Coinciding with the 8th anniversary of 9/11, the PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life released a survey finding that Americans believe Muslims face more discrimination within the U.S. than any other religious group. According to the national study conducted in August, 58% of Americans said there was “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims, far more than say the same about Jews, evangelical Christians, atheists or Mormons.
Why do Americans feel this way? Well, there have been modest increases in Americans’ familiarity with Islam compared with the months following the 9/11 attacks. According to the study’s senior researcher, Greg Smith, the more you know about someone, the more sympathetic you are to them. He said, “The findings can be linked because increased knowledge about Muslims is tied to more sensitivity about bias they face…People who are most sympathetic to a group are more likely to see that group as being discriminated against.”
Okay, so knowledge = sensitivity = hyper-awareness of discrimination.
But, according to PEW, immediately after 9/11, 25% of Americans believed Islam promoted violence; today, the number has increased to 40%. Is this a contradiction? Americans are more knowledgeable about and sympathetic toward Muslims but more likely to believe Islam promotes violence (Time reports). Maybe not. Perhaps non-Muslim Americans are increasingly aware of interactions with their Muslim compatriots, and on a personal level, more knowledgeable and sympathetic. However, this knowledge isn’t theological and its likely many Americans remain in the dark about Islam, unsure of its true teachings. The same individual can easily like and accept his or her Muslim neighbor or colleague, but still be wary of Islam.
Anyways, as for some of the week’s other (less intense) religious news…
A Washington state school district barred the rights of a student from performing “Ave Maria,” (which means “Hail Mary”) at a graduation ceremony. The student, Kathryn Nurre, sued the superintendent of the school district claiming the decision violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause. But, she lost. USA Today reports and The Law School blog weighs in.
Mohammad is now the 3rd most popular boy’s name in England, but the Office of National Statistics failed to include it in its latest published list. Their response? There are many different spellings of Mohammad, so they catalogued them differently. But, some think the ONS is simply trying to hide the changing face of Britain. Hmmm.