Despite deep dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign
policy and President George W. Bush, U.S. Muslims tend to be better assimilated
and more content with the larger society in which they live than their European
counterparts, according to a major
new survey [.pdf] released here Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
The survey, based on interviews with nearly 60,000 people, found that younger
U.S. Muslims, aged 18-29, tended to identify more closely with their religion
as their primary identity and to justify the use of violence, including suicide
bombing, than their older co-religionists.
But those attitudes were found significantly less frequently among Muslims
here than among Muslims, both younger and older, in France, Spain, and Great
Britain, according to the survey, which compared the U.S. findings to those
found in a survey of European Muslim attitudes conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes
Project (PGAP) a year ago.
The new survey also found that a small majority of U.S. Muslims believe their
lives have become more difficult since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but that
only one in four believes they have ever been a victim of discrimination in
the U.S. due to their Muslim identity.
Nearly three quarters of respondents also said they believed that U.S. society
rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background and they
considered life in their local community to be "excellent" or "good."
And by a nearly two-to-one margin, respondents said they do not believe there
is any conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
The survey, the most comprehensive of Muslim Americans ever undertaken, according
to Pew itself, estimated the total number of U.S. Muslims at approximately 2.35
million, or slightly less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population, substantially
less than estimates of up to 6 million by some other recent surveys. Because
the U.S. Census Bureau is prohibited from asking about religious affiliations
in its national polling, the actual population of Muslim Americans has long
been a matter of speculation.
That population is highly diverse, according to the new survey. Nearly two
thirds (65 percent) of Muslims here are foreign born – about 24 percent from
the Arab world, 18 percent from South Asia, 8 percent from Iran, and the rest
from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere, according to the survey, which
was conducted in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, and English.
Of the remaining 35 percent native-born Muslims, more than half are African-American,
the survey found. Twenty-one percent of native-born Muslims are converts.
Of the various groups, native-born Muslims tend to be most alienated from
mainstream U.S. society. While 74 percent of foreign-born Muslims said they
believed that the U.S. rewarded hard work, only 64 percent of the native-born
agreed. Similarly, while 45 percent of the foreign born said they were satisfied
with the state of U.S. society, only 20 percent of the native born agreed.
Native-born Muslims also expressed less satisfaction with their personal financial
situation and more support for the idea that Muslim Americans should try to
remain distinct from mainstream society than their foreign-born counterparts.
In terms of their attitudes towards Islamic extremism, foreign-born Muslims
from the Arab world also held somewhat distinct views. Twelve percent of Arab-born
Muslims, for example, said suicide bombing could be justified often or sometimes,
compared to 8 percent for all Muslim-Americans and 6 percent for African-American
Muslims. Only 22 percent said they believed that Arabs carried out the 9/11
attacks, compared to 40 percent of all Muslim Americans.
On the U.S. war on terrorism, U.S. Muslims tended to be considerably more
opposed to its conduct than the general public, according to the report. Three-quarters
of respondents said going to war in Iraq was the "wrong decision," a position
shared by only about half of the population as a whole. Similarly, a plurality
(48 percent) of Muslim Americans also said they believed the war in Afghanistan
was a mistake, compared to less than 30 percent of the general public.
U.S. Muslims also give Bush substantially lower marks than does the general
population. Only 15 percent of respondents said they approved of his performance
as president, compared to 35 percent of the general public, according to recent
Similarly, while about one third of the public considers itself reliably Republican,
that applies to only 11 percent of U.S. Muslims, according to the survey. Conversely,
63 percent of respondents said they were Democrats or were mostly likely to
vote Democratic, compared to 51 percent of the population as a whole.
On their general political views, U.S. Muslims were found to favor an activist
government that provided more assistance to the poor than the public as a whole.
At the same time, they expressed more conservative views on social and moral
issues, such as acceptance of homosexuality.
Still, the survey found that, as a group, Muslims approached religion in ways
that were "not all that different" from U.S. Christians – both in the frequency
of church or mosque attendance and prayer. On the question of religion's role
in politics, U.S. Muslims were, if anything, somewhat more supportive of separating
church or mosque from state than their Christian counterparts, the survey found.
Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. Muslims were inclined to think of themselves
first as Muslims, rather than U.S. citizens, according to the survey which noted,
however, that that percentage was substantially less than the 81 percent of
British Muslims, 69 percent of Spanish Muslims, and 66 percent of German Muslims
who identified more with their religion than their nationality.
U.S. Muslims (eight percent) were also half as likely as their counterparts
in France, Spain, and Britain (16 percent) to believe that suicide bombing could
be justified often or sometimes in defense of Islam. Only German Muslims (7
percent) were less likely to justify suicide bombing. In Jordan and Egypt, by
contrast, nearly 30 percent of respondents told PGAP last year that the tactic
could be justified often or sometimes.
Among U.S. Muslims, Arab-born respondents tended to be more concerned about
the rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S. and also to believe that suicide bombing
could be justified. They were also the most likely to believe that Arabs to
have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. Muslims (61 percent) – like the U.S. public as a whole (67 percent) –
were also much more sanguine than their foreign counterparts about the possibility
of devising an acceptable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
according to the survey.
(Inter Press Service)