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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. Futuristic study

    Soon the Muslims feel very comfortable and happy in their own land here in the US a study finds

    Future study based on the fact:
    1) Muslims don't practice gay so the population is increasing
    2) Liberals thinking they are liberal and contributing to the moral depletion only to be taken over by the burgeoning muslim population

    August 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Yeah!
      All good, straight Christians Americans should breed as much as possible so that we can raise a Holy Army to rise up against these insidious Musselmen who are taking over the country!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • atheist

      hmm, what are u saying I cannot be in the belief blog in the future ranting like I am doing now?

      August 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Futuristic study

      The study also finds that Atheists find great pressure living alongside the HUGE Muslim population...

      August 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Sing

      "Soon the Muslims feel very comfortable"

      Engrish?

      "1) Muslims don't practice gay so the population is increasing"

      Your Christian faith is loads better?

      "2) Liberals thinking they are liberal and contributing to the moral depletion"

      So what your saying is the Muslim faith is backwards and your Faith is Spot on?
      It's like watching two Mentally Challenged kids boxing here

      August 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • no

      @atheist.

      You won't be on the belief blog ranting you will be praying 5 times daily looking towards mecca....
      -:)

      August 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. marcia

    They are happy with the US because we aren't going to chop their heads off like their pals else where!

    August 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • So...

      What a dumb thing to say. As if cutting off heads (something christians used to do, and even still do in some places) makes someone more dead than bombing civilians in afghanistan and iraq and covering it up. Get a clue.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Abram

      Marcia, are you friends with all Christians? How are Muslims in Iran (for example) somehow 'pals' with Muslims here in America? I understand anger toward individuals that you know have done wrong. Like anger toward terrorists who have committed horrendous acts while hiding cowardly under the guise of religion. However, please save your anger toward those individuals. It's simply unfair to associate people who have no responsibility for those acts, with your anger over the acts.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      We get many clues but CNN will not let me post them - 50 years of clues

      August 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • marcia

      I said....you are f-u-n-n-y!!!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  3. willie

    Al qaeda is only a small part of the problem, the fact American muslims aren't standing up in rage against al qaeda is bigger. But by far the biggest reason so many Americans don't like muslims is because of the qu'ran. That book is so filled with hate and anti anything that isn't them comments it should be filed next to mein kampf and eugenics. Anyone who buys into that book deserves the dirty looks they get.

    August 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      I'm a fan of Buddhist Psychology. I also love the Hindu religion, but don't practice. I think we should be mindful and concerned with ANY religion that promotes violence or hate with cult like "them against us" doctrines or ideology.

      August 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  4. el condor

    What a way to ruin a city. Best to wipe Dearborn off the face of the map.

    August 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  5. TONY G.

    keep on the dream; hope you don't come soon or later with a big sorprisse.

    August 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  6. NorCalMojo

    So in the middle of all this discrimination and oppression, she decides to start wearing headscarf to make herself more visible?

    Sounds like she's enjoying her newfound victim status to me.

    August 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      If you were born looking homelier than a cow and grew up to be as fat as a Schmoo adn were absolutely ignorant together with ugly .. then you can see why your husband and his neighbors would insist you wear a burlap bag from head to toe .. any uglier and you'd be a two bagger .. and the worst would be . coyote ugly (well jackal over there)

      August 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  7. STN

    "Four out of five say suicide bombing and other violence against civilians is never justified...."
    This survey is wonderful news; we only need to worry about the 20%... Seriously? Over 1M of those that live where 9/11 happened think suicide bombing and violence is justified? Yep, no worries there...

    August 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  8. Hasan

    I've never had any problems, or ever felt discriminated against in Charlotte, but than again I don't look like the typical muslim, since I'm white

    August 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  9. So...

    All the venom spewed in these posts. Take a good look at what you are saying. You are behaving no different than how you pretend others are behaving. What a bunch of lunatics! It is you who will run this country into the ground, not outsiders. So far, you are doing a great job.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Abram

      Agreed. There is way, WAY, too much hate spewed on this board.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • sigmund

      Don't you see it's a way for them to purge fear and find solidarity in a public forum? Or are you one of those touchy feely types who think they should learn to love and understand those who terrorize them. Hug a suicide bomber?!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Abram

      Purging fear and finding solidarity? I would definitely think that's what this is, were the comments restricted to those who committed acts of terrorism. The comments I'm seeing are trashing an entire religion, and an entire group of millions who practice it peacefully, based on the few who have committed atrocious acts under the guise of this religion. It's like saying Ku Klux Klan meetings are a way to purge fear and bolster solidarity...

      August 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Doctordoctor

      got your goat didn't we!

      August 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Tessaprn

    What's with this Tea Party BS about targeting Muslims? The Tea Party has absolutely nothing to do for or against Muslims! If American Muslims want more acceptance then how about standing up and denouncing radical Muslims?

