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Most US Muslims feel targeted by terror policies

world Updated: Aug 30, 2011 11:07 IST

AP
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More than half of Muslim-Americans in a new poll say that 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 US 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 US 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, DC-based Muslim civil rights group.

“People contact us every day about concerns they've had, particularly with law enforcement authorities in this post 9/11 era,” he said.

Muslim extremists hijacked the planes on September 11, 2001, crashing them into the New York's World Trade Center, the Defense Department near Washington and a field in Shanksville, Peensylvania.

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

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

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

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

The vast majority of Muslim-Americans 79% 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%, up from 38% in 2007. That is in contrast to the general US public, whose satisfaction has dropped from 32% to 23%. Andrew Kohut, Pew president, said in an interview that Muslim-Americans' overall level of satisfaction was striking.

“I was concerned about a bigger sense of alienation, but there was not,” Kohut said, contrasting the US to many places in Europe where Muslims have become more separatist.

“You don't see any indication of brewing negativity. When you look at their attitudes, these are still middle-class, mainstream people who want to be loyal to America,” he added.

The latest numbers come amid increased US attention on the risks of homegrown terrorism after the London transit bombings in 2005. The problem has been especially pressing for President Barack Obama, with federal investigators citing a greater risk of attacks by a "lone wolf" or small homegrown cells following the 2009 Fort Hood shooting and the Times Square bombing attempt in 2010.