they had been treated or viewed with suspicion, while 22 percent said they were called offensive names. About 21 percent said they were singled out by airport security, while another 13 percent said they were targeted by other law enforcement officials. Roughly 6 percent said they had been physically threatened or attacked.
On the other hand, the share of Muslim-Americans who view US policies as “sincere’’ efforts to reduce international terrorism now surpasses those who view them as insincere - 43 percent to 41 percent. Four years ago, during the presidency of George W. Bush, far more viewed US anti-terrorism efforts as insincere - 55 percent to 26 percent.
The vast majority of Muslim-Americans - 79 percent - rate their communities as either “excellent’’ or “good’’ places to live, even among many who reported an act of vandalism against a mosque or a controversy over the building of an Islamic center in their neighborhoods.
They also are more likely to say they are satisfied with the direction of the country - 56 percent, up from 38 percent in 2007. That is in contrast to the general public, whose satisfaction has dropped to 23 percent.
Andrew Kohut, Pew president, said in an interview that Muslim-Americans’ overall level of satisfaction was striking.
“I was concerned about a bigger sense of alienation, but there was not,’’ Kohut said, contrasting the United States to many places in Europe where Muslims have become more separatist. “You don’t see any indication of brewing negativity. When you look at their attitudes, these are still middle-class, mainstream people who want to be loyal to America.’’
The latest numbers come amid increased US attention on the risks of homegrown terrorism after the London transit bombings in 2005. The problem has been especially pressing for President Obama, with federal investigators citing a greater risk of attacks by a “lone wolf’’ or small homegrown cells following the 2009 Fort Hood shooting and the Times Square bombing attempt last year.
Such terror warnings have stirred raw emotions as the nation struggles to talk about religion in the context of terrorism.
Tensions escalated last summer over plans to build an Islamic center near the Ground Zero site in New York City after critics assailed it as an insult to the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, held House hearings earlier this year to examine whether American Muslims are becoming “radicalized’’ to attack the United States.
The Associated Press reported last week that with CIA guidance, the New York Police Department dispatched undercover officers into minority neighborhoods, scrutinized imams, and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.
Still, one factor behind the somewhat upbeat sentiment of Muslim-Americans is the 2008 election of Obama, who pledged to improve relations with the Muslim world. Muslim-Americans who vote largely identify themselves as Democrats, and fully 76 percent say they approve of Obama’s job performance.
The 2.75 million Muslim-Americans make up about one percent of the US population.