Washington — More than half of Muslim-Americans in a new poll say that government anti-terrorism 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 the way things are going in the U.S. and rate their communities highly as places to live.
The survey by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive ever of the country’s Muslims, finds no signs of rising alienation or anger among Muslim-Americans despite recent U.S. 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 Washington, D.C.-based Muslim civil rights group.
“People contact us every day about concerns they’ve had, particularly with law enforcement authorities in this post-9/11 era,” he said.
Muslim extremists hijacked the planes on Sept. 11, 2001, crashing them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa.
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 personally experienced harassment in the past year, according to the poll released today.
That 43 percent 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 by people, while 22 percent said they were called offensive names. About 21 percent said they were singled out by airport security because they were Muslim, 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 U.S. anti-terror 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 U.S. anti-terrorism efforts as insincere than sincere — 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 now more likely to say they are satisfied with the current direction of the country — 56 percent, up from 38 percent in 2007. That is in contrast to the general U.S. public, whose satisfaction has dropped from 32 percent 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 U.S. 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.”