Assessing – and reducing – public fear of Muslims

Scholar's Strategy Network Policy Brief (May 22, 2018)

Presidential candidate Donald Trump waged a “tough on crime” campaign and vowed he would “make America safe” by implementing a “Muslim ban.” Soon after his inauguration President Trump followed through on his promise when he signed of Executive Order 13769, which temporarily banned individuals from seven predominantly Muslims countries from entering the United States. His declared goal was to protect Americans from terrorist attacks – and several national polls found that around half of all Americans approved the move.

Although this executive order has changed after repeated legal challenges, it highlights the broad perception held by many Americans that the terrorist threat to United States comes primarily from Muslims. Not only did the election of Donald Trump coincide with a spike of anti-Muslim incidents and hate crimes, the Pew Research Center found that half of all Americans expressed the belief that Muslim citizens are anti-American and more prone to violence and a third believe that Muslims should be subject to greater scrutiny than other groups in the United States.

Are such fears justified? Are Muslims the greatest terrorist threat to the United States – and are they more likely to support violence? Will placing more scrutiny on Muslims make the country safer? In an effort to answer such questions, my recent book, Muslims in a Post-9/11 America: A Survey of Attitudes and Beliefs and Their Implications for U.S. National Security Policy, assembles the latest research on U.S. terrorist attacks and government counter terror efforts. My research team and I interviewed nearly 200 Muslims living in the United States and conducted a nationwide survey of over 500 Muslims.

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