US Muslims are far more satisfied with the direction of their country than most Americans even though nearly half of them have faced discrimination and prejudice in the past year, a poll found Tuesday.
The survey was conducted ahead of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and aimed to provide a portrait of the 2.75 million Muslims living in the United States.
“Despite headlines and discussions about the possibility of Islamic radicalism and extremism, what our data shows today is that the Muslim American community is quite mainstream and moderate,” said Pew Research Center analyst Greg Smith.
“The vast majority of (US) Muslims continue to oppose extremism, telling us things like suicide bombing in defense of Islam can never be justified.”
While 55% of respondents said being a Muslim in the United States has become more difficult since the 9/11 attacks, 48% said they think ordinary Americans are generally “friendly” towards Muslims.
Strikingly, some 56% of US Muslims said they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country compared with just 23% of the general public.
One reason could be because Muslims — who overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party — are more satisfied with the current political climate.
Just 38% of Muslims surveyed by Pew in 2007 said they were satisfied with the direction of the country.
The survey found a similar increase in the number of Muslims who view US efforts to combat terrorism as “sincere.” Opinion is currently evenly divided (43% to 41%) whereas more than twice as many US Muslims (55% to 26%) viewed US anti-terrorism efforts as insincere during George W. Bush’s presidency.
American Muslims are also much more integrated than the general public tends to believe, the survey found.
Some 56% of Muslim Americans said that most Muslims who come to the United States want to adopt US customs while just a third of the general public believes Muslim immigrants want to assimilate.
And while about a quarter of the general public thinks that Muslim support for extremism is increasing, just 4% of Muslims agree.
Meanwhile, 90% of American Muslims believe women should be able to work outside of the home and 68% also think that there is no difference between male and female political leaders.
The survey also found that while Muslim Americans are highly religious — half report at least weekly mosque attendance — they are not dogmatic. Just 37% of US Muslims say there is only one true way to interpret their religion, a view held by 28% of US Christians.
The survey also provided a demographic description of the US Muslim population which is generally hard to ascertain because the US census does not question respondents about religion.
It found that 63% of Muslim Americans were born abroad, of whom one in four arrived after 2000.
Foreign-born Muslims are a very diverse group, with no single country accounting for more than one in six immigrants. Four in ten immigrated from the Middle East or North Africa while about a quarter came from South Asia, 11% came from Sub-Sahara Africa and 7% came from Europe.
Among the roughly one in five Muