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American Muslims see Trump as unfriendly but find support from non-Muslim compatriots, survey shows

A Muslim woman holds American flags at an interfaith prayer service in Flint, Mich., on June 22.
(Shannon Millard / Associated Press)

What has life been like for Muslims in the U.S. since Donald Trump became president? A wide-ranging survey released Wednesday highlights growing worries within the community, but also points to a fundamental faith in the American dream.

Almost three-quarters of American Muslims surveyed — 74% — see Trump as unfriendly toward them, but nearly half also say that non-Muslims in their lives — neighbors, colleagues and strangers — have stepped up and offered support and encouragement in recent months, according to the Pew Research Center survey.

One respondent, identified as a Muslim woman under 30, told the Pew researchers that she had experienced “rude comments straight to my face” when wearing a hijab in public. But she added: “I’ve also had people say really nice things about my hijab, or say it’s beautiful.”

While more than six in 10 U.S. Muslims say they believe Islam is still not viewed by others as part of the country’s mainstream, overwhelming numbers said they are proud to be both Americans and Muslims, and a large majority sees no clash between Islam and democracy, said the survey, the first of its kind conducted by the organization since Trump took office.

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During his campaign and his first six months in the Oval Office, Trump and his administration have done much to cast a harsh spotlight on Muslims, sometimes portraying the religion itself as a threat. A watered-down version of the sweeping travel ban decreed by Trump almost immediately upon taking office has taken partial effect, targeting six Muslim-majority countries, and hate crimes, particularly against those displaying overt signs of their Muslim faith, have been on the rise.

Many have internalized larger political concerns, reporting an increased sense of personal anxiety. “Far more Muslims express negative emotions associated with Trump than positive ones,” the Pew researchers wrote.

In the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Muslims — many of whom were put off by rhetoric such as Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the country, or offended by being tarred by association with terror attacks worldwide — voted for Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton by a nearly 4-1 margin.

Despite feelings of not being fully accepted in the United States, 70% of the Muslims surveyed expressed an enduring belief that hard work can lead to success in this country. That figure has remained largely consistent since a similar Pew survey in 2007.

Over the past year, coinciding with Trump’s candidacy, nearly half of the Muslims surveyed — 48% — said they had faced some form of discrimination in the past year, such as name-calling or threats. But the levels increase substantially among respondents who said their mode of dress or other visible characteristics identified them as devout Muslims, such as women who wear head coverings or men who wear long beards and traditional dress. Among that group, 64% said they had faced hostility or discrimination.

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There were also signs of a more accepting attitude among Muslims regarding U.S. social mores. In the 2007 Pew survey, 61% of Muslims disapproved of same-sex relationships; now a slight majority — 52% — say that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Marchers carry Pakistani, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian and American flags in the Muslim Day Parade on Madison Avenue in New York on Sept. 25 2016.
(Craig Ruttle / Associated Press)

Muslims make up about 1% of the U.S. population, or about 3.35 million people, by the researchers’ estimate, and they are one of the fastest-growing religious minorities, increasing by about 100,000 per year. The largest numbers of American Muslims have roots in the Indian subcontinent — Pakistan, India and Bangladesh — with smaller numbers coming from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite repeated suggestions from Trump that Muslims sympathize with others of their faith who resort to terror, the survey finds overwhelmingly negative views among American Muslims toward Islamic extremism, with more than four in five describing it as a threat to the world.

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But researchers also found mistrust of domestic U.S. law enforcement, with about 30% saying that authorities sometimes tricked those suspected of terror-related activity, or arrested them by mistake.

The survey of 1,001 adults was conducted between Jan. 23 and May 2, using both landline and mobile phones and posing questions in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.8 percentage points, the researchers said.

laura.king@latimes.com

@laurakingLAT

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