U.S. Muslims more concerned than Jews about safety and religious freedom

Foundation for Ethnic Understanding study: Gaps between two faiths are not wide.

March 22, 2018 16:23
3 minute read.
Interfaith religious leaders join together in a show of support for the US Muslim community

Interfaith religious leaders join together in a show of support for the United States Muslim community . (photo credit: SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)


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A study on Muslim-Jewish relations in the US found that Muslims fear for their safety and security of their families as well as for religious freedom more than their Jewish counterparts do.

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, in partnership with PSB Research, conducted a national online survey of 1,000 total respondents, 500 self-identified American Jews and 500 self-identified American Muslims, between January 9-24. The study was sponsored by Ory Capital Partners and the margin of error is +/- 3%.

The poll, released Wednesday, asked respondents about the issues that concern them the most. While healthcare was the top concern for both Muslims (31%) and Jews (44%), safety and security of family (27%) and religious freedom (24%) were the next most pressing issues for Muslims. Conversely, 18% of Jews said safety and security of family was a top concern and 8% cited religious freedom as a concern. Terrorism was the second-highest concern for Jews (28%) followed by economy/jobs (25%).

Both Muslims and Jews acknowledged that there is anti-Muslim sentiment in the Jewish community, with 55% of Jewish respondents saying there is “some” and 9% saying there is “a lot” of anti-Muslim sentiment among Jews, while 44% of Muslims said there is some and 17% said there is “a lot.”
Trump sparks uproar with retweet of anti-Muslim videos, November 29, 2017. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, a quarter of Jews thought there is “a lot” of antisemitism in the US Muslim community and 56% thought there is some. These numbers were significantly lower among Muslims, with 9% answering “a lot” and 37% “some.”

One issue where there was dramatic disagreement was over naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Nearly half, 48%, of the Jewish respondents supported the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move the embassy there, while only 14% of Muslims backed the move. Moreover, 49% of Muslims saw US foreign policy as too supportive of the state of Israel, while 45% of Jews thought it to be the right level of support.

Despite these differences, the foundation, which facilitates direct dialogue between ethnic communities with a specific focus on Muslim-Jewish relations and African American-Jewish relations, asserts that the gaps between the two groups are smaller than is generally perceived. It also noted that the more devout the person was, the closer they aligned with the other religion.
The study found that American Jews and Muslims who interacted often with the other faith were more likely to see the similarities between the religions and communities.

More than half of the Jewish respondents, 54%, as well as 65% of the Muslim respondents saw the two faiths as being more similar than different. This number jumped to 69% among Jews who interacted frequently with Muslims and to 72% among Muslims who interacted frequently with Jews.

Nearly two-thirds among both the Jews and Muslims (63% and 65%, respectively) said it is very important for Muslims and Jews to work together in strengthening laws to prevent discrimination. The study again noted that this number was higher among respondents who frequently interact with the other faith, 73% among such Jews and 75% among such Muslims.

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 44% of Jews and 48% of Muslims thought it was possible to reach a peaceful and mutually agreed upon solution, while 39% of Jews and 21% of Muslims said it was not possible. The remainder didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to comment. In keeping with the pattern, those engaged in interfaith activity were more optimistic: 55% of Jews who interacted with Muslims frequently thought a solution was possible as did 53% of Muslims who interacted with Jews.

“Muslim-Jewish relations are thought to be in conflict but this study shows that they are in a state of cooperation,” said Foundation for Ethnic Understanding president Rabbi Marc Schneier. “This is the first definitive study of its kind to quantify that with cooperation and dialogue between the two groups, we are stronger together. This is the mission of the FFEU and the study shows our success in this area.”

“We have long known that people of faith have more that unites us than divides us. This study underscores the power of faith in building bridges of mutual understanding and simply demonstrates the incredible headway made by the organization’s visionaries,” said Ory Capital Partners managing partner Ahmed Al-Rumaihi. “As a Muslim and longtime partner with the FFEU, I am proud to support the work of Rabbi Marc Schneier and the FFEU in pioneering Muslim-Jewish relations as we work to foster a more tolerant, inclusive society.”

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