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.”

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.

Media profiteering and the quest for TV ratings just cannot cope with the plain reality that most Muslim Americans, and Muslims worldwide, are simply moderate, peace-loving and freedom-seeking people. The poorly named Arab spring is the manifestation of the moderate and peaceful nature of the vast majority of the Muslim world.

The self-proclaimed Islamic pundits are always looking to stoke the winds of hatred. Islamophobia is here, but is always marginalized by anybody who has real knowledge of Islam or personal contact with Muslims. Unfortunately, in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections, we will see fear of Islam used as a wedge issue again. Browse over to loonwatch.com for a list of practitioners of hate toward Islam and Muslims.

For the second wow, Muslims in our local community — through the activities of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge — have received overwhelming positive reception with all our activities since December 2005. Since we were greeted with open arms by our elected officials, our interfaith community service activities have quelled the negative images created by the Islamic pundits and media sensationalism.

Our homeless feeding and partnership with Habitat for Humanity have served countless underprivileged people in the Southland. The byproduct of our social gatherings has become a rallying point to not only serve the underprivileged, but to also naturally serve the mission of the ICLCF: Muslim neighbors working together for peace and mutual understanding. There is no image problem to shake off because the force of human relations has seen through the garbage of bigotry.

By sheer coincidence, our guest speaker for our sixth annual Ramadan potluck dinner is Ahmed Younis, senior analyst at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. We invite all to attend on Friday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. If you are interested in attending, please send an email to info@iclcf.org.

Levent Akbarut

Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge

La Cañada

First of all, I am more than a little concerned that there are religious groups that condone attacks on civilians. In the name of God — however you call out to God — the Gallup Poll Center should get a resounding 100% “no” whenever it asks such a question.

For those who are unsure when asked, it is tragically easy to locate, and to hear from, civilian victims of military attacks — from the Holocaust to Zimbabwe to Burma to Syria and into places and stories unimaginable.

On the question of the image of Muslim Americans: Muslim leaders in Southern California consistently and publicly communicate the messages of moderate Islam in order to distinguish themselves from radical fundamentalist elements of Islam. They issue ongoing condemnations of terrorist attacks. They communicate their commitment to the country through participation in civic institutions and charities that serve their communities. I hear these statements all the time.

But we hear what we want to hear. It is possible to select a news source that will never report on the normal lives of moderate Muslim families, but will faithfully report and interpret the words and actions of extreme elements. This happens with Christian communities, too, of course. In the media, you are more likely to hear of scandalously lusty and greedy pastors than church members who shape their lives around Christ-centered service and love. The life-giving expressions of a moderate, faithful life are just not as newsworthy as the extreme, death-dealing expressions of broken lives.