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Poll: US Muslims Feel Post-9/11 Backlash Despite Moderate Outlook


U.S. Muslims say life has become more difficult for them since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, even though as a community they overwhelmingly reject Islamic extremism. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports that a newly released survey from the Pew Research Center finds most American Muslims are well assimilated, middle class and hold moderate views.

Pew President Andrew Kohut says the survey found that most American Muslims reject Islamic extremism. "Muslims in the United States reject Islamic extremism to an even greater extent than do Muslims in Western Europe, and a much greater extent than Muslims living in the Middle East and in Asia," he said.

But despite this rejection, more than half of the more than 1,000 American Muslims surveyed say they feel life in this country has become more difficult since the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001.

A quarter say they have been the victim of discrimination, and 54 percent feel Muslims are singled out for extra government surveillance.

Amaney Jamal of Princeton University's Department of Politics worked on the survey. She says most respondents feel misunderstood by the rest of U.S. society. "The key issues that were cited was that there is a lack of knowledge about Islam; that stereotypes continue to affect the Muslim community, people have unfair perceptions of the Muslim community and the continuing allegations that Muslims are linked to terrorism," she said.

But such perceptions have not prevented most Muslim Americans from getting a piece of the American dream. Pew President Andrew Kohut. "Seventy two percent of them take a very American point of view that with hard work you can get ahead and succeed in this society. That's an even larger percentage than the general public. And consequently what we see in the income levels and education levels of Muslim Americans is that they are at the national mean," he said.

Researchers from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center conducted telephone interviews in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. They found that 65 percent of American Muslims are foreign-born and represent more than 68 nations. The largest groups are from Arab countries, South Asia and Iran. Research director Scott Keeter says the immigrants were drawn to the United States for different reasons. "Among the foreign-born a quarter, 26 percent, said it was for education; nearly a quarter - 24 percent said economic; 24 percent said for family reasons; and 20 percent said to escape conflict or persecution," he said.

An additional 21 percent of American Muslims were native born, many of them African-Americans who have converted to the faith.

The poll also found that Muslim Americans overwhelmingly oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and a significant number also disagree with the U.S. decision to go to war in Afghanistan.

About 36 percent said they are concerned about the potential rise of Islamic extremism in the United States, yet barely more than a quarter surveyed support the war on terror.

The U.S. Census does not ask about religion, so there is no official figure on the number of Muslims in the United States. Pew researchers estimate there are a little over two million Muslims, but other groups have said the number could reach as high as seven million.

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