Education Is Key to Ending Bias Against Muslims

DiversityInc, January 7th, 2010

By Sam Ali

Eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, nearly six out of 10 Americans believe Muslims still face more discrimination inside the United States than any other religious group.

The only group experiencing more discrimination was gays and lesbians, according to results from the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Nearly 64 percent of respondents said they believe gays and lesbians face more discrimination than Muslims do.

For the full survey, which you can use to address religious-discrimination issues at your organization, click here. To watch DiversityInc's December webinar on Religion in the Workplace, click here.

For Muslims, the good news is that the more people know about Islam, the less Islamophobic they tend to be, the survey found. Additionally, Americans who personally know someone who happens to be Muslim are more likely to express a better view of Muslims in general and see more similarities between Islam and their own faith.

Almost half of Americans said they personally know someone who is Muslim, according to the survey, which was conducted between Aug.11 and 17 and polled 2,010 adults on both landlines and cell phones.

The survey also found that Americans who are more educated or have more liberal political views tend to know more Muslims than less educated Americans or those who are more conservative politically.

For example, 66 percent of college graduates said they know a person who is Muslim. That number drops to 29 percent among those who have not attended college. Also, men are more likely than women to say they know a Muslim–51 percent versus 40 percent. And Blacks are more likely to know a Muslim–57 percent, compared with whites, 44 percent.

Only a slim majority of the respondents knew the Muslim name for God is Allah and correctly named the Quran as the Islamic sacred text. Overall, 41 percent of respondents were able to answer both questions correctly, 23 percent could only answer one but not the other and 36 percent were unfamiliar with either term.

The survey also found that while 38 percent of Americans still link Islam with violent behavior, that number is not as high as it has been in previous years.

The belief that Islam is more violent than other faiths has declined since 2007, when 45 percent of the public held that opinion. Views on whether Islam encourages violence more than other religions do have fluctuated in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

The survey noted that people who personally know a Muslim are less likely to see Islam as encouraging violence.

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