Most U.S. Muslims feel targeted by terror policies


MEG COYLE / KING 5 News, Associated Press

Posted on August 31, 2011 at 12:19 PM

WASHINGTON -- More than half of Muslim Americans in a new poll say government anti-terrorism policies single them out for increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name-calling, threats and harassment by airport security, law enforcement officers and others.

Still, most Muslim Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. and rate their communities highly as places to live.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive ever of the country's Muslims, finds no signs of rising alienation or anger among Muslim-Americans despite recent U.S. government concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorism and controversy over the building of mosques.

"This confirms what we've said all along: American Muslims are well integrated and happy, but with a kind of lingering sense of being besieged by growing anti-Muslim sentiment in our society," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Muslim civil rights group.

Meanwhile, at a Muslim prayer service in downtown Seattle Tuesday, close to 7,000 Muslims gathered to mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan.

There, Mansoor Junejo says he knows the feeling of being singled out. He came to this country 15 years ago from Pakistan.

"So when they pick me for random search, it's every year it's a random search, so I know it's not a random search," he says.

But for as much as Junejo is selected at airports, or glared at because of what he wears, he sees it as a chance to prove terrorism is about an individual, not an entire religion.

"As media gives them more time they get more out there, the radicals, so media is pretty much giving them the way to get their message out there," says Junejo.

And Junejo counts himself among the vast majority of Muslims who say they are satisifed with their American life.

The study also showed Muslim Americans overwhelmingly approve of the job President Obama is doing. 76 percent believe the country is moving in the right direction. The president's overall approval rating stands at 40 percent.

In all, 52 percent of Muslim Americans surveyed said their group is singled out by government for terrorist surveillance. Almost as many -- 43 percent -- reported they had personally experienced harassment in the past year, according to the poll released Tuesday.

That 43 percent share of people reporting harassment is up from 40 percent in 2007, the first time Pew polled Muslim Americans.

Asked to identify in what ways they felt bias, about 28 percent said they had been treated or viewed with suspicion by people, while 22 percent said they were called offensive names. About 21 percent said they were singled out by airport security because they were Muslim, while another 13 percent said they were targeted by other law enforcement officials. Roughly 6 percent said they had been physically threatened or attacked.

On the other hand, the share of Muslim Americans who view U.S. anti-terror policies as "sincere" efforts to reduce international terrorism now surpasses those who view them as insincere -- 43 percent to 41 percent. Four years ago, during the presidency of George W. Bush, far more viewed U.S. anti-terrorism efforts as insincere than sincere -- 55 percent to 26 percent.

The vast majority of Muslim Americans -- 79 percent -- rate their communities as either "excellent" or "good" places to live, even among many who reported an act of vandalism against a mosque or a controversy over the building of an Islamic center in their neighborhoods.

They also are now more likely to say they are satisfied with the current direction of the country -- 56 percent, up from 38 percent in 2007. That is in contrast to the general U.S. public, whose satisfaction has dropped from 32 percent to 23 percent.

The Pew survey is based on telephone interviews with 1,033 Muslims in the U.S., conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi or Urdu from April 14 to July 22. Subjects were chosen at random, from a separate list of households including some with Muslim-sounding names, and from Muslim households that had answered previous surveys.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.