NEW YORK – This may come as a surprise, especially after years of venomous racial bashing of Muslims in the United States, after 9/11, and more recently the travel ban imposed on some Muslim majority countries by President Trump and the rise of White nationalism: vast majority of Americans would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, says a new study. And not only that. Only slightly lower shares say they would be willing to accept a Muslim as a family member.
A whopping 89% of Americans say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, released this week, which also surveyed 15 Western nations on the same subject. The survey found that most people (79%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family.
In Western Europe – where 15 countries were panned for the survey, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members.
While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this. Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%), the Pew report said.
In both the US and Europe, the surveys find higher acceptance of Muslims among those with more education. In the US, for example, 86% of adults with a college degree would be willing to accept a Muslim into their family; among Americans without a college degree, this share falls to 75%.
Similarly, in Germany, a majority of those with a college education (67%) say they would be willing to accept a Muslim in their family, compared with roughly half (52%) among those without one. The same pattern is present in other countries, such as the UK (71% vs. 44%) and Austria (67% vs. 51%).
On both sides of the Atlantic, attitudes toward Muslims are tied to politics, even after taking education, age and other demographic factors into account, noted the Pew report.
In Western Europe, those who lean toward the right of the European political spectrum have less accepting views than those who lean toward the left. Likewise, in the US, those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (88% vs. 67%).
Still, majorities among both Democrats and Republicans say they would be willing to accept Muslims in their lives, the research found.
While majorities of Americans and Western Europeans have accepting views toward Muslims, they are more divided on whether to accept Islam in their societies. Europeans in several countries are about as likely to say, “Islam is fundamentally incompatible with [their country’s] culture and values” as they are to take the view that “there is no fundamental contradiction between Islam and [their country’s] culture and values.”
Pew Research Center didn’t ask this exact question in the US. Still, several other survey questions point to a similar ambivalence in American public opinion about the role of Islam in society, their report said. For instance, half of American adults say Islam is not part of mainstream American society and a similar share (44%) say there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy.
Muslims make up roughly 1% of the adult population in the U.S., while across Europe as a whole (including Eastern Europe), they are estimated to form roughly 5% of the population.
The survey also found 46% of American adults say they personally know a Muslim, compared with significant majorities in most Western European countries, including 71% in the UK and 79% in France.
While the survey bodes well for a multicultural country like the US, the number of new Muslims in the US is nosediving.
Newsweek reported that under the Trump administration, the number of Muslim refugees admitted into the country under the US Refugee Admissions Program has plummeted over the past two years, with numbers dropping to their lowest levels in nearly two decades in fiscal year 2018.
‘While numbers appeared to pick up slightly in fiscal year 2019, with 4,900 Muslim refugees admitted into the country, they represent a significant drop from fiscal year 2017, in which more than 20,000 Muslim refugees were admitted into the US,” Newsweek reported.
They also represent an even more significant departure from 2016’s numbers, when the number of Muslim refugees entering the US hit a historic high of 38,900, outpacing Christian refugee admissions, which fell at around 37,500, according to the Pew Research Center.
Overall, since fiscal year 2002, or from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2019, when fiscal year 2019 ended, the US has admitted as many as 464,700 Christian refugees and about 310,700 Muslim refugees, the report noted.
While love for Muslims is surging in the US, the same cannot be said of in India. Media reports this week said a Muslim man and a Hindu woman were refused their booking by a hotel in Rajasthan on the grounds that they are an interfaith couple.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)