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In Theory: Can Muslims shake off a negative image?

August 12, 2011

Q. As Muslims around the world observe the holy month of Ramadan, a new survey shows that American Muslims are happier than ever. A Gallup study found that 60% of Muslim Americans surveyed reported they were “thriving,” slightly higher than for Americans of any other religion except Jews, and are optimistic about their lives.

The survey, carried out over two years by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, found that Muslim Americans said their standard of living was improving over past years and that, with the election of Barack Obama, they felt a sense of political enfranchisement. More Muslim Americans said attacks on civilians were wrong than any other religious group, and almost 70% said they identified strongly with America.

Ahmed Younis, an analyst for the center, said, “Muslim Americans are thoroughly American in their allegiance and identity and don't see a conflict between that and being thoroughly Muslim.”

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Nonetheless, the poll also found that negative perceptions of Muslims are still strong, with half reporting racial or religious harassment or discrimination. About a third of Catholics or Protestants polled claimed that Muslims aren't loyal to America, and that Muslims should be more vocal in condemning terrorist attacks.

While the increased happiness of Muslim Americans is a good thing, can the community ever shake off its negative image?

Wow to this great question, and wow to the great city of La Cañada Flintridge and the surrounding areas of Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank and the Crescenta Valley.

For the first wow, “Can the community (of Muslim Americans) ever shake off its negative image?” The answer is a resounding yes, because the negative image is a creation of Islamic extremism, media sensationalism and the cottage industry of Islamic bigotry.

The small problem of Islamic extremism is caused by al-Qaida and the deranged individuals who act as lone wolves (think about the Christian parallel, a Norwegian extremist trying to hijack Christianity). The large problem of Islamic extremism is perpetuated by the mostly illegitimate and oppressive governments of Muslim-populated countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest purveyors of Islamic extremism. The most advanced exception to this general condition is Turkey, which has successfully integrated moderate Islam and secularism since 2002, when it was freed from the web of corruption caused by its military establishment.

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