Survey: U.S. Muslims uneasy under Trump, feel targeted

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

After more than a decade of work assisting impoverished women and children, a local humanitarian organization recently was targeted with hate mail.

The letter was sent to executives of Zaman International and filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric, even though the organization is not Islamic, said Najah Bazzy, founder/CEO of the Inkster-based organization.

It was not the first local incident of discrimination since President Donald Trump has been in office, added Bazzy, who is also an activist in Metro Detroit’s Muslim community, one of the largest in the nation.

She has spoken with many individuals who have reported vandalism to Muslim-owned businesses, road-rage incidents and harassment of schoolchildren, including young boys who have been called terrorists and young girls whose hijabs were pulled off their heads.

“I am saddened but also a little scared,” Bazzy said. “The climate of the country has unleashed some very deep-rooted racism.”

Trump’s tenure has been an apprehensive time for Muslim Americans, with many feeling targeted and dissatisfied with the direction of the country, according to key findings of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Seventy-five percent said there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims, 62 percent said Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream society and 68 percent indicated Trump worries them.

Among the other findings: At least half say it is getting harder to be a Muslim in America, that media coverage is unfair, and most are very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam.

“At the same time, however, Muslim Americans express a persistent streak of optimism and positive feelings,” according to the report. “Overwhelmingly, they say they are proud to be Americans, believe that hard work generally brings success in this country and are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives – even if they are not satisfied with the direction of the country as a whole.”

Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Arab American Civil Rights League in Dearborn, said the survey paints an accurate picture of Muslim in America today: the concerns they have and the discrimination they face as the division among Americans appears to be widening.

“As long as Trump is in office,” Beydoun said, “Muslims and all other ethnic minorities are going to face discrimination because he is actively supporting racism and white privilege. It takes us back to the Jim Crow days; he is pushing us to a bygone era we have been working 40 years to overcome. We were on the path to addressing these issues in a way where we were becoming less racist, and more accepting. He has turned the clock back.”

The report is the Pew Research Center’s third comprehensive survey of U.S. Muslims. It included 1,001 Muslim adults.

It comes after one of Trump’s first policy decisions as president was to enact a controversial travel ban that includes six Muslim-majority countries.

Dearborn resident Fatima Saleh wishes Trump wouldn’t speak of extremist groups like ISIS as though they represent all Muslims because, she said, most Muslims have the same values as Americans.

“Our differences are very minor compared to how much we are alike,” Saleh said.