The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans finds them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.
The study by the Pew Research Center says US Muslims–most of whom are immigrants–believe in the American work ethic and reject extremism.
Their income and education levels mirror those of the general US public, according to the survey.
However, most respondents say life has become more difficult for US Muslims since the 11 September attacks.
The survey–entitled Muslim Americans, Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream–says 65% of American Muslims are immigrants.
Among Muslims born in the US, the study says about half are African American–many of them converts.
Overall, the study says, Muslim Americans have a positive view of US society at large. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live. As many Muslim Americans as members of the general public express satisfaction with the state of the nation, the authors say.
â€œThe life situations and attitudes of Muslim Americans stand in contrast with those of Muslim minorities of Western Europe.â€
Pew Global Attitudes surveys last year in the UK, France, Germany and Spain found that most Muslims there suffered unemployment and felt marginalized.
The latest poll suggests that US Muslims reject Islamic radicalism by larger margins than do Muslims in other parts of the world.
However, the study adds, there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the US Muslim public than others.
Fewer native-born African American Muslims than others completely condemn al-Qaeda, according to the report.
In addition, younger Muslims in the US are more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can sometimes be justified.
On foreign policy, US Muslims are more critical of the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan than the general public, the survey indicates.
Consistent with the views of Muslims in other countries, fewer that half of Muslim Americans – regardless of their age – accept the idea that Arab men carried out the 11 September attacks, the study says.
It adds that the attacks â€œcontinue to cast a long shadow over Muslim Americansâ€, with 53% saying life has become more difficult since then.
Many say they worry about government surveillance, stereotyping and harassment.
The main concerns voiced by respondents were job discrimination and prejudice.
Many say Muslims are perceived as potential terrorists.
According to the report, 54% believe the US government has singled out Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring
Overall, a third of American Muslims say someone offered to help them because of their religion.
Farid Senzai, Fellow and Director of Research at ISPU (Institute for Social Policy & Understanding), made comments today at a press conference in Washington, DC at which the Pew Research Center released the comprehensive survey of Muslim Americans, describing the attitudes, experiences and demographics of the group.
Senzai served as a member of Pewâ€™s outside advisory board on this project. In addition, ISPU organized the focus groups that informed the research.
The study is the first ever nationwide survey to attempt to measure rigorously the demographics, attitudes and experiences of Muslim Americans. The survey also contrasts the views of the Muslim population as a whole with those of the U.S. general population, and with the attitudes of Muslims all around the world, including Western Europe.
Finally, findings from the survey make important contributions to the debate over the total size of the Muslim American population.
Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream
The Pew Research Center conducted more than 55,000 interviews to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims living in the United States. Interviews were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. The resulting study, which draws on Pewâ€™s survey research among Muslims around the world, finds that Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public.
Key findings include:
a.. Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.
b.. A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the United States can make it if they are willing to work hard.
c.. The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
d.. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
a.. Based on data from this survey, along with available Census Bureau data on immigrantsâ€™ nativity and nationality, the Pew Research Center estimates the total population of Muslims in the United States at 2.35 million.
b.. Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. However, there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the U.S. Muslim public than others. Fewer native-born African American Muslims than others completely condemn al Qaeda. In addition, younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified. Nonetheless, absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world.
c.. A majority of Muslim Americans (53%) say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Most also believe that the government â€œsingles outâ€ Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring.
d.. Relatively few Muslim Americans believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to reduce terrorism, and many doubt that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Just 40% of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out those attacks.