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U.S. Muslims happy with their country despite pressure, study finds
More than half of American Muslims say it’s harder to be a Muslim in America since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
August 30th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

U.S. Muslims happy with their country despite pressure, study finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

People look at Zeinab Chami a little warily sometimes, she says, especially when she travels outside big cities.

She started wearing a headscarf when she was in her early 20s, making herself "a visible Muslim."

That "can really be an emotional strain," she says.

Life is getting harder for American Muslims, she says, given the media's portrayal of Muslims, the false perception that President Barack Obama is Muslim, and the rise of the tea party, whose most vocal leaders, according to Chami, "spew vitriol against anyone perceived to be 'foreign.'"

And yet, she says, American Muslims are "lucky."

"I have Muslim friends who are from every ethnic background. It's easier to get to the true spirit, the true practice of Islam," in the United States. It's easier for a Muslim woman to get a postgraduate education in America, and the American sense of civic-mindedness jibes with Muslim teaching, she says.

"When people see a clash of civilizations, they are wrong," she says.

Chami - a 27-year-old educator working with a nonprofit to improve teens' math and reading skills in Michigan - is typical of many American Muslims, a new survey suggests.

Many American Muslims feel singled out by government anti-terror policies; significant minorities have been called names or had their mosques attacked; and most say it's harder to be a Muslim in the United States now than it was before September 11, 2001.

And yet the vast majority say their communities are very good places to live, that Americans are not hostile toward Muslims, and that American Muslims have a better quality of life than Muslims elsewhere, the survey of more than 1,000 American Muslims has found.

Support for Islamic extremism is not rising among Muslim Americans, who are much less likely to support terrorism than Muslims in many other countries, according to the study by the Pew Research Center in Washington.

Seven out of ten American Muslims have very unfavorable views of al Qaeda, while only 5% have favorable or somewhat favorable views.

Chami puts it bluntly: "Everybody hates al Qaeda - hates, hates, hates. There is real hatred because of the atrocious attacks and because the blowback on the community affecting us."

The lack of support for extremism "makes these perceptions about Muslims in America kind of ironic," Chami says ruefully.

But Rep. Pete King, R-New York, who has been chairing high-profile congressional hearings about the radicalization of U.S. Muslims, argued that the Pew study "was not as positive as it might seem."

"Seventy percent of American Muslims are opposed to al Qaeda. We are at war with al Qaeda. One hundred percent should be opposed to al Qaeda," he said.

He's not worried about the radicalization of the community as a whole, he said: "I've always said the majority of Muslims are good Americans. My concern is the small number of Muslims who can be radicalized."

"Al Qaeda is attempting to recruit, and we can't hide from it. If they can recruit 15 or 20 or 30 people, that's what we're talking about. There were 19 hijackers on September 11," he said.

And while he acknowledges that the percentage of American Muslims who trust the government's anti-terror efforts is rising, he says it's still not high enough.

"Only 43% think that government anti-terrorist efforts are sincere. If 57% don't think they're sincere, then when the FBI comes into their communities, they're not going to cooperate with those efforts. I think that's worrying," he said.

The survey shows that American Muslims are much less likely to support terrorism than their co-religionists in the Middle East.

Four out of five say suicide bombing and other violence against civilians is never justified. That's a significantly higher percentage than Muslims in five Middle Eastern countries and territories surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project earlier this year.

And although six out of 10 express some worry about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the United States, only two out of 10 believe there is much support for extremism today.

Just under half of American Muslims say U.S. Muslim leaders have not spoken out enough against extremism, while one in three say they have.

The survey came against the background of a number of controversies touching the American Muslim community, ranging from King's hearings to the debate over plans to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.

Even so, American Muslims have positive views of the United States now, and they are getting more favorable over time, the survey found.

American Muslims are far more likely to believe that the United States is sincere in its efforts to fight terrorism now than they were four years ago, the study says.

Just under half of them say American efforts are sincere, many more than believed it in 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

The rising level of trust comes even though half of all American Muslims believe that they're being singled out for increased surveillance and monitoring, the study says.

The feeling that it's harder to be a Muslim in America since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks has held steady since 2007, with just over half expressing the view in each survey.

About one out of five Muslim Americans say they've been called offensive names in the past year, and about the same number say they've been singled out by airport security.

And many feel that their own leaders are not doing enough to fight Islamic extremism, according to the study, a joint project of the Pew Research Center for People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The researchers spoke to 1,033 Muslim Americans between April 14 and July 22, doing telephone interviews in English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Asked whether they consider themselves Muslims or Americans first, half of the respondents said Muslim, a quarter said American, and the rest either said both equally or that they didn't know.

American Christians, by way of comparison, split right down the middle. Just under half say American, just under half say Christian, and less than one in ten chooses either both or "don't know."

Zeinab Chami, the educator, chose a different answer.

"I would say I consider myself a human first, and I live my life according to that," she said. "We're all the human family, and that happens to be a very Islamic point of view. My loyalty is to God, then humanity. Not God, then country - God, then humanity."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Islam • Polls • United States

soundoff (915 Responses)
  1. Billy

    I wonder what the Muslims in the rest of the world think of American Muslims...

