A newly published opinion survey by Hamilton College and Zogby International pollsters shows that a majority of Muslim Americans have experienced anti-Muslim discrimination or knew victims of racially-motivated harassment after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The respondents also question U.S. policy toward the Middle East, which they see as biased toward Israel.
Hamilton College Sociology Professor Dennis Gilbert says three out of four Muslim-Americans responding to the survey say discrimination came mostly in the form of verbal harassment or dirty looks. "What is often involved is pushing and shoving on the streets, calling people names, having your kids threatened. One girl was told she was going to be blown up. Having people pull up in front of your house late at night shouting obscenities, things of this sort," he says.
Hamilton College graduate Shazada Amad, who also helped with the study, says she felt personally betrayed by the backlash against Muslims after September 11. Miss Amad was born and raised in New York by Pakistani Muslim parents. "At that moment it strikes you that even though you always feel that you are a part of the 'us' that just based on how you look you will be perceived as a 'them'", she says.
Pollster Paul Jones says many of the 517 Muslim-Americans responding to the telephone survey in April were reluctant to talk. "They often asked me why I was calling them, how I got their phone number, and if a federal law enforcement agent was going to knock on their door and trying to arrest them if they gave an answer to a question that differed too far from American popular opinion," he says.
When it comes to foreign policy issues, Mr. Gilbert says the survey shows most Muslim-Americans are at odds with mainstream attitudes toward the Middle East.
Eight out of ten respondents complain of a pro-Israel tilt in the U.S. administration's attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But, Mr. Gilbert says, Muslim-Americans do support the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq. "Almost half the people we talked to agree that it would be a good thing if the U.S. would try to get rid of Saddam Hussein," he says. "I found that a surprising result."
The opinion sampling shows Muslim Americans are divided over whether U.S. military actions in Afghanistan are morally justified. They are also split over the Bush administration's declared war on terrorism with many viewing it as a war on Islam too.