More than 6 in 10 have seldom or never had a conversation with a Muslim, according to a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Most Americans also say they know little (57%) or nothing at all (26%) about Islam.
Those numbers have barely budged in 30 years
, even after 9/11, two American-led wars in Muslim-majority countries, local and national outreach campaigns by Muslim mosques and organizations, dozens of terrorist attacks worldwide, high-profile congressional hearings and copious media coverage of Islam. All of which suggests that Americans are not just widely ignorant about Islam and Muslims, they are also oddly incurious.
Few things are more frightening than ignorance in action, to paraphrase a German poet
Muslims have been shot and killed,
execution-style, in their living rooms
and outside of their mosques
. They have been fatally stabbed
on their way home. They have been beaten in their stores
, in their schools
and on the streets
. They have been kicked off airplanes
, egged outside Walmart
, scorched with hot coffee
in a park, shot in cabs
and punched while pushing their children in strollers
. Their clothes have been set on fire
and their children have been bullied
. Men have come to their door and told them that they would burn down their house
if they did not move away. They have been fired for wearing hijabs
and for praying
. They have seen their cemeteries vandalized
and their Quran desecrated
. A Muslim congressman has received death threats
, and business owners have posted signs advertising "Muslim-free zones.
Heavily armed men have protested outside mosques
, arguing that it's their patriotic duty to protect the country from Islam.
People have covered the doors of a mosque with feces and torn pages of the Quran
, left a severed pig's head
outside a mosque, firebombed
on mosques, spray-painted the Star of David
and satanic symbols
on mosques, carved swastikas and crude drawings of penises
into signs at mosques, set fire
to mosques, threatened to blow up mosques
and kill "you Muslim f****,"
fired rounds from high-powered rifles
into mosques, wrapped bacon
around the door handles of mosques, left hoax bombs
and fake grenades
at mosques, threatened to decapitate
congregants at mosques, sent suspicious substances
to mosques, written notes saying, "We hate you," "We will burn all of you"
and "Leave our country"
to mosques, rammed a tractor-trailer
into a mosque, thrown bricks
through the windows of mosques, pelted Muslims with rocks
as they left mosques and stood outside mosques shouting, "How many of you Muslims are terrorists?"
American Muslims have been told that a mosque, unlike churches and synagogues, cannot serve as an election polling station
. Dozens of communities have fought to keep Muslims from building mosques in their neighborhoods
, sometimes threatening violence.
From 2001 to 2015, there were 2,545 anti-Islamic incidents targeting 3,052 Muslims, according to the FBI
. Last year, anti-Muslim hate times surged 67%, reaching a level of violence not seen since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and many Muslims believe hate crimes are underreported by victims and not pursued vigorously by police and prosecutors. This year, the FBI has begun counting anti-Arab incidents
Politicians have claimed that 85% of mosques
are controlled by Islamic extremists and that Islam is a political system, not a religion
, and thus not protected
by the First Amendment. They have threatened to "arrest every Muslim
that comes across the state line" and pledged to bar Muslim refugees
from the country. They have sanctioned spying on mosques
without warrants and the racial profiling
of Muslim communities. They have accused Muslims of launching a "civilizational jihad"
and called Islam a "cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out."
They have shut down schools over lessons on Islam
and called innocuous school materials
dangerous propaganda. More than 30 states have considered bills to "protect" their civil courts from Islamic law, and nine states (Alabama
, North Carolina
, South Dakota
) enacted the bans. They have said Muslims cannot be president
of the United States. They have said Muslims should not be here at all
Challenged about Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, his spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, said, "So what? They're Muslim."
A coterie of well-funded pundits and self-proclaimed experts
encourage Americans to fear all Muslims and the "creeping" influence of Islamic law in the United States. They cast Muslims as "enemies among us," Trojan horses for an insurgency that will topple the republic and conquer its citizens.
Even many liberal politicians, while insisting most Muslims are peaceful, only mention Islam when speaking about national security and countering violent extremism.
"Islam is not thought of as American religion," said Zareena Grewal, a professor of religious studies at Yale University, "however much Muslim-Americans wish that to be true."
In 2011, more than half of American Muslims under 30 said they had been treated with suspicion, called offensive names, singled out by law enforcement or been physically threatened in the preceding year alone, according to a Pew Center report.
Asad Tarsin, a writer and doctor, lives in California with his wife and three young children.
"I know that they will be integrated in America and fully accept their American identity. My question is whether America will fully accept them."