News flash: Muslims are the most optimistic religious group in America right now. They are more likely than other religious groups to be satisfied with their lives and to see their standard of living improving. In terms of attitudes toward violent extremism, Muslim Americans are the least likely of all major religious groups to say that attacks on civilians are justifiable. And more than 9 out of 10 Muslim Americans say they are loyal to this country.
If you have colleagues and friends who are Muslim American, these findings from a newGallup poll are probably not surprising. But if you know Muslim Americans only through the skewed lens of the media, you might be shocked. That’s because there is a huge gap between the way Muslim Americans—and their religion, Islam—are seen in the media and who they really are.
In the media—and in resulting public perceptions—Muslims tend to be default, all-purpose villains. They are innately suspect, hostile to democracy, and the likely perpetrators of terrorist attacks anywhere in the world. From the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to the Norway bombing this July, many pundits and reporters were quick to say that Muslims did it, even before the facts were in.