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Majority of US Muslims have experienced Islamophobia, poll finds

Two-thirds of respondents say they experienced Islamophobia, while more than 90 percent say anti-Muslim hatred affected their mental well-being
Demonstrators take part in a protest against growing Islamophobia, white supremacy, and anti-immigrant bigotry 24 March 2019 in New York City.
Demonstrators take part in a protest against growing Islamophobia, white supremacy and anti-immigrant bigotry, on 24 March 2019 in New York City (AFP)

More than two-thirds of Muslim Americans say they have experienced Islamophobia, with Muslim women experiencing it at a higher rate, according to a new poll released this week.

The survey, conducted by the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 67.5 percent of respondents said they had experienced Islamophobia, which it defined as an "individual verbal and/or physical attack, public policy, or the collective dehumanization of Muslims".

Of the 1,123 Muslims that were polled, 76.7 percent of females said they had experienced Islamophobia, compared to 58.6 percent of men.

An even larger percent of those surveyed, 93.7 percent, said that anti-Muslim hatred had affected their mental or emotional well-being to some degree.

"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," Elsadig Elsheikh, the director of the Institute's global justice programme, said in a press release.

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

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The poll also found that people aged between 18 and 29 experienced the most Islamophobia compared with any other age group, and were more likely to hide their religion as a result of this discrimination, with 45 percent of them saying they would do so.

The results of the survey were published just a few weeks after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the aftermath of which had led to increased hostilities towards Muslim communities, and government policies that targeted Muslims.

Still, Elsheikh noted that Islamophobia is a phenomenon that existed even prior to the attacks in the country.

"We know that Islamophobia has a long history in the United States, and it did not emerge after 9/11," he said during a panel on Tuesday announcing the survey's results, adding that it builds on an existing framework of structural racism in the US.

"Islamophobia does not just impact US Muslims, but US society as a whole."

While data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has shown that hate crimes against Muslims have fallen over the last several years, rights groups have said the opposite, that Islamophobic incidents have been on the rise recently.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which supported the survey, said earlier this year that more than 500 anti-Muslim incidents were reported for the first half of 2021.

The incidents included attacks on individuals and mosques, which appeared to increase in May, when Israel launched a devastating 11-day assault on Gaza that killed 248 Palestinians.

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