Pew Research on Muslim-Americans

The conventional pattern for immigrant groups in the United States is assimilation within a generation or so. More than other societies, the American culture is commercial one which tends to wash over religious and ethnic differences. In a commercial society, it makes little difference where a neighbor worships, what type of clothing he wears, or what unique food he eats at home as long as his commercial transactions are acceptable. Moreover, religious tolerance has been institutionalized since the nation’s founding. In addition, the children of immigrants are often rapidly assimilated in schools where they quickly acquire and influence the popular culture.

It was, therefore, heartening that a recent nation-wide Pew Research poll, that interviewed over 1,000 Muslims, found that middle-class Muslims were following the traditional assimilation pattern. The title of the report even suggests a certain optimism: Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream. The report finds Muslim Americans “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.”

From a Conservative perspective, there are some worrisome results from the poll. For example, most Muslims support a larger government that provides more services and as a consequence voted overwhelming for John Kerry in the last election. Although foreign-born Muslims were more likely to have voted for Kerry, interestingly they were less likely to do so than American-born Muslims.

Social Liberals might be concerned by the fact that Muslim-Americans believe that homosexuality should be discouraged by more than a two-to-one margin. Muslims are more socially conservative than Americans as a whole.

However, these issues are small compared to some very disturbing ideas held by a minority of young American Muslims. While an overwhelming majority of all Muslim-Americans do not believe that the suicide bombing of civilians are ever justified, fully 15% of Muslim-Americans between 18-29 believe that such bombings are “often or sometimes justified.” The press has reported that number as high as 26%, but it only grew that large when you include the 11% of who believe that bombings are “rarely” as opposed to “never” justified.

It is also unfortunate, that a significant fraction of Muslim-Americans are in denial with regard to the 9/11 attacks. Half of Muslim-Americans over 55 believe that that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by “groups of Arabs.” By contrast, 40% of Muslim-Americans between the ages of 18-29 believe that Arabs were not involved.

Perhaps the views of young, radical Muslim-Americans will be become more mainstream as these people age and grow to be more personally invested in American society. Nonetheless, the extremism of a small but significant minority of Muslim-Americans is a cause for long-term concern.

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