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. wrathofeagle

    This is not holy land!! This is freedom soil but it does not means Muslims can build their castle here! Our gov't see more potential $$$ just for NOW! The cost of security will cost us dearly later. That is PART of their long term plans. We sure got a lot of idiots in our gov't system!! They kill their own kinds in Middle-East to get our attention to where we have to pull our wallets out for them. They looks smart while we look stupid bec of our gov't! befall for too much humanity to be a role model on this globe. Hell with them!! 3 out of 10 seems to be terrorist on our soil as of recent poll!! The other 7 out of ten sees this and continue to be Muslims! I have to be VERY suspected that it's ALL of them!! The Koran bible identifies all outsiders of Muslims are evil as "The Wrath of Eagle". Or else prove us American ppl wrong that the 70 percent who says they are not monsters then pls convert your religious thing NOW!! If so, we can identify those 30 percent easily to take em' out! This is totally unacceptable where we stand today......

    August 30, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • peaceofdove

      1. Muslims do not consider terrorists to be muslims. they kill innocents, which means, as per the kor'an, they deserve death themselves.
      2. Not all outsiders are unaccepted in islam. only people who do not worship God (christians and jews are called (ones with loving hearts) because they also worship god. that is no different than jaidism or christianity.
      3. I think you need to take a course in english before you can come and speak out against other americans.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • iat7b

      You are an idiot...and proper english please......typical ignorant hate monger.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  2. Martin T

    I do LOVE how those on the FAR RIGHT are always telling others to "keep their opinions to themselves" when they are so openly opinionated themselves. I suppose in their eyes, there is ONLY one side to everything...

    August 30, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Ed

      No sir, that is the far left. They are morally superior according to Pelosi and therefore ONLY their opinions matter. The right only ask liberal socialist to be quiet because they don't give facts or opinions, just name calling and personal attacks. No one wants to hear that.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • lisa

      Ed is a comedian! This is soooooooooo funny 😀

      August 30, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  3. st

    The ironic part of this is that the Muslim community (similar to the Hispanic community) is a natural ally of the GOP (anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-woman, anti-fun etc.). But despite all these commonalities, racism gets in the way of it. But they are growing and learning, they want some of that "Obama Mojo" so they need to open up to non-whites.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • J.W

      How is the Hispanic community anti-woman and anti-fun?

      August 30, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  4. Alex

    Muslims are good people, and they deserve to be happy like any other American
    Praise Jesus

    August 30, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • lisa

      I like this.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • rk

      Agree, the rest of us dont want to be killed in this process of their happiness – lol !!!!!

      August 30, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Michelle

      I like this too

      August 30, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Ed

      Look at how they live. Look at how they treat women. Look at the violence. Look at the killing. How can you say such words about a people like this?

      August 30, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • lisa

      Ed, have you taken the time to get to know a Muslim personally? I think you should before you judge. God doesnt like that anyway.

      I have quite a few friends who are Muslim because I studied Translation and Arabic was one of the languages my University offered. They were all very good people who cooked for me and showed me great respect, and I did the same for them. The males never, ever treated me badly like people posting here seem to assume.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  5. Me

    Some of these comments make it so embarrassing to be an American! You people call yourselves Christian, do you think Jesus acted in the way YOU act?!? The answer is NO! 70 years ago everyone hated the Jewish people, thinking they were going to take over the world-if they really do have a grasp on financial fiscability, FINE WITH ME!-then Catholics went through the bs ringer when JFK was elected President. You all wonder why religion is going in the toilet, I'm not hypocritical nor racist enough to be religious and I'm happy!

    August 30, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Rob

      Religion has threatened to bring down governments for centuries. What you see as backlash may have been the success of preventing any particular religion from overtaking government. Here, the government is the people's elected representation. Religion is archaic. I'll take the democratic process thank you.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  6. lisa

    Obama is not a Muslim. In fact, I woudlnt give a flying F if he were. I woudlnt give a flying F if he were atheist, buddhist, Bahaií. Because we should have a separation of church & state in this country. I cringe every time I hear a president say "God Bless America".

    August 30, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Martin T

      I agree Lisa, it makes my skin crawl...

      August 30, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Ed

      Yes he is. He admitted it on National TV during an interview. I was watching. His wife admitted he was from Kenya during a speech she gave. Do a google search and you can find copies all over the internet.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • lisa

      Why don't you post the link here? It would shut a ton of people up.

      He is of Kenyan descent – no one is denying that???

      August 30, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  7. DonPeterson

    Sure they like America, we allow them to practice and preach hatred towards women and non-Muslims. Our courts side with them and their disdain for others who do not follow their religion.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Me

      Your proof would be where?? YOU are the problem with America!

      August 30, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Sue

      I couldn't have said it better.
      biggerballz & Jon: hummm. . . now who is being racist – your country?? 'Bro" . .. . .no, it isn't your country.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • dre

      Well said. Why shouldn't they be happy? They are able to move without impunity, planning their next terror plot within our borders.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • lisa

      Yes Jon. Some Muslims treat their women badly and some hate non-Muslims. One of my closest friends is a Muslim from Mauritius and we are extremely close and respect each other's views, and the men in her family love her dearly and encourage her not to wear a headscarf and just want her to be happy.
      You know, some Christians hate Muslims, which means they are just as guilty as you are making Muslims out to be. Can I hazard a guess to say you are one of those Christians?