    August 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Chris

      Exactly ! Stand up and denounce fellow Mulims who blow up the innocent !!!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Yasser123

      Absolutely...That sounds as disgusting to us as it sounds to you. But given the fact that we are the new kids on trhe block, we don't get any positive media coverage as the 0.00000001% radicals do..In Islam, "killing a single innocent person is like wiping out humanity, & saving a single life is like saving Humanity in its entirety".
      We need a voice to be heard, & we're working on it...
      I love being American Muslim, I have never been treated as well as I am treated here, no matter what. This is veritably the best nation on Earth ! Europe sucks big time....GO USA!!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  11. somethingbetter

    A little Sharia law might be just what the doctor ordered. It would sure get rid of some of these radical sin-loving types.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  12. joe chicago

    Islamic Group Takes Offense At 9-11 Coloring Book

    August 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  13. The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

    Like I've been trying to assert to you all is,,,,,,,

    All immigarnts' children who attend the United State's of the America's "publicied" school systems and even the "Higher" educative systems, are where the "Lines in the sand" does draw out those who are "nut-jobs" wherefrom but only a handful of religious zealots go about doing ill-willed Acts of Political indescencies.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Furthermore, No nation or country or even state has perfected an ideal Utopia and may never ever so do. Our nation of the United States of the Americas is the best solution so far for the abundance of many varied lifestyles be they religious or secular or even atheist declarationals. The "dumming-down" of mainstreamed morals and ideologies are an infringement of Libertarian fundamentals. One's ever ongoing self-educatives agendaships vie reading the history trails is how many folk do learn of otherly ideals. To be statured in the masses who shall not read their own histories and others, is a fluidic flaw of the common masses who insist to resist their own ever being enlightened via "REAL" histories.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • monty

      OK, have you got anything with spam in it?

      August 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  14. jona

    Well then they have a job to do and a duty to do it. Convincing the rest of us that their religion isn't the evil cult their brothers have shown it to be.Until then.. I will stay with my own analysis.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  15. Conan the Librarian

    the Muslims here in MN are here at the expense of the American taxpayer and are the most surly and unhappy lot of folks you will ever encounter. They are hateful and intentionally want to destroy what we have as a nation and a culture.
    THEY HAVE NO INTENTION OF ASSIMILATING INTO OUR CULTURE – as our culture goes against their social and religious values.
    Reality check see what is happening in Denmark, Britain and Sweden as the result of them isolating themselves and foregoing any attempts to be come productive members of society.
    Let them live in their own countries and practice what they want – there is no place for them until they decide to become Americans and live by the rules of this nation and stop trying to change things. Cut off their welfare and see what happens.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Honestly

      Conan, the question is, will you accept any Somalis as your friends? Nah, I didn't think so!

      August 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  16. mm

    The CNN Belief Blog is blatantly anti-Christian and pro-Islam. it is obvious to anyone with a brain.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • herpedy derpedy derp

      How so? They just reported that 5% of Muslims are in support of terrorists and that 30% are not "strongly opposed" to it. To me that does not cast a favorable light on them.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  17. Lynda

    When I start seeing in real life, that the Muslim community in America (who come to enjoy the freedoms bought with lives of Americans) standing up for America and its way of life, then maybe I'll start to believe them. But what I see in this article, in the first sentences is" I expect you people out there to accept Islam" and the next thing I expect to hear is "You will accept Islam and Sharia". NO! I will not accept Sharia. You came to my country to live in freedom, so go throwing your Sharia in our faces, and expect us to forget what happened on 9/11. You want your Sharia, go to Iran. You want freedoms that our country affords you – start speaking up about the freedoms you get to enjoy here. Otherwise, don't expect the rest of the people to look upon you kindly.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Honestly

      To lynda, ok, we willbgo back...ah wait we were born here so were our parents and theirs, in fact we were Christians and converted to Islam...no I guess we will stay..for if we don't who will treat you in the hospital, who will invent your most sophisticated machines, who will design your most beautiful buildings lynda? I suggest you go back...

      August 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Abram

      Lynda, you realize that halfway through your comment, you used the words "I expect", and then based the rest of your anger on what you expect, right? That's not very rational, or logical. American Muslims I have known are just the same as me; just worried about their family, job, car, etc. There's absolutely no difference! I'm dating a girl who was raised Islamic, and who feels the EXACT same way that I do about terrorism, and violence, and any radical religion. You will find what you expect to find, and sadly for you, you expect the worst in people that mostly you haven't met. I expect the to find a higher proportion of good people, as individuals, regardless of whether they are Christian, Atheist, Islamic, or of any other mindset, and that is what I have found.

      August 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  18. mm

    Islam is a scourge on Western civilization. What is more worrisome are the millions of liberals out there who would gladly see the nation of their birth be destroyed by Islam in the name of political correctness. As a Syrian Christian, trust me...Do NOT believe these people! Please!

    August 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • mem

      You are the only intelligent being on these pages and pages of drivel!! Thank you for having a brain!!

      August 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Sporkify

      Frankly I trust Muslims in the Middle East a hell of a lot more than I do you Christians here at home.

      At least the Muslims over there are forthright about what they want for this country.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  19. Bubba Gump

    They'll be even happier when they can get Sharia law passed here. Won't be long now.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  20. ru serious

    ....horrible bllod-thirsty "religion". That 30% approve/sypathize with Al Queda actions speak volumes, go away. That they can live in safety (vs. their own countries where they blow each other up regularly) here in a the politically correct good Old USA and spew their hatrid is outrageous. The silence of the supposed "good" 70% is deafening.

    August 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
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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.