New poll finds Americans evenly divided in views of Muslims

Americans are almost evenly divided in how they view Muslims, according to a survey released Thursday (Aug. 23) by the Arab American Institute in Washington.

But the online survey, which also gauged views on Mormons, Jews, Catholics, evangelicals, Buddhists and Hindus also found a striking generational gap and significant differences between political groups.

“The American Divide: How We View Arabs And Muslims,” found that 41 percent of Americans had unfavorable views of Muslims, compared to 40 percent who held favorable views.

That’s an improvement from 2010, when another Arab American Institute survey found that 55 percent of Americans viewed Muslims unfavorably, compared to 35 percent with favorable views. The latest poll surveyed 1,052 people between August 15-16.

Professor Jack Levin, co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, attributed the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in 2010 to protests against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. “That effect has been fading over time,” Levin said.

The report, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percent, also found that 42 percent of Americans thought Muslims could do a good job in government, while 32 percent said they could not because their loyalty was suspect.

Nearly six in 10 Americans said they don’t know a Muslim compared to three in 10 who said they did, while the rest were unsure. People who knew Muslims were more likely to have favorable views of them.

Why basketball is Muslims’ favorite sport

For many Muslim Americans, college and professional basketball provides heroes they can take pride in, symbols of affirmation at a time when they face hostility from some Americans. And it serves as a way to develop fellowship with their fellow believers while reaching out to non-Muslims.

“Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali of Houston.

At the moment, there are at least eight Muslim players in the NBA (four Turks, two African Americans, one Iranian, and one Tanzanian), and one of them — center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder — is currently in the middle of a tense series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film written by Ira Berkow, a Pulitzer-prize winning sportswriter.

 

Omar Abdelkader, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, is an observant Muslim but admits that, at least as a kid, he was occasionally seduced by the swish of a perfect jump-shot over the Islamic call to prayer.

“Sometimes we’d sneak out of prayers to play ball,” recalled Abdelkader, who grew-up attending the Worcester Islamic Center in central Massachusetts. Like a growing number of American mosques, the Worcester Islamic Center has a basketball court — and hence a built-in temptation for younger members.

Massachusetts man charged with plotting to fly explosives into Pentagon ordered held on bail

WORCESTER, Mass. — A federal judge has denied bail for a Massachusetts man accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

The judge said in the decision issued Monday that 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus is a “danger to the community” with a “dedication to his cause.”

Ferdaus, a Muslim American with a physics degree from Northeastern University, was arrested in Framingham in September after federal employees posing as al-Qaida members delivered what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosives.

Lawyers for the Ashland man said Ferdaus has mental health issues and had a “completely unrealistic fantasy.”