Can Gallup Poll results on Muslim Americans help counter stereotypes?
Abu Dhabi Gallup Center and the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies conducted a groundbreaking poll which indicated that, contrary to the stereotype, the majority of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to the United States and optimistic about its future. This poll interviewed 2,482 adults of which 475 were Muslim. It compared the answers of Muslims to those of non-Muslims and observed that the poll results contradicted the stereotype that Muslims are alienated and unhappy. 9 out of 10 Muslim Americans said that Muslims in the US were not sympathetic to Al-Qaeda, and almost half stated they experienced discrimination. Two-thirds of Muslim Americans said they identified strongly with the United States, around the same percentage as those who said they identified equally strongly with their religion.
As a Muslim American woman, I personally found these results to be not “groundbreaking” news, but common knowledge to the majority of Muslim Americans. I would have probably answered the questions the same way as the majority of interviewees did: I identify strongly with the US and equally strongly with my religion, and to me it is very possible to simultaneously identify with both. As for America’s democratic and multicultural future, I am very optimistic just like many other Muslim Americans. Globalization and the current social media age is creating better access to knowledge and hopefully with time, this knowledge can reach those who are uninformed about their Muslim neighbors.
The question is can these poll results make a difference in the image of Muslims in America? It is comforting that these details that are probably perceived as “common sense” to most Muslims like myself are confirmed and published for the rest of the American public to read. However, it will take more than these polls to begin to improve the stereotype of Muslims. Anti-Muslim pundits like Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer and their many followers have concrete opinions that are unlikely to change or consider polls like this one. With the influx of accessible information, it is becoming easier for people to find only what they are looking for and avoid the information they do not agree with. To improve the image of Muslims in America, it is the responsibility of all Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims should step up and speak out more, which is seemingly increasing as first-generation American-raised Muslims are adapting careers that allow them more of a voice. People of other faiths who oppose discrimination and negative stereotypes associated with Muslims also have a responsibility: just as someone would oppose any other social injustice. We cannot underestimate the power of our voice.