Can Americans separate terrorism from Muslims? Yes, says poll.
A new poll taken after the San Bernardino shooting, shows a majority of Americans view Muslims positively.
Jae C. Hong/AP
A majority of Americans view Muslims in the United States the same way that they do any other community, a new poll shows.
In the first poll on views of Muslim Americans taken after the mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 51 percent of Americans consider Muslims living in the US the same way they consider other groups of people.
Only 14.6 percent of those surveyed said they were generally fearful.
Amaney Jamal, a politics professor at Princeton told Reuters that it’s "healthy" to see the majority positively viewing Muslims, but cautioned about growing fears.
"If terrorism is designed to create a larger gap between Muslims and Westerners, unfortunately they're succeeding," Jamal said. "The threat of terror is going to be fought by Muslims and non-Muslims together. You would like to see those gaps close so people are working together and not being fearful."
It’s been a little more than three weeks since the attacks in Paris, claimed by the Islamic State and three days since the California shooting rampage, in which investigators say, one of the perpetrators had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
After this kind of extreme violence, there are often concerns that it will lead to a backlash against Muslim Americans and influence public comments by politicians.
For instance, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, recently suggested that all Muslims in the US should be registered and mosques monitored. He also claimed that "thousands and thousands" of Muslim Americans in New Jersey celebrated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an unsubstantiated narrative that was criticized by the American Muslim community and the Jersey City mayor.
Republican candidates may see Islamophobia as a way to motivate their core voters. A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 82 percent of Republicans said they were “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 51 percent of Democrats.
Some states, such as Texas, had moved to stop resettlement of refugees fleeing Syria citing “reasonable concerns about the safety and security of the citizenry of the state.” But on Friday, Texas reversed course, and stopped trying to block Syrian refugees from coming.
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wanted a federal judge to immediately halt the resettlements, but dropped that request Friday after the Obama administration and ACLU attacked the state's argument in court papers as frivolous. Federal courts — including the US Supreme Court — have long ruled that immigration is a federal responsibility, reported the Associated Press.
The swift reversal defused a lawsuit the Obama administration criticized as unfounded. Since the Paris attacks, at least 29 US governors have vowed to keep new Syrian refugees outside their state borders. Texas on Wednesday became the first to take the federal government to court, but legal experts called the lawsuit futile, saying states have no authority over resettlements.
"I think that it's the first sign that Texas is beginning to see the light," said Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending a resettlement group that Texas also sued.
Hours after news broke that the suspects of the California shooting had Muslim names, Muslim leaders across the country condemned the incident and said they feared the incident would add fuel to the anti-Islamic rhetoric.
“Groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, “are trying to divide our society and to terrorize us. Our message to them is we will not be terrorized and we will not be intimidated,” either by the terrorists or, he said, “by hatemongers who exploit the fear and hysteria that results from incidents like this.”
The New York Times reports that, “Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll, which was conducted online on Thursday and Friday suggests that much of the division on views of Muslims is partisan. Among Democrats, 60 percent said they view Muslims like any other community, compared with 30 percent of Republicans, Reuters reports.