In the wake of a new survey on Muslim-Americans from the Pew Research Center, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the congressman behind last spring’s series of hearings on the alleged radicalization of American Muslims, castigated the American Muslim community for failing to do enough to support his investigations.
“I don’t know what world they’re living in,” said King, of the 41% of Muslim-Americans who questioned the “sincerity” of the U.S. effort to combat international terrorism in the Pew survey. “What they should be doing is saying that they enthusiastically support these investigations.”
But King seems to have missed the larger portrait drawn by the new survey. All in all, the report paints a portrait of an integrated American Muslim community that King should find heartening. A majority of Muslim Americans (56%) agree that most Muslims who come to the U.S. want to adopt American customs and ways of life. In fact, Muslims Americans reported that they were happy with their lives (82% satisfied) and communities (79% excellent or good). These findings largely support the conclusions from the first Pew study of American Muslims in 2007—that American Muslims are mostly middle class and mainstream.
If American Muslims have some reservations about the U.S. approach to combating terrorism, this may be because many feel they are not being treated fairly by authorities and the media. Forty-three percent say that they had been treated or viewed with suspicion, called offensive names, singled out by airport security or police, or physically threatened or attacked.
In addition to these experiences of personal mistreatment , a majority (55%) of Muslim Americans expressed concern that U.S. news organizations are reporting unfairly on Islam and Muslims. There is clear evidence to support this concern. Recent research by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) demonstrates a clear link between attitudes about Islam and American Muslims and trusted television news sources. For example, a PRRI survey performed just before the King congressional hearings began last winter showed a significant correlation between trust in Fox News and negative attitudes about Muslims, even among Republicans and white evangelicals. Specifically, Americans who say they most trust Fox News are significantly more likely to have negative views of Islam and Muslims than those who most trust any other television news media.
The new Pew report should simultaneously calm King’s worst fears and offer some insight into why the American Muslim community might not be willing to line up en masse behind King’s efforts.