(Photo: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)
New information from the Pew Research Center shows that 55 percent of Muslim Americans believe it is more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since 9/11. However, new data shows that though the cards are stacked against them due to anti-Muslim slurs, Islamophobia and harsh attitudes, more Muslims in America are expressing a higher level of satisfaction with their lives here.
Nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) of the more than 1,000 Muslim Americans surveyed say they are satisfied with their personal lives in the United States.
According to the report, Muslims say they are also more satisfied with their communities, neighborhoods and the country’s overall direction on Islamic issues.
The new poll, which comes just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, paints an interesting picture of the Muslim population, whose members appear remarkably content with their surroundings despite harassment at airports and public discrimination during the last 10 years.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, America’s uneasy, contradictory relationship with Islam and American Muslims has been on full display through congressional hearings, public rallies, websites and news headlines.
Jeffrey Haggray, pastor of Washington’s First Baptist Church, says some organizations that monitor persecution of Christians around the globe are warning that the heated debates over Islam in the United States could have deadly repercussions for Christians living in countries where Muslims are in the majority.
What happens in the United States could impact Christians in those Muslim countries in which they are already vulnerable.
“While we all celebrate freedom of speech in our nation, we would be engaging in denial if we did not acknowledge forthrightly that the acts of violence that are now surfacing against Muslims, mosques and other Islamic symbols are directly linked to the vitriolic and incendiary rhetoric and actions we have seen in recent weeks,” Haggray said. “We are duty-bound to publicly condemn these actions both as Americans and as people of faith.”
The latest findings on U.S. Muslim attitudes are broadly consistent with those of a major Gallup poll released earlier this month. That survey found Muslims living in America are more tolerant of members of other faiths than any other major U.S. religious group.
Both surveys challenge efforts, primarily by right-wing Christian and Jewish groups in the United States, to depict Muslims – and Islam as a religion – as fundamentally alien, if not actively hostile, to "Judeo-Christian" or "Western" values and U.S. society.
Mohamed Younis of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which is affiliated with the United Arab Emirates' constitutional monarchy, says reports like these show optimistic American Muslims share certain qualities.
"Muslims who tend to be thriving seem to be more fully engaged in their religious life, but also strongly identify with the United States as a place to live," Younis said.
"They show a picture of someone with less cognitive dissonance about being 100 percent Muslim and about being 100 percent American."
Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism says Jewish Americans trust Muslims more than any other religious group.
"Jews view themselves as the quintessential victims of religious persecution in the history of the world over the last 3,000 years and therefore often identify with those who are subject to persecution and discrimination," Saperstein said.
Muslims say more Jews (66 percent) than Muslims (60 percent) are discriminated against in the United States, according to recent polls.
"It confirms for us that as we reach out to Muslims, the community will reach back," said Paul Montiero, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said the recent polls show how far Muslims have to go until they are fully accepted members of American society, and that 9/11 was a setback for them.
"But the process has started," he said. "And I think it will bear fruit."
The Reason Foundation says there are Muslim scholars today who are also advocating a revision of their religious texts on issues ranging from women’s rights to blasphemy and apostasy. They are challenging the age-old clerical doctrine that the Koran’s earlier, more peaceful and tolerant verses, are nullified by the later, more militant ones.
With Muslims accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s population, the modernization of Islam and an understanding of the separation between church and state, and what it has to do with democracy, are two of the most urgent priorities of the 21st century.
Islamophobes, after all, repeat everything the Islamists tell Muslims: that the West is implacably hostile to them and their faith, that the most extreme and violent form of Islam is also its truest form and that a liberalized Islam is impossible.
Religious leaders and conservative voices say American Muslims, and America, deserve better.