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An Experimental Analysis of Muslim-American Attitudes toward U.S. Law Enforcement

  • Rachel Gillum ,
  • Shirin Sinnar

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Rachel Gillum is a PhD student in Political Science at Stanford University, and joined CISAC as a predoctoral fellow in September of 2013. She is also a fellow at the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS) and is affiliated with Stanford’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. Rachel’s research focuses on the Muslim-American community and examines the determinants of a variety of political beliefs and behaviors towards the American government, from full integration and identification with the United States, to support for violent extremism.

Rachel previously served as a graduate associate researcher at the RAND Corporation’s International Policy Center, where she conducted in-depth analysis on terrorist recruitment strategies and presented policy suggestions to U.S. government clients. From 2010-2012, she served as the chief editor and head research assistant under Prof. Martha Crenshaw on the Mapping Militants Project, where she oversaw and helped devise the design of an online tool for the analysis of terrorist networks. Rachel has also worked as a consultant for the Gallup Organization and a research assistant at the Department of Defense’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.

ABOUT THE TOPIC: How do Muslim-Americans form beliefs about the treatment they expect to receive from US law enforcement? The results of an original, nationally-representative survey of Muslim-Americans suggest two key findings. First, expectations of fairness on the part of Muslim immigrants are shaped, in part, by the level of institutional corruption in their country of origin. Immigrants coming from less corrupt countries hold more optimistic views about expected treatment by US law enforcement. Second, Muslim immigrants who have been naturalized are less trusting in the government than newcomers, and Muslims who were born and raised in the United States are least likely to believe that law enforcement will deal with Muslims fairly. These results are robust to the inclusion of a variety of control variables. Ethnographic evidence drawn from interviews with Muslims-Americans suggests that Muslims update their expectations through interactions and familiarity with American institutions. US-born Muslims expect violations of their rights by the government and are politically concerned about such issues. Foreign-born Muslims, while aware of the controversies regarding US government surveillance and profiling of Muslim communities, tend to be less focused on issues related to citizen rights and more focused on the day-to-day concerns common to immigrants everywhere.