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Over two-thirds of America’s Muslims face discrimination once in their life

29th Oct 2021
Over two-thirds of America’s Muslims face discrimination once in their life

Harun Nasrullah

Over two-thirds (67.5 per cent) of Muslim Americans have experienced Islamophobia at least once in their life, with women being significantly more likely than men to say so, according to a study by the Othering & Belonging Institute and the University of California, Berkeley.

The survey, titled Islamophobia through the Eyes of Muslims, showed Muslim women reported more Islamophobic experiences (76.7 per cent) than men (58.6 per cent).

Seventy-six per cent of the 1,123 US Muslims respondents had experienced Islamophobia during the last twelve months of the study (October 2019 to October 2020).

Of the US Muslims surveyed, 35.6 per cent identified as South Asian, 25.2 per cent as Arab, 8.8 per cent as African American/Black and Afro-Arab, 7 per cent as white or of European descent, 6.9 per cent as Central and East Asian, 1.2 per cent as multiracial, 1.1 per cent as Hispanic or Latino, and 14.2 per cent as other.

The survey, released on September 29, showed two out of three Muslims had been subjected to Islamophobic acts. While 33 per cent of respondents said they had hidden their religious identities at some moments to be in fear of Islamophobic acts, and 88.2 per cent stated they avoided certain speeches and actions for fear of facing backlash.

The overwhelming majority (93.7 per cent) of those surveyed stated Islamophobia affects their emotional and mental health.

Regardless of gender, place of birth, or age, nearly all Muslims believe Islamophobia exists in the US, however, in varying degrees.

Almost two-thirds of participants (60.6 per cent) believe that Islamophobia is a “very big” problem in the US, and over a third (34.4 per cent) said Islamophobia is a “somewhat big” problem.

“This may suggest that even if a Muslim is not directly targeted by an Islamophobic act, the ubiquity of Islamophobia in our media and culture after 9/11 has created an atmosphere in which Muslims feel they are being monitored, judged, or excluded in some form,” said Elsadig Elsheikh, Director of the Institute’s Global Justice Programme, which conducted the study.

“As our survey demonstrates, Islamophobia has deep implications for how US Muslims engage with society, and the barriers they face to achieve belonging,” he added.

Nearly 45 per cent of those aged 18-29 were more likely than any other group to have hidden their religious identity.

“The news is not all bad,” said co-author of the study, Basima Sisemore. “One of the uplifting findings of our survey is that despite a general climate of hostility, Muslims overwhelmingly express a desire to belong, regularly interact with non-Muslims, and believe in the ideals of pluralism and equality.”

“The challenge before us now is to create the conditions that foster and strengthen social bonds and disrupt the structures that support Islamophobia to help us reach that ever-elusive goal,” she added.

“The survey conducted two decades after the 9/11 attacks which led to a surge of hate crimes and prompted Government policies targeting Muslims, provides insight into the experiences, lived realities, and psychological impacts of Islamophobia on millions of US residents.”

Reporting Islamophobia to authorities

Most Muslims (87.5 per cent) who have encountered an Islamophobic incident did not report the incident to the authorities.

US-born respondents were less likely to report an Islamophobic incident than foreign-born respondents (US-born: 64.2 per cent, foreign-born: 49.8 per cent).

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65.7 per cent) did not know where to report an Islamophobic incident.
About two-thirds of US-born and foreign-born respondents do not know where to report Islamophobic incidents; however, slightly more US-born (37.4 per cent) than foreign-born (32.3 per cent) respondents knew where to file a report.

Federal and State Policies affect American Muslims

Almost two-thirds of survey participants (62.7 percent) said they, or family members, friends, or members of their community, have been affected by federal and/or state policies that disproportionately discriminate against Muslims.

In addition, more than half (53.3 per cent) of survey participants have been treated unfairly by a law enforcement officer because of their religious identity.

However, most respondents (85.6 per cent) feel comfortable calling law enforcement for help or protection.

The overwhelming majority survey participants (97.5 per cent) believe that healthcare providers treat them fairly when they seek medical care, and nearly half of participants (49.6 per cent) believe that they are very often treated fairly. Younger, female, or US-born participants were less likely to feel that healthcare providers often treated them fairly.

Treatment of Muslims by law enforcement

Over half (53.3 per cent) of Muslims reported being unfairly treated by law enforcement because of their religious identity. Almost half of the survey participants of all ages say they have received unfair treatment from a law enforcement officer (18–29: 54.5 per cent, 30–49: 54.9 per cent, 50–64: 50.2 per cent, 65–74: 48.4 per cent, 75 and over: 50 per cent).

Younger respondents (18–49) are more likely to have been treated unfairly by a law enforcement officer than to have been mistreated by law enforcement. More than half of women (52.5 per cent) and men (53.9 per cent) participants have received unfair treatment by a law enforcement officer.

Similarly, over half of US and foreign-born (56.2 per cent: 51.4 per cent) respondents have been unfairly treated by law enforcement. Respondents of all ages reflected different levels of comfortability with contacting law enforcement for help or protection.

However, most respondents (85.6 per cent) feel comfortable calling law enforcement for help or protection. Of those who feel comfortable, the most common responses were that they sometimes (22.9 per cent) or often (22.7 per cent) feel comfortable calling law enforcement.

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