Study reveals prevalent anti-Muslim stereotypes

A new study reveals one in four Americans still hold stereotypes of Muslims.

The study, sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, found many Americans still believe Muslims teach their children to hate and that they value life less than others.

“We have mixed feelings [about the poll]. On the one hand it’s disappointing to see there is such a high number of Americans holding negative views. It explains the animosity there is against Muslims both by the government and fellow Americans,” Director of the CAIR Chicago chapter Yaser Tabbara said.

Muslims number around 150 in the Bloomington-Normal area with about seven million across the United States. Since 9-11, the Muslim community has taken center stage in politics and the news.

“The media is the main source of these stereotypes. The news is sensational and a lot of people don’t have anything else to compare it to, so they are only getting that side of the story,” Tabbara said.

“Muslims are the new immigrant group and they have stereotypes against them like all other new immigrant groups did before us,” Tabbara added.

This study came just days before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. “It’s an extra hardship of trying to live in the holy month with the charity work and all and have this come out,” Tabbara said.

In the study, conducted by an independent firm who surveyed 1,000 people, 32 percent of people polled had a negative response to the word “Muslim.” Only 2 percent reacted positively, the study said.

“We handle a lot of civil rights violations. Just yesterday we got a report from a lady driving by a house with a Muslim male figure as a Halloween decoration,” Tabbara said.

“As a nation that values tolerance and equality, we need to recognize the growing anti-Muslim prejudice in our society and join together as Americans to combat this divisive phenomenon,” CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad said.

Nearly half of all polled believed American Muslims are “cooperating” with the war on terror.

“What happened after 9-11 was that some Americans wanted to learn more about the group so they went to the library and read about the people. They have an understanding of the culture and have a mostly positive view of Muslims,” Tabbara said.

“Others rely just on the media and are brought to the other extreme,” Tabbara said.

Tabbara added the council has been having several outreach projects, including meetings with the mass media and opening Islamic centers for people to come and ask questions.

“We’re hopeful in that the situation was not as bad as it could be. The majority still holds a positive view and we hope to educate the remaining 25 percent,” Tabbara said.

Daily Vidette, 29 October 2004