A new survey on American Muslims helps show why radicalization in the United States is less of a problem than in other regions such as Europe and provides a complex picture of just who American Muslims are and an insight into whether they are achieving their American Dream.
Conducted by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, "Muslim Americans: A National Protrait" (large pdf) is the first nationally representative survey of randomly selected Muslim Americans. The data was collected from interviews with more than 300,000 households of varying faiths and ethnicities.
Of those interviewed, 946 people self-identified as Muslim. The survey compared Muslim American perspectives with those of other Americans: Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and the U.S. general population.
"This study," says the report, "allows the reader to better understand the perspectives of Muslim Americans on 'kitchen table' issues, from the economy to emotional well-being, while comparing them with other religious and racial groups in American society."
The survey found that American Muslims are the most racially diverse religious group, with the majority being African Americans, at 35 percent.
Shattering perceptions that Muslim women are under the heels of their men, Muslim American women are the second most highly educated female group behind American Jewish women. Muslim American women also are the most economically equal to their men at both the high ($5,000 and more) and low ($1,999 and less) ends of reported monthly income. Other indicators of American Muslim women's equality with their men is mosque attendence. In majority Muslim countries, men report going to mosque once a week more frequently than women. In the United States, it's about equal.
Muslim Americans are also the second most religious group in the United States, behind Mormon Americans. While 85 percent of Mormans say their faith is very important, 80 percent of Muslims say the same, followed by Protestants, Catholics, the general U.S. population, and Jews, respectively.
There are, however, two areas that could be a cause of concern if they continue to erode over time.
Muslim American young adults are the least civicly enaged religious population in the United States, while expressing slightly center-left political opinions. Only 51 percent of Muslim Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 are registered to vote in their precinct or district. The next closest religious groups are Catholics, and they aren't far off from Muslim American young adults, with 56 percent registered to vote in their precinct or district. Nevertheless, continued integration into American culture is important, say analysts.
In a report issued last week, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recommended that the United States government reach out its social services to Muslim and Arab communities to demonstrate that Muslim Americans are part of the community and not just under the watchful eye of law enforcement.
U.S. officials and counterterrorism experts have been alarmed at reports that young men from the Somali-American community have traveled back to their homeland to fight for an Islamist insurgency set on retaking the capital of Mogadishu. One of the men who left became the first known American suicide bomber, killing himself and 29 others in October.
Another matter of concern could be the percentage of Muslim Americans who say they are "thriving." Muslim Americans are on the lowest rung of that ladder, with 41 percent who say they are thriving. The next closest group is the U.S. general population, coming in at 46 percent.
The report, however, is clear to note that the percentage of Muslim Americans who said they were thriving ranked much higher than in most European countries where radicalization has been a consistent worry among law enforcement and the general population.
While 41 percent of Muslim Americans say they thrive within American society only 23 percent of French Muslims and 8 percent of British Muslims say they are thriving. Both societies have tense relations with their Muslim communities.
"When compared with Muslims in other Western societies and those in a host of predominantly Muslim countries around
the world, Muslim Americans ... are among the highest in their life evaluation reporting 'thriving.'”
The only majority Muslim country that has a higher percentage of Muslims saying they are thriving is Saudi Arabia.
(For a more digestible overview of the study, click here.)