ENGY ABDELKADER discusses how Americans often associate Muslims with violence and extremism.
This perception problem is perpetuated by anti-Muslim hate groups and amplified by negative portrayals in the news media. The news media is the most influential information source shaping the general American public’s views about this minority faith community. Since 90 percent of news stories on Islam and Muslims are about war or terrorism, these depictions are far from representative of the overwhelming majority of American Muslims.
As such, misconceptions about Muslims persist, percolating in conspiratorial email chains, hyper-partisan news media discussions and perhaps most critically, among policymakers. American Muslims have watched these falsehoods develop over the past 15 years. Here, we identify and debunk seven of them:
Not all Muslims are Terrorists, but all Terrorists are Muslim
According to a recent 2017 report by Duke University’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, violent extremism dropped by 40 percent in 2016 as compared to the prior year. The reality is that while self-identifying Muslims are responsible for 123 fatalities since 9/11, according to Duke, more than 230,000 Americans were murdered over the same period. As highlighted further below, right-wing extremists actually pose the greatest threat to U.S. domestic security.
Muslims are not Patriotic
As Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan reminded us at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, American Muslims have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country since the Revolutionary War. Today, almost 4,000 Muslims serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and even more in law enforcement.
Muslims/Islam Hates America
According to a Pew survey, almost one half of Americans (49 percent) believe “some” American Muslims are anti-American. But research from Gallup indicates that American Muslims are just as likely to identify with their faith as they do with the United States. Also, an Institute for Social Policy and Understanding study shows that Muslims with a stronger faith identity are more likely to emphasize their American identity as well.
Muslim Refugees are Coming to American to Attacks in the Name of Islam
In 2016, approximately 85,000 refugees entered the U.S. and forty-six percent—38,901—were Muslim. The sources of more than half of our Muslim refugees are Syria (12,486) and Somalia (9,012), with the remainder coming from Iraq (7,853), Burma (3,145), Afghanistan (2,664), and other countries (3,741). Additionally, 1 million immigrants are granted Green Cards each year. In 2016, approximately one in ten of those new legal immigrants were Muslim. Last year, none of these Muslims committed an act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
Muslim Terrorists are Infiltrating Our Borders
In 2015, in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and a wave of unaccompanied minors flowing over the border from Central America, many expressed anxiety that would-be terrorists could exploit border vulnerabilities to attack us. While political rhetoric focuses on the dangers of allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, there is no concrete evidence that an infiltration by Muslims or a mass movement has taken place as part of a larger pattern. Moreover, while President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders have banned immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries, no Americans were murdered in terror attacks carried out by foreign nationals from the banned countries. Even intelligence from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirms that one’s country of citizenship is an unlikely indicator of a security threat.
Muslims are Responsible for Most Acts of Terrorism in the U.S.
Ninety-nine percent of American Muslims have had no involvement with such heinous activities in the past 15 years. According to FBI statistics, from 1980 to 2005, American Muslims were responsible for only 6 percent of attacks in the United States. The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University found that U.S. law enforcement agencies considered antigovernment violent extremists as the most severe threat of political violence. Research from the University of Maryland has confirmed this.
Muslims Aren’t Doing Anything to Prevent Violent Extremism
Surprisingly, the general American public is unaware that American Muslims are the single largest source of tips to law enforcement agencies in foiling terrorist plots. Additionally, Muslims generally believe that suicide bombings and other violence committed in the name of Islam is rarely or never justified. According to Gallup, American Muslims are more likely than any other religious community to reject violence against civilians. The U.S. Department of Justice found that American Muslims are actively engaged in anti-radicalization efforts within their religious communities and mosques. These include self-policing, community-building, and political engagement. In addition, Muslims have issued over 700 (and counting) condemnations against terrorism since 9/11.