No, that’s not the headline on yesterday’s report from the Pew’s 2009 Annual Religion and Public Life Survey. The actual headline seemed to suggest the opposite: “Muslims Widely Seen as Facing Discrimination.” The findings are that 58 percent of Americans think there is “a lot of discrimination against Muslims.” The next highest religious group is Jews, with 35 percent of Americans thinking there is a lot of discrimination against them. Let me say for the record that it’s nonsense that there’s a lot of discrimination against Jews in America. Ask the ADL if you don’t believe me. Those 35 percent of Americans cannot be considered as providing an accurate read on anti-Semitism in America. What they’re saying is that they really disapprove of prejudice against Jews, and have heard a good deal about it.
I think that’s true about the anti-Muslim number as well. Why? The best indication is that those groups that think there is the most prejudice, such as liberal Democrats and African-Americans, are also the groups that are least likely to see Islam as more likely than other faiths to encourage violence. They are, in other words, the groups most likely to be concerned about anti-Muslim prejudice. As to “less hostility” as a plausible headline, it turns out that, across the board, the proportion of Americans who say Islam is more likely to encourage violence has declined over the past two years. That finding, which has bounced around since 9/11, may or may not be very significant–but it’s a better indication of actual American attitudes towards Muslims than what Americans think they are. What Pew’s approach does, however, is reinforce the message that anti-Muslim prejudice is a bad thing.
Meanwhile, there’s a bit of bad news for Mormons in the findings. More non-Jews think Judaism is very or somewhat similar to their religion (35 percent) than non-Mormons think Mormonism is very or somewhat similar to their religion (21 percent). That is to say, the insistence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that it is Christian doesn’t seem to be getting through very well to other American Christians.