      August 30, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • dre

      "with" impunity

      August 30, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Ed

      Me – you obviously DO NOT watch the news. Examples, Honor killings in Chicago and NY, a Michigan court honoring Sharia law in a case involving a muslim and a non-muslim. How about the little arab girl from Ohio who converted to Christianity and then fled the state because her Father and brother were going to kill her. Better open your eyes before it's to late.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. Steve

    Every time an article about American Muslims is released by CNN, a bunch of John Hagee following idiot "Christians" come here to insult Muslims. As a Christian, I am horrified at the amount of racism coming from these so called "Christians." Its not just Muslims that these "Christians" are racist towards, just google Hagee and Hitler to see what other kinds of racism they have. Neo-Nazi's should not be allowed to be posting on public boards.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  9. Rob

    Must overcome hate if this world has any chance.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • lisa

      That is the key. Unfortunately, I have no faith we'll ever get there.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Rob

      It's hate driven by fear. And it is not a 'nice' world. There is plenty of reason to be fearful.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  10. 2bits

    Sure that's what they tell you–then when your not looking......

    August 30, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  11. Robert

    @ Martin T – Don't twist the facts into something that supports your arguments. The wars and countries that you refer to were absolutely NOT started because the countries are predominantly Muslim. They were not launched because anyone in power was "Christian". Therefore, your references have nothing to do with the topic at hand, other than to serve as some way for you to try to make an unrelated point that you think those wars were wrong. If your arguments are not strong enough to stand on their own, then keep them to yourself.

    And as to your "we are safer today?" comment – yeah, we are. Our soldiers on foreign soil have become targets so that you and I have the luxury of sitting safely in coffeehouses and restaurants tapping away on our keyboards complaining that we aren't "safe". You are safer today than you were ten years ago. Don't take it for granted, you do a disservice to the men and women who have stepped into harms way on your behalf.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Martin T

      @ Robert – I respectfully disagree with you. I am not in a coffee house, I am in my living room, thank you. I have given two sons to these wars, one has earned both the Purple Heart and a Medal for saving the lives of many of his men; but I do NOT support the wars or the reasons for going to war. Bush himself called the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, "Ordained by God."

      August 30, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Martin T

      Also @ Robert – Thankfully, like you, I live in a country where my opinion is protected and being told to keep them to myself carries NO weight for me, at all....

      August 30, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • J.W

      Martin I think Bush said that to get more support for the wars. He didn't want to say "Iraq has oil so we need to take them over"

      August 30, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  12. jon

    Phew. Now I can sleep better at night knowing the Muslims are happy with the US. Now if there's a report saying that they tolerate Israel, it'll really put me in a good mood.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  13. dinak

    They r happy b/c we are pansies. We probe everyone at the airports EXCEPT for them. Why wouldn't they like it?

    August 30, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  14. Tom

    I just have to laugh when cnn prints a pro muslim piece it's always accompanied by a photo showing them at prayer, never doing what they usually do--slaughter.

    August 30, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • 2bits

      Absolutely right.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • oaktree69

      I agree with what someone said earlier, that once they get significant numbers, they will change their tone just like the Mexicans that protest that the US won't let them stay here illegally. I've even seen Mexicans burning the American flag in protest. Is that the way you try to stay in this country and become a citizen, burn that country's flag??? The muslims will no different, the extremists that is. I'm happy for the moderate muslims that are proud to be an American and show it, but I know there are those "citizens" lurking in the background waiting to blow us up. We've already caught several plots trying to do just that in the name of islam. American citizens, seriously! I'm packing a gun just in case. I'm not going down like that.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • lisa

      Absolute slander. I'm not a Christian and I don't know if you are, but God would not be happy with you for that one.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  15. rk

    well wait till they increase their population to a sizeable number & you will see them singing differently. their only objective is to destroy all infidels, bring in sharia law etc.. – mandated by the religion, nobody can change that. !! The only solution is to send them all back to where they came from!. of course make sure, u close the gates after they leave. some of them will linger on to create some nuisance like suicide bombing etc...

    August 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  16. Doug


    August 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |

    bla bla bla bla...I'm mayan,came here in the 80's, Anglos cant tell the difference btwin Latinos And Mayans automaticly i was a Drug Dealer...is nothing new, at least this people{ Muslims[ are getting aducated, in my days the only education some of my people got was in prision not for blowing thenselves up but b'couse they looked different...Muslims shouldn't be asking for ecceptence or to be or not to be,if you recal history, Christians, Catholics and other Religions wheren't that different than Islam...only Death and Destruction.Stop complaining just be who you are....and keep America going.USAUSAUSAUSAUSA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 30, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  18. JJ

    Wow. On behalf of ALL Americans, I apologize for this idiot. We are not all narrow minded bigots. Most of us are accepting of all nations, religions and beliefs. That is what made this country what it is – the great American melting pot.

    August 30, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • JJ

      That was a reply to "In America".

      August 30, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • 2bits

      Yeah it's a melting pot alright–melting at the core, crumbling at the edges, and self-destructing with pin heads like you who don't understand how the world works.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  19. *SIGH*

    This article is about American muslims. What happens in other countries is irrelevant to this article. Are there so few Americans patriotic enough to educate themselves? Do most of you hate America so much that you can't even learn how to read properly? Dear God, please forgive them all and give them the ability to see and learn with the holy light and not with sith lord hatred.

    August 30, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  20. Mike

    So the point is Muslims good; T- Party bad? I'm not buying it.

    August 30, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Scott H

      Mike, I'm glad you pick up on that. CNN has become the official "news" source for coffee-house liberals who read their news at Starbucks. You are dealing with the liberal elite here. Their goal is to crush and slander the Tea Party, who's message is merely "hey, we think obscene amounts of deficit spending on the backs of workers of future generations is somewhat suicidal." – Ah, those Tea Party "terrorists". I wish we had a moderate news network to rely on, but we do not.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Rob

      Me either, they are both zealots.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:22 am |
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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.