Background Research


Background Research

Christian American stereotypes concerning Islamic Americans and Muslims in general have been on the rise since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Hate crimes against Islamic Americans increased from 28 reported hate crimes in 2000 to 481 incidents in 2001 (Human Rights Watch, 2002). Research also shows that there was both an increase in National Identification and a sense of threat in the United States (Huddy, Khatib, & Capelos, 2002; Li & Brewer, 2004; Moskalenko, McCauley, & Rozin, 2006). This dramatic increase is correlated with the attacks carried out by the radical Islamic terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, against the World Trade Center. We can relate this attack on the Islamic faith to intergroup threat and perceived threat of the outgroup. Four days following the attacks, U.S. college students reported a higher sense of importance for both their country and their university than they had six months before the attacks (Moskalenko, McCauley, & Rozin 2006). Perceived threat is also seen as more positive towards Christians than Muslims in the United States (Henderson-King, Eaaron, Henderson-King, Donna, Hathaway, Lisa, 2009). Research has also shown that people scoring high on the Right Wing Authoritarian scale are more likely to be motivated to display more negative-attitudes towards out-groups based on threat-related reasoning.

Although many Americans see Islam and Christianity as very different in terms of both beliefs and behavior, statistics gathered by the Pew Research Center show striking similarities between members of these two religious groups in beliefs about right and wrong, importance of religion in everyday life, literal translation of literature, religious activity, and religious service attendance (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2007).


Henderson-King, D., Henderson-King, E., Bolea, B., Koches, K., & Kauffman, A. (2004). Seeking understanding or sending bombs: Beliefs as predictors of responses to terrorism. Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 10, 67-84.

Huddy, L. Khatib, N., & Capelos, T. (2002). The POLLS-TRENDS. Public Opinion Quarterly, 66, 418-450.

Human Rights Watch (2002). “We are not the enemy”: Hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim after September 11. Retrieved from

Moskalenko, S., McCauley, C., & Rozin, P. (2006). Group identification under conditions of   threat: U.S. students' attachment to country, family, ethnicity, religion, and university before and after September 11th, 2001. Political Psychology, 27, 77-97.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2007). How the public perceives Romney, Mormons. Retrieved from