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Does U.S. tolerate anti-Muslim speech?

The latest flap: Radio-show host says Muslims should be deported, sparking a backlash.

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Lu Gronseth listens regularly to WWTC, a conservative talk-radio station in Minneapolis, and even advertises his mortgage-loan business on the station. But when he learned that a nationally syndicated radio show host had told WWTC listeners that Muslims should be deported and made rude comments about what they could do with their religion, Mr. Gronseth pulled his ads from the station.

So have at least two other Minnesota businesses, at the urging of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., as have a handful of national companies, including OfficeMax, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, and AT&T. But the comments by host Michael Savage in October – and previous anti-Muslim speech – have not created the furor that knocked radio icon Don Imus off of MSNBC and CBS Radio after he denigrated a black women's basketball team. That leaves many Muslims-Americans – and non-Muslims like Mr. Gronseth – suspicious that Americans have a double standard when it comes to Islam.

"My sense is that you could say anti-Muslim comments that you could never get away with, saying for example, as anti-Jewish comments," said Stephen Wessler of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence in Portland, Maine. "There's a much greater public level of acceptance of denigrating Muslims."

Indeed, anti-Muslim feeling in the United States, far from cooling since the immediate aftermath of 9/11, has edged higher, polls suggest.

For example: 35 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, up from 29 percent in March 2002, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The same survey shows a rise in the number of people who say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence: 45 percent in 2007 versus 25 percent in 2002, although that figure has fluctuated over time.

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