Survey: 76% of U.S. Muslim women have experienced Islamophobia

More than two-thirds of U.S. Muslims report having experienced Islamophobia in their lifetimes, with women being significantly more likely than men to say so, a new survey has found.

The report by University California Berkeley’s “Othering & Belonging Institute,” reveals that 67.5% of respondents said they had personally experienced Islamophobia in their lifetimes, including 76.7% of women and 58.6% of men.

And an overwhelming 93.7% of respondents said that Islamophobia affects their emotional and mental well-being.

“This may suggest that even if a Muslim is not directly targeted by an Islamophobic act, the ubiquity of Islamophobia in our media and culture after 9/11 has created an atmosphere in which Muslims feel they are being monitored, judged, or excluded in some form,” said Elsadig Elsheikh, the director of the Institute’s Global Justice programme which conducted the study.

“As our survey demonstrates, Islamophobia has deep implications for how U.S. Muslims engage with society, and the barriers they face to achieve belonging,” he added.

The survey, conducted two decades after the 9/11 attacks which led to a surge of hate crimes and prompted government policies targeting Muslims, provides insight into the experiences, lived realities, and psychological impacts of Islamophobia on millions of Muslim Americans.

The survey included the participation of 1,123 Muslims, roughly half women and half men, who live and/or work in the United States, both citizens and non-citizens. They included Muslims of various ages, national and ethnic backgrounds and educational levels.

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The survey asked about experiences with Islamophobia vis-à-vis government institutions and society (as in Islamophobic acts carried out by members of the public).

Almost two-thirds of the respondents (62.7%) responded that they had either personally experienced or know someone who had been affected by federal and/or state policies targeting Muslims.

Such policies could include things like anti-Sharia legislation adopted by some state legislatures, or the slate of anti-Muslim federal policies like registrees, surveillance programmes, or Donald Trump’s infamous Muslim Ban adopted in the months and years following 9/11.

Roughly one-third (32.9%) of respondents admitted to hiding their religious identity at some point in their lives, while 88.2% said that they censor their speech or actions due to fear of how people might react. Youth aged 18-29 were more likely than any other age group to have hidden their religious identity, at 44.6%.

Despite this, Muslims mostly (72.9%) described their everyday interactions with non-Muslims as friendly, while 79.4% of respondents agreed with the statement that Islamic values are consistent with U.S. values.

Nearly all (99.1%) regarded the diversity of culture in America as a good thing, while 93.7% responded that it was important for them that their children be accepted as Americans.

“The news is not all bad,” said Basima Sisemore, a researcher with the institute’s Global Justice program who co-authored the study. “One of the uplifting findings of our survey is that despite a general climate of hostility, Muslims overwhelmingly express a desire to belong, regularly interact with non-Muslims and believe in the ideals of pluralism and equality.

“The challenge before us now is to actually create the conditions that foster and strengthen social bonds and disrupt the structures that support Islamophobia to help us reach that ever-elusive goal,” she added.

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