Dalia Mogahedand and Azka Mahmood have released ISPU’s new annual poll on national conversations with the voices of everyday Americans (“American Muslim Poll 2019: Predicting and Preventing Islamophobia“). Their poll of Muslim attitudes includes a remarkable paradox: of all religious groups surveyed Muslims were least likely to approve of President Trump’s governance and most likely to report religious, gender, and sectarian discrimination, and yet they were the most likely to express optimism with the direction of the country.
I believe this paradox can be explained by the increasing sentiment among non-Muslim groups that Muslims are unfairly affected by policies such as the “Muslim ban.” In other words, the mere fact that non-Muslim groups are troubled by the very trends about which Muslims are concerned is good news for Muslims as regards the “trajectory” of America’s future. That Muslims are less alone in their indignation is cause for hope.
The rise in positive sentiment is the first since the studies began in 2016, but is still below 2016-2017 levels. Also the “positive sentiment about the countryâ€™s direction within the Muslim community is not uniform. Muslims are twice as likely to be satisfied than Black Muslims (20%). However, Black Americans who are Muslim report satisfaction at much higher levels than their non-Muslim counterparts in our sample (3%), as do white Americans in the general public (43% vs. 20%).”
It is particularly interesting in that “roughly 10% of all faith groups say they personally know someone who experienced unwanted sexual advancement [sic] from a faith leader in their community” but Muslims were most like to report the transgression to law enforcement.Â This flies in the face of the submissive Muslim woman stereotype (see below), but is consistent with an understanding that Islamic morals tolerate neither sexual impropriety nor physical aggression. Conservative and progressive Muslims may disagree about the roles of women in Muslim society, but neither has grounds to tolerate, let alone to defend, sexual aggression against women.
“The notion that Muslim women have been socialized into expecting and accepting ‘second-class status’ crumbles under the weight of evidence that shows that they decry gender discrimination inside and outside their community. Moreover, the data show that Muslim women are four times more likely to have favorable opinions as unfavorable opinions (47% vs. 11%) of those who work for womenâ€™s empowerment.”
One thing that has not changed in the recent survey is that those who know a Muslim are more likely to be favorably disposed toward Muslims than those who do not.Â Jews are among the most likely to know and be favorably disposed towards Muslims and Evangelical Christians most likely to not know them and fear them.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute