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. DrBakroChod

    Paki mullah Imam will convert minority to Islam and then let them do dirty work. Then they will seat back and preach peace and love for humanity. Pipe dream.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  2. John Spurlock

    "Poll: American Muslims happy with U.S."

    What do they have to be UNhappy about.

    We strip away our own civil rights to accomidate them.
    We silence anyone who speaks against them
    We shame our soliders who fought and died trying to stop them.

    Muslim's aren't just raping our country... we've invited them in!

    August 30, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Normon

      "We strip away our own civil rights to accomidate them."
      Which rights did we strip away?
      "We silence anyone who speaks against them"
      Who has been silenced?
      "We shame our soliders who fought and died trying to stop them."
      What soldiers have been shamed?

      What are you talking about?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • wilbur

      johnny boy, we strip away our freedom because people like YOU spread FEAR. Because of your FEAR we now have the SOVIET UNION. You did it Johnny Boy....all because of your ignorant baseless fear of something you do not understand at all.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. Sing

    Ya know, I'm an equal opportunity religion hater. I have nothing but contempt for religion of any kind. It's the single largest anchor to modern mans progress and is the root cause of the majority of mankind’s worst atrocities. UNTOLD numbers of lives have been taken and wasted in the name of religion over thousands of years, and it will go on this way I am afraid for at least a few more years until we nuke ourselves of the face of the planet. (Don’t underestimate Mans proclivity for Self Annihilation) I don't HATE any one person for their chosen religion. As an American, I grudgingly support your right to be ignorant. BUT…

    What I can not tolerate is having religion in any way shape or form PUSHED upon those of us intelligent enough to think for ourselves. I used be of the “Live and Let Live” frame of mind. But as I get older and come to terms with the reality all around me, I realize that Tolerance is a one way street. We are EXPECTED to be tolerant of all mainstream religions. But that is certainly not the case in reverse. Religion of every kind is pushing it's agenda upon humanity on about a thousand different levels. Weather it be thru terrorism, or the right wing religious freakoids (Tea Party) attempting to legislate their religious world views into law for all Americans to enjoy and everything in-between. Every where you turn some aspect of some religious nonsense is being thrust upon us all.

    As far as Islam goes, my biggest problem is that you can't separate the benign non violent ones from the crazy extremist ones because ultimately at the core of their beliefs, even the meekest of them hold the belief that non Muslims should ultimately erased. And here is my justification for saying so. Muslim Americans have the right, as a minority, in this country to freely practice their religion. (They may be experiencing SLIGTLY less tolerance as of late, but they can thank their distant relatives for flying a couple of planes into the trade center for that) How do Christians fair OVER ALL in Muslim countries? I'm sure you can point out pockets here and there where small groups of Christians are allowed to exist, QUIETLY, and by quietly I mean treading very lightly and not stepping to far out line. But on the whole, I'm thinking anything that does not fit into Muslim tradition is stamped out pretty quickly. Zero Tolerance. Now what do you suppose would happen for the sake of argument if Muslims somehow became the majority here in the U.S.A? Do you suppose the Tolerance that we extend to them today would remain the same going forward for everyone else? NO WAY! They would stamp out 99% of anything that didn't fit into their Islamic beliefs just like they do now in their own countries.

    Please understand that I don't pin this on any one person in the sense that “To be Muslim is to be evil”. It’s not about any individual being evil OR a good steward to humanity. It’s about the RELIGION and the beliefs that are inherent to the faith. What I'm saying is that at it’s core, the Muslim faith is INTOLERANT of anything outside its own teachings, and therefore given the chance even the kindest most generous among them would ultimately move to erase that which is outside their Muslim faith. You don’t have to be an extremist terrorist to KINDLY not allow something to exist. Muslims can’t even tolerate other Muslims for cryin out loud. And in a nutshell, that’s the insanity that is ALL religion.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • John S

      Sing, I strongly disagree. Religion is just another word for culture, a way of life, and traditions. VERY few religious people really follow the religious tenets in a puritanical fashion. So long as cultural values can be traced back to some kind of religious traditions, then atheists/agnostics will carry on as if "religion" is what people are fighting about.

      In reality, people are fighting about the SAME THING .. which is either promoting or protecting their way of life. Religious beliefs is just another source for cultural values, which is what we really care about.

      Most wars were NOT fought over religion, but rather to promote or protect one's way of life. For example both world wars, which took almost 100 million lives collectively, had NOTHING to do with religion. Nothing. But they had everything to do with promoting/protecting one's culture.

      Religions is not at fault .. it's mankind's intellectual laziness, resorting so quickly to violence, adopting the simplest, laziest way to resolve issues that leads to all this agony and suffering. Saying that "religion" is misidentifying the problem.

      Don't hate religion, culture, or diversity. Hate arrogance, laziness, and uninformed prejudice .. those are the real enemy.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Traveller

      You know I think former actor Charleton Heston said it best when he once told Bill Clinton:
      "Mr President, when what you say is wrong that is a mistake. When you know what you say is wrong that is a lie". LoL

      August 31, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  4. ArizonaYankee

    Get all those members of the murderous cult out of the country. They will kill us, unless we get rid of them first..They are a cancer.....

    August 30, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • wilbur

      I agree. Right wing Christians and Nancy Grace need to be gassed in death camps.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Normon

      Don't you have enough Mexicans to hate against?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  5. zisee

    Well, if they like is so much, why don't they speak out more about the muslims who are killing all over the world????????

    August 30, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Bill

      Because that would make them a target and take the bulls eye off of non-muslins for a few minutes.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Smile21

      Many, many, many Muslims regularly and consistently speak out against terrorism. The problem is the media does not give that the attention it deserves. The real extent of media scrutiny upon Muslims is exposed generally when a Muslim acts out and does something reprehensible. The cries of Muslims denouncing such acts are typically drowned out by the ensuing uproar.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • John S

      Zisee .. have you ever actually LOOKED for these protests? I know you have google .. just type in "Muslims condemn terrorism" and you'll get the information you are looking for? How long does that take .. 5 seconds?

      What are you waiting for – them to come knock on your door and say, "Hey Zisee , there are 1.6 billion people behind me who disagree with terrorism .. are you happy now??".

      Don't you think you are too quick to absorb the argument for prejudice, but slow to affirm/verify it's truthfulness?? Why might that be?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  6. markjohn

    spread love by saving mankind to corrupt goverment not by dying and killing someone revenge?there is no end for war if you do declare wars against you neigthboring country! guns for guns its a fire enkindle on your mind spread to all the people whom u are looking to make war kill ? no not like that that the commnd of god is to be at peace always make ur enemy ur friend ? much good and bttter god will overcome them that hate you and persecute you a protection but your peolple will not die if ur president is at peace with other country

    August 30, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  7. DumbXTians

    You are more likely to get murdered by a person who claims to be christian than a muslim. Look at the facts people. Stop believing the media and government they are full of it.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • ben

      what facts are you talking about. You cant call them facts when you just pull them out of your back side. Look at all the terrorist attacks over the past 20 years. Across the entire world, all the people murdered. All the innocent school kids and girls/women tortured. The vast majority of these atrocities are committed in the name of Islam. You CANT argue that.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Normon

      I think the article was about American Muslims not world-wide. @DumbXTians point, I think, is valid for the US.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I take it you don't count the American New World Order as terrorism?
      A quick example: in 1998, the US Government bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, injuring 30000 civilians. They then blocked a UN War Crimes inquiry at the Security Council.
      Take a look at your country's history in places like Panama, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Grenada, Bolivia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Angola, Libya, Zaire, Rwanda, Algeria, Yemen etc ad nauseum.
      Maybe then you'll understand why not everyone in the world is full of sunshine, rainbows and kittens for the United States.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  8. Lmerr

    Develop a system within your communities of identifying and turning in extremist who support killing innocent people. That could go a long way to helping solve this problem. As long as we have to solely rely on being skeptical and the government to track down these viruses, what choice do you give people but to be uneasy?

    August 30, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Alex

      Do you have any idea how absolutely insane your comment sounds?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Lmerr

      If you say so. It's just an idea. Give me something, anything, from the Muslim community to let me know that these cells do not knowingly exist. This article points it out. Why aren't the polls against Al Qaeda and civilian attacks 100%?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  9. Former Catholic School Boy

    Muslims look at Al Qaeda the way most Americans look at the Tea party. They are dangerous and crazy and their radical beliefs are having negative effects on the rest of us.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Normon

      Weak analogy fallacy.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • SPA Knight

      That's a bit of a stretch don't you think? I haven't heard of any tea party members committing suicide or car bombings on anyone nor planning any other acts of violence on innocent people. And if you equate holding rallies and influencing elections ito what these extremists do, then i will say that that freedom is available to all Americans who care to express their views in the public square.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  10. kurtinco

    Perhaps if these people (christians and mostly muslims) would start identifying themselves as American first, the rest of us who are proud to be American first, above all other categorizations, wouldn't have such a problem determining their true heart and intentions.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Normon

      Perhaps if these people would start identify themselves first as New Yorkers... or Manhattenites first we wouldn't have these problems.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  11. DrBakroChod

    Pakis do not have loyalty to motherland. They sell their mother for money.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • jenu

      LOL go bleach your face and dye your hair, you insecure Indian.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  12. Ralph

    Good that they like it, those who don't are free to gather their belongings and return to the splendor of the 7th century back in the miserable sore that is their part of the world.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  13. wilbur

    Honestly would rather be governed by Muslims than Conservative Christians any day of the week.
    Muslims are far less violent than conservative christians.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Rob

      This is a truly foolish and stupid thing to say.

      Conservative Christians were not responsible for 9-11, the earlier Twin Tower bombing, the bombings in Spain, London, Bali, Mumbai, the killings of Christians in the Middle East by the thousands, the Cole bombing, the African Embassy and UN attacks, the be-headings of all who oppose them. You, and those like you had better pull off the rose colored glasses. European leaders are beginning to see what a horrible mistake they've made, and are trying to find ways to undo the errors of their predecessors.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Normon

      recent killings in Norway. Army of God, Scott Roeder, Lord's Resistance Army, IRA, etc.

      Do we really need to count the number of bodies to see which religion is "more evil"?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • SPA Knight

      What's keeping you here? There are plenty of countries that would accommodate your wishes. If you stay, then support your fellow citizens in protecting our land of the free.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Normon

      @SPA Knight,
      I think @Wilbur was supporting his country. He wants to elect the most peaceful, or peace-seeking person, he can. And you imply that he is unAmerican?

      August 30, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  14. Olga

    Just a bunch of psychopaths believing in something that doesn't exist, not eating or drinking when there is food and drink, hiding their faces when nobody would look anyway, making funny gestures 6 times a day, crowding in a place and trampling each other to death when they could be sitting in a comfortable arm chair, causing stir up when everybody else is trying to live in peace. F. the idiots.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • wilbur

      Jews do the same thing but I know you hate them too. Go back to your faceboook girl

      August 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • lisa

      you xenophobic a******

      August 30, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Olga

      That is not a problem. F. jews, too 🙂

      August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Olga

      Just because billions are doing the same stupid thing doesn't make it less stupid.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  15. zoundsman

    Work on it folks. 7 out of 10 disliking al Queda is not enough.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  16. ben

    7 out of 10 are against Al Qaeda? So 30% of muslims in the US support Al Qaeda? That is scary, and the fact that CNN glosses over that statement shows their bias.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • 9mil

      And once CNN sees that a few of us are on to them and their precious muslims, this article will most likely be pulled in a few hours unless there is a rapid insurgence of muslim sympathy.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Sharma

      No, 30 % wonder whether it is actually a creature of US policy

      August 30, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Bryan

      Apparently you can't read. The article explicitly stated that only 5% hold a favorable or somewhat favorable view of al Qaeda, not 30%...and this does not translate to "support" which I am guessing in your mind means they are preparing to be suicide bombers. 5% is a pretty small figure, especially given the small number of Muslims in the U.S. I am sure you could poll the general population and find greater than 5% of Americans that hold favorable views of the Westboro Baptist Church, KKK, or neo-Nazis. It doesn't make sense stereotyping and denigrating the 95% of a group that is rational because a small number of idiots.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • John S

      WRONG, please read it carefully, this time. It said 70% are VERY opposed to al -Qaeda, and only 5% view al-Qaeda favorably or very favorably. That is 1 in 20. I'm sure if you polled all Americans, you would find at least 5% support KKK, white militancy, militias, and etc terrorism also.

      It's frustrating and disappointing when bigots don't even bother paying attention to the article they are READING RIGHT NOW. How can there ever be progress and accuracy if people don't even pay attention to what they are reading, and walk away with a lazy, inaccurate conclusion to a fact-based, well-written article? Where is the hope, when literally NOTHING will change your mind??

      Good thing there is so much diversity in America .. if the conservatives were really running things, America would look like China.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  17. 9mil

    So why aren't there any women in the above picture??????

    August 30, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • elgiblet1

      Those ARE the women!

      August 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • lisa

      men pray separately from women, I think.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Brad

      Because Muslim women are not permitted to worship in the same area as the men.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Smile21

      Women and Men pray separately. They've just shown the men's area.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  18. DrBakroChod

    Islam is a religion of peace. Favorite tune of Indian politicians to get Muslim vote. Don't be fooled.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  19. Kevin

    I love the back door slam at the Tea Party. "and the rise of the Tea Party" insinuating of course that the Tea Party is nothing but racists and xenophobes. I'm not a Tea Party member but the slams from the media reveal their very real bias.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • 9mil

      I don't care for the tea party either, but I am certainly not fooled by "peaceful" muslims.

      August 30, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • MJ

      But the tea party is blatantly anti Muslim! they preach small government and limited government intervention but they want governments to stop mosques from being built, gays from getting married and anyone from legally coming here, there is no media bias here, the tea party has always had and will always have an anti Muslim (amongst with anti-gay, anti-immigration) streak. There is no point in hiding it because its a fact and their protests have been widely photographed and their members interviewed and those feelings have repeatedly been expressed by them and their leaders. Lets not pretend the Tea party is not a radical movement, it simply is.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • John S

      The Tea Party is supported by less than 1/4 of Americans .. they hold all sorts of extreme, unscientific views. Such as their retarded view that the rich shouldn't pay more taxes, that smaller government is always better, and etc.

      Of course educated people will see right through their nonsense. They will turn America into China .. prejudiced, limited freedoms, low wages, dominated by powerful interests. All in the name of "America".

      We are not stupid.

      August 30, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Normon

      "But the tea party is blatantly anti Muslim!"
      How so? Have they stated that officially somewhere?

      ".. they hold all sorts of extreme, unscientific views. Such as their retarded view that the rich shouldn't pay more taxes, that smaller government is always better, and etc."
      Excuse me, but what scientific evidence shows that the rich *should* pay more taxes or that smaller government *isn't* always better?
      These are not scientific statements, they are value based opinions, and therefore there is *no* scientific backing for either opinion.

      "We are not stupid."
      Stupid is as stupid says.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  20. Brad

    I don't like the gratuitous slander of the tea party. If you're going to quote her on that, use quotation marks and an actual quote. Or say it yourselves. Otherwise it's a passive-aggressive smear.

    August 30, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Normon

      Well said.
      I don't support the Tea Party, but biases should be exposed wherever they are found.

      August 30, 2011 at 11:07 am |
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About this blog

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.