USA Society First Look

Amid harassment, Muslims also find greater support from fellow Americans, survey finds

American Muslims report they have felt greater compassion from non-Muslims and continue to believe that hard work could lead to a successful life in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Marchers carry the national flags of Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, and the United States during the Muslim Day Parade in New York City on Sept. 25, 2016.
Craig Ruttle/AP
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Caption
  • Rachel Zoll
    Associated Press

US Muslims say they have experienced widespread suspicion about their faith in the first months of the Trump presidency, but also have received more support from individual Americans, and remain hopeful they can eventually be fully accepted in American society, a new survey finds.

Nearly 75 percent of US Muslims view President Trump as unfriendly to them, according to a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday, and 62 percent say Americans do not view Islam as part of the mainstream after a presidential election that saw a surge in hostility toward Muslims and immigrants.

At the same time, nearly half of Muslims said they had received expressions of encouragement from non-Muslims in the past year, an increase over past polls. And Muslims remain optimistic about their future – 70 percent believe hard work can bring success in America, a figure largely unchanged for a decade.

"There's a sense among the American Muslim population that others are beginning to understand them and beginning to sympathize with them," said Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist and adviser to Pew researchers. Prejudice against Muslims has "pushed the average American to say, 'This is really not fair. I'm going to knock on my neighbor's door to see if they're all right,' " Ms. Jamal said.

The Pew survey is its third on American Muslims since 2007, and its first since Mr. Trump took office Jan. 20. He promised to fight terrorism through "extreme vetting" of refugees and had a plan to temporarily ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.

The latest poll of 1,001 adults was conducted by phone, both landline and cellphones, between Jan. 23 and May 2, in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.

The last several months have seen an uptick in reports of anti-Muslim harassment, including arson and vandalism at mosques and bullying at schools. In the Pew survey, nearly half of US Muslims say they have faced some discrimination in the last year, such as being treated with distrust, threatened, or called an offensive name. That percentage is only a slight increase over previous surveys.

However, the figure is much higher for respondents who said they were more visibly identified as Muslim, for example by a head covering, or hijab, for women. Of those with a more distinct Muslim identity, 64 percent said they had recently faced some type of discrimination.

Still, the survey found evidence of a growing sense of Muslim belonging in the United States. Nearly 90 percent said they were proud be both Muslim and American and nearly two-thirds said there was no conflict between Islam and democracy.

A larger share of American Muslims told Pew they had registered to vote and actually voted. Up to 44 percent of Muslims eligible to vote cast ballots in last year's presidential election, compared to 37 percent in 2007. Those numbers on Muslim voting are compared to 60 percent of eligible voters overall who cast ballots in 2016.

American Muslim leaders, alarmed by anti-Muslim rhetoric in the campaign, made an unprecedented push to register voters in mosques and at community events. Turnout overall was higher after the highly contested 2016 campaign.

Muslims overwhelmingly backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who drew 78 percent of their vote compared to 8 percent for Trump.

Following a trend found in other American faith groups, a slight majority of US Muslims now accept homosexuality, a dramatic reversal from a decade ago when 61 percent said same-sex relationships should be discouraged.

Pew researchers estimate the number of US Muslims has been growing by 100,000 per year, reaching 3.35 million, or 1 percent of the American population. Just over half of US Muslims identify as Sunni, while 16 percent say they are Shiite. Nearly 6 in 10 adult American Muslims were born outside the US.

The largest share of immigrants come from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, while others have come from Iraq, Iran, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe. American-born blacks comprise about 13 percent of all Muslims in the US, but their share is shrinking. Overall, 8 in 10 are US citizens, according to the survey.

Eight in 10 American Muslims said they were concerned about Islamic extremism, and more than 70 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about Islamic extremism in the US. However, 3 of 10 said that most of those arrested recently on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack had been tricked by law enforcement authorities and did not represent a real threat.

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