Most Americans support congressional probe on Muslims

February 16, 2011

(RNS) A woman with a patriotic head scarf sits in front of the US Capitol during a 2009 “Islam on Capitol Hill’ event. Muslim leaders are now concerned about planned House hearings on the “radicalization of American Muslims.” RNS file photo by Tim Farrell/The Star-Ledger.

By Nicole Neroulias

(RNS) Americans haven’t heard much about upcoming congressional hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims, yet more than half think it’s a good idea, and nearly as many believe Muslims here haven’t done enough to fight extremists in their midst, according to a new poll.

At the same time, 62 percent say American Muslims are an important part of the religious community, and a clear majority—72 percent—say Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists, not just among Muslims, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Pollreleased Wednesday (Feb. 16).

Peter Gottschalk, co-author of “Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy,” said the findings reflect the impact of recent waves of anti-Muslim rhetoric surrounding burning the Quran and opposing the construction of mosques.

“The Muslim community has been fairly successful at demonstrating themselves as neighbors, but the question becomes are they good neighbors?” said Gottschalk, chairman of the religion department at Wesleyan University.

“There’s a double standard that Muslims are responsible for extremism by people who happen to be Muslim, but all Christians aren’t responsible for abortion clinic bombers or the KKK.”

The poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, was released as House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., prepares to hold hearings on the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism during the week of March 7.

The poll examined attitudes toward both the hearings and American Muslims, analyzing the responses by gender, age, most trusted news source, and religious and political affiliation.

Overall, men, viewers who trust Fox News, white evangelicals and Republicans are more likely to think the hearings are a good idea and to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in the United States.

Those groups are also among the most likely to say they feel “well informed” about Islam and the “religious beliefs and practices of Muslims.”

These groups aren’t necessarily more knowledgeable, however—just more confident in their beliefs, researchers explained. Researchers said a person’s preferred news source is significantly correlated to how much they worry about American Muslim extremism.

“What we’re seeing here is a significant Fox News effect,” explained Daniel Cox, PRRI research director. “We even see differences among Republicans who trust Fox News most and those who trust other media.”

Other findings include:

— Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans haven’t heard anything about the upcoming hearings to investigate U.S. Muslim extremism.

— A majority (56 percent) believes that a hearing on American Muslim extremism is a good idea, including most Republicans (71 percent), people who trust Fox News (76 percent), and white evangelicals (70 percent). The hearings find less support among Democrats (45 percent), people who trust CNN (45 percent) or public television (28 percent), and white mainline Protestants (50 percent).

— Nearly half (49 percent) of Americans do not believe Muslims in the U.S. have been unfairly targeted by law enforcement; more than one-third (36 percent) believe Muslims have been targeted unfairly.

— One in five (22 percent) Americans believes U.S. Muslims want to establish Shariah law here. This view is far more common among Republicans (31 percent) than Democrats (15 percent), people who trust Fox News (35 percent) than those who trust public television (9 percent), and white evangelicals (34 percent) than white mainline Protestants (20 percent) or white Catholics (22 percent).

— A plurality (46 percent) believes American Muslims have not done enough to oppose Muslim extremism, including healthy majorities of men, white evangelicals, Republicans and Fox News viewers.

In contrast, only 42 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of people who trust CNN or network news (42 percent) or public television (30 percent) say American Muslims haven’t done enough.

— Americans are split over whether they feel well informed about Muslims and Islam, but men (56 percent) and viewers who trust Fox News (52 percent) are more likely to report feeling well-informed than women (36 percent), and viewers who trust CNN (41 percent) and network news (31 percent).

Muslim activists say the upcoming hearings—and the poll’s findings—reflect the work they still have to do to correct negative messages about domestic Islam and counter with positive examples.

“If we thought it was going to have a sober and objective hearing, we would welcome that. It would be an opportunity for the Muslim community to shine, because we know the kind of actions that the community has taken (against terrorism),” said Corey Saylor, legislative director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“But, given King’s track record, any reasonable person would have a concern about the direction he’s going to take.”

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll was based on telephone interviews of 1,015 U.S. adults between Feb. 11 and 13. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.




9 thoughts on “Most Americans support congressional probe on Muslims

  1. I than write to my congressman to have than ethic investation of Mr King gor speading fear and hated and startingt than civil war in america.

  2. I must be in a different part of this country, I very rarely hear anything regarding people of the Muslim faith nor any other religions either. It seems to me that most americans I meet avoid religious topics due to the fact that they consider it “PASSE” or boring.
    I guess in the past everybody just blah blah blahhed the subject into the ground…

  3. ?lying? I stand corrected then, my english is not so correct maybe.I’ll have someone who has a better knowledge of it review and advise my stated opinion of what I’ve observed…
    But if amerika is mostly made up of christiennes,and it is true what you stste then the ummah needs to speak to that issue or atleast ask someone who has contact with this religious group to open up a meeting.

  4. Why only Americans???? I bet most of the NON-MUSLIMS want probe in their respective country. A probe, not just on muslims but also on those who converted to other religion from islam. The probe not just on muslims but also on those who have their origin in Pakistan (do you remember Devid Headly????)

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  5. I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honour”; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.

    I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America and Canada , while no American nor Canadian group nor Australia is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in any Muslim land to teach love and tolerance. Probe them and ask why they do not demonstrate publicly against terrorism and radical Muslims.

    • First there isnot that much honor killing going on in the muslim it just the mass media and far rightwing hate group makeing it sound like alot more. In one south east asian nation christian terrorist murder at than Islamist school over one hundred childern most likely you approval of that act.Second Islam doesnot approval of honor killing it is than very old arab custrom.

      • i’m starting to see a pattern of growing fear/panic amongst canadiennes and europiennes, that even the amerikaans are becomming very concerned with.
        this euro hype of being taken over by another kaliphite. to most of the publique this is just nonsense(caution is called for regarding amerikaan historical over reaction).
        middle eastern culture is a very strong society with standards which western societies resent(fear)….

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