    August 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      CNN is censoring everything today .. you can not say anything but good liberal slop or else it is canned

      August 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • no

      No, they are thinking of you, they got their eye on you on how to make you pray 5 times a day!

      August 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Old Al .. he don't cotton to missin one of them five prayer meetins .. you better get yor big ol' hinder up in the air and yor nose on the deck or ol' AL is gunna whup yor u-no-whut

      August 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  2. epicjourney

    I am pretty sure that many muslim leaders in the middle east do not consider American Muslim to be 'real' muslims. After all, Islam preaches that all infidels must convert, die, or pay the non-muslim tax.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Richard Edelstein

    I was staggered by this article and the figures quoted. The article says "Seven out of ten American Muslims have very unfavorable views of al Qaeda, while only 5% have favorable or somewhat favorable views." Given that the number of Muslims in the US is estimated to be between 3 and 6 million, that means that between 150,000 and 300,000 muslims have a favorable or somewhat favorable view of Al Quaeda. Staggering !!...and it does not bode well for the future.....there is clearly a problem here.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Billy

      I just read that it's about 2.4 million, though the Muslim groups tell you it's 7 million. So if they tell us they have 5 million more believers than they really have, does that mean that they are claiming to have 250,000 more haters?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      The "fear factors" bellied by the Muslims who side with acts of terrorisitic principalities keeps many Muslim terror tactilitarians in low numbers which is a good thing no?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      2 million legal; 6 million illegal (all h.a.t.e.f.u.l. k.i.l.l.e.r.s. full of treachery)

      August 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      .. iif they say 7 million and the census says 2.5 million ... guess who is right? The other 6.5 million are their illegal budidies (like Obama's uncle who just got pinched for DUI and told the cops .. call the White House... Old Barry himself ..

      August 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  4. Pierre A. - Westmount, Qc

    Now, how about taking a survey what non-muslim Americans think about "American" muslims?
    Zeinab Chami, the , says that her first loyalty is to God (the Koran refers to this spiritual deity as "Allah"), not country nor humanity. Can she describe her ? Her comments suggest that man-made laws are inferior to her God's laws which, according to Muslims' beliefs, are in the Koran. Muslims claim that Al Koran represents is only a few detached pages from a book that is in Muslim's paradise. It is, therefore, nothing to be surprised that Muslims are brain-washed to believe that man-made laws are inferior; of course, they do not hesitate to have recourse to them when it's to their advantage.
    Western culture and civilization should never back off reminding its population what Islam is all about. History proves that since Islam's inception in 632, there doesn't exist a civilization which succeeded in integrating Muslims in its society: islamic communities always neutralized and most often destroyed countries that were accommodating. It's pathetic to realize the total ignorance that non-muslims have of Islam.
    To understand Muslims whose mentality flows from Al Coran and to avoid being trapped by their double talk, all that is required is to be as well-versed in Al Coran (if not better) than Muslims themselves, which is not that difficult. If Muslims are obliged to attend "Coranic" schools learning to recite Al Coran by memory, in Arabic, before knowing its meaning. all you need to do is take some of your convenient time to read Al Coran and the Hadith.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  5. RightTurnClyde

    I wish they did not love us so much and would pack up and go home .. and take their illegal relatives with them .. (here's your towel, what's your hurry?)

    August 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  6. General Sherman = HERO

    I wish Obama were the Muslim Stalinists that these teabaggers say he is. He'd take all of them and force them to mine salt.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Napolitan has the camps and she is trying to figure out how to round us up. So you are half-right.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  7. susan

    Gee, nothing could make me happier 🙂

    August 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  8. Shak

    How many of you who attack Muslims and Islam have actually met a Muslim? I bet you would be surprised at how much like you they are. Nothing like the bias of people who have never met someone they hate.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • General Sherman = HERO

      Most of these southern redneck teabaggers have never met someone who isn't white. Except maybe an African American, who they're all sweet and loving to in person but who they talk about behind their backs.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      A red neck tea bagger is not the same a a liberal two bagger .. ugly as all get out and the disposition of a rattle snake

      August 30, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Jeff

      I live and work around indians, pakistani's, Chinese and othes. I know and work around a lot of Muslims.. Muslims are nice enough to your face, but you're not always certain what they are thinking.. Islam is a dangerous system.. But not all Muslims are bad. Unfortunately, the media is hyping up the Muslim thing to convince us it's all going to be ok. Sorry.. Political correctness was contrived by the media in an attempt to persuade us that it is indeed possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  9. Mike

    Funny, MSNBC just posted a poll saying the majority of American muslims feel singled out.....

    August 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  10. "He's Dead Jim."

    All of this love for American building is real warm and fuzzy all over. True they have more rights here and can practice their beliefs without being told how by dictators in the middle east. However, it still goes a lot like this: the most wars in this world right now are being fought with one side being islamic and a bully against a weaker foe. The middle east is in it's usual state of poor being mostly because some dictators have milked islam to realize their desired goals and to oppress people. I will think a lot more of muslims when they realize that their belief is nothing more than a people control tool and that it is being used to the worst effect by dictators around the world. I will respect them when they abandon this belief that is just an oppression tool. I think christians are whack jobs.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      AGREED .... one needs to be familiar with CULT tactics used on people along with the psychologies that take place to keep people brainwashed. It's mostly fear based tactics. We have seen this during the Christian crusades when intimidation, abuse and horrific torture and murder were used to control and suppress people into religion.

      August 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  11. Silly Willy

    Hitler was an atheist......

    And before you say it, no he was Catholic. He denouced Christianity

    August 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Abram

      So your point is that since Hitler was an atheist, I shouldn't be one, because then I shall become like Hitler? Why not, "Hitler was a man", or, "Hitler was a failed artist"? Just wondering, because if you're logic is to choose a single historical figure well-known for his evil, and then associate one trait that he ALSO had, why not choose Henry the 14th, who was a Christian?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • bananaspy

      So I guess the Gott Mit Uns on Nazi belt buckles was Hitler's way of being sarcastic.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Secondly, even if Hitler was an atheist, the majority of his followers, you know, the ones doing most of the killing... were not. Hitler had strong support from the Catholic church; the Catholic church doesn't have a long record of backing atheist agendas last I checked.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      OK, fair enough. Even if Hitler was in some respects an Atheist. His rise of power and the responsibility of the Nazis for the abuse, torture and the horrific murder over less than a decade doesn't even come close to that of the Christian faith of over the last three plus thousand years.

      August 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Mosca

    There are more radical white supremacists in the US than there are radical muslims.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Big Bob

      And where did you ever hear that hogwash?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Janet Napolitano is a butch supremist .. is that the same thing?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • gemini1971

      And you are right about that but when was the last time we were attack by this supremacist outside and inside USA?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  13. frank

    I would be happy with them if they ate pig.

    August 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I think we are actually happier when the women wear the face mask because they are hound dog ugly. Scare camels and makes them run away

      August 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Their wimmin in bags are ugly but after weeks on a camel in the desert anything makes them want to sin.. Come to de Casbah dah-link

      August 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  14. marcia

    I like you JW!!!

    August 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Laughing

      Looks like although Tallulah might have spurned you JW, marcia is ripe for the taking. Woo her like you've never woo'd before!

      August 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • J.W

      OOOhhh Marcia where you from and how old? LOL

      August 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Go get her, J.W.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • marcia

      JW...I like you...but I really really like Doc Vestibule! What a catch! And what a great sense of humor!!!

      August 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @marcia
      awwww... you're making me feel all warm and squidgy.
      You are my new special friend.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Laughing

      Oh JW! Swing and a miss!

      I guess today isn't your day, but you'll get her next time, just wear her down until she can't resist your charms any longer

      August 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • J.W

      See I figured she hated Doc, but she was just playing hard to get. I guess she was just teasing me.

      August 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Laughing

      What a tease!

      why is it always about marcia,

      Marcia Marcia Marcia!

      August 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Mel Lessedme

    Yea – especially approving of their fellow Muslim – Obama. Obama enjoys a 70% approval with them...LOL

    August 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  16. nostradamu

    Not too far in the future silly billy and willy will be required to pray 5 times a day!

    August 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • No

      No bacon for you either.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Billy

      So when are the 500 million new muslims coming to become the majority here? Or are the Christians going to convert tomorrow? Takes a BIG majority to make an amendment.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • no

      no worries silly billy and willy, the future Belief Blog on CNN will have a call to worship ticker to remind you to be on your knees facing mecca

      August 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  17. John

    Obama's uncle Omar is not happy right now 🙂

    August 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Bob

    After Oklahoma City and Oslo, we cannot allow even one Christian to become radicalized. It concerns me that half consider them Christians first, Americans second - they must be investigated.

    August 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Big Bob

      McVeigh renounced Christianity, the other guy described himself as "culturally christian".
      Stop with relativism! Makes our education system look broken, unless you want to talk about man-made global warming or alternative lifestyles?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Big Bob

      Gee Bob! Where'd you go? Does mommy have a juice box for you?

      August 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Jeff

      There's no such thing as a "radicalized" Christian. Especially not in the same sense as a "radicalized" Muslim....True Christians are repentant it they've done wrong...and usually, someone who commits an act of violence is just saying they are Christian. You'll know them by their fruits.. PS. There are a lot of People who claim to be Christian, but aren't.. Just because you were born into a Catholic or Christian family..or just because you go to a Church doesn't make you a Christian.. Only John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 makes you a Christian..

      August 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  19. MassiveMarbles

    American Muslims are only experiencing what every ethnic group experiences in American. Welcome to the party!

    August 30, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      I am Hindu, and even when I have experienced any religious discrimination, it's b'coz Ithey confuse me to be a Muslim. I just say I am not Muslim, and in EVERY CASE the person has either said sorry or stopped short of that, and NEVER continued the discrimnatory treatment!

      August 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Jeff

      Well..Hindu's aren't necessarily thought of us running around with suicide vests on waiting to blow up the next train, bus or building...

      August 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  20. bluemax77

    Yeah, I’m sure they’re all over the moon...!!

    August 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.