Tuesday, October 19, 2004

More than one-third of American Muslims believe that the U.S. war on terrorism is really a war on Islam, according to survey information released yesterday by researchers at Georgetown University.

Thirty-eight percent of American Muslims polled said they believe the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the tensions with Iran and Syria, reflect a foreign policy that is targeting Islamic countries and Muslims themselves.

An additional 33 percent of Muslims interviewed said they believe the United States is fighting a war on terrorism, and 29 percent said they were not sure.

The telephone survey of 1,846 randomly chosen Muslims was conducted in August and September by Zogby International for the Project on Muslims in the American Public Square, a project run out of Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

The poll follows up a study conducted two months after the September 11 attacks, which found that 67 percent of American Muslims believed that the United States was fighting a war on terror. An additional 18 percent of Muslims said the U.S. war was against Islam, and 16 percent said they were not sure.

Survey director Zahid Bukhari said that negative comments about Islam since 2001 by evangelical Christian leaders such as the Revs. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham, and the White House’s close association with these leaders, has added to the perception of a war on Islam, despite President Bush’s remarks that Islam is a religion of peace.

Still, Mr. Bukhari said, American Muslims are considering this issue more carefully than their religious counterparts in the Middle East, where most consider the United States to be waging a war against Islam.

American Muslims “are becoming more objective, more mature, instead of [engaging in] Muslim world behavior. The Muslim world is very emotional,” he said. American Muslims “are responding that they should be more involved in society.”

The survey also found that 63 percent of American Muslims are dissatisfied with “the way things are going in American society today.” That question was not asked in 2001.

There were minor increases from the 2001 survey in the number of Muslims registered to vote and likely to vote. Eighty-two percent of Muslims said they were registered, compared with 79 percent in 2001. Among those registered, 95 percent said they were likely to vote, compared with 94 percent in 2001.

The poll found that Muslims solidly support Democratic Sen. John Kerry for president, though they had strongly backed Mr. Bush in the 2000 election.

Because of the USA Patriot Act and concerns over civil liberties, researchers said, 76 percent of Muslims are voting for Mr. Kerry, compared with 7 percent for Mr. Bush. The 2001 survey found that 42 percent of American Muslims voted for Mr. Bush in 2000, and 31 percent voted for Vice President Al Gore.

However, the self-reports on voting in 2000 were reversed in the 2004 survey. In the more recent poll, 38 percent of respondents said they had voted for Mr. Gore, and 27 percent said they had voted for Mr. Bush.

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