As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, a public opinion survey by the Pew Research Center finds no increased alienation or anger among Muslim Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques and other pressures on this high-profile minority group.
Nor does the new polling provide any evidence of rising support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans.
On the contrary, as found in the Pew Research Center’s 2007 survey, Muslims in the U.S. continue to reject extremism by much larger margins than most other Muslim publics around the world, and many express concern about the possible rise of Islamic extremism.
Very few Muslim Americans – just 1% – say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam from its enemies; an additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified in these circumstances.
Fully 81% say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are never justified. Comparably small percentages of Muslim Americans express favorable views of al Qaeda, and the current poll finds more holding very unfavorable views of al Qaeda now than in 2007.
Nevertheless, a significant minority (21%) of Muslim Americans report that they see a great deal or a fair amount of support for extremism in the Muslim American community. That is far below the proportion of the general public that sees at least a fair amount of support (40%). And while nearly a quarter of the public (24%) thinks that Muslim support for extremism is increasing, just 4% of Muslims agree.
Since 2007, Muslim American views of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism have improved. Currently, opinion is divided – 43% say U.S. efforts are a sincere attempt to reduce terrorism while 41% do not. Four years ago, during the Bush administration, more than twice as many viewed U.S. anti-terrorism efforts as insincere rather than sincere (55% to 26%).
However, concerns about Islamic extremism coexist with the view that life for U.S. Muslims in post-9/11 America is difficult in a number of ways. Significant numbers report being looked at with suspicion (28%), and being called offensive names (22%).
And while 21% report being singled out by airport security, 13% say they have been singled out by other law enforcement. However, about the same percentage today as in 2007 say that life for Muslims in the U.S. has become more difficult since 9/11. The percentage reporting they are bothered at least some by their sense that Muslim Americans are being singled out for increased government surveillance also is no greater now than four years ago (38% vs. 39%).
Politically, Muslim Americans, who lean strongly Democratic, are much more satisfied than they were four years ago. Fully 76% approve of Barack Obama’s job performance; in 2007, about as many (69%) disapproved of the way George Bush handled his job as president.
The survey is of 1,033 Muslim Americans, conducted April 14-July 22, in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
The full report, "Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism," is available on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press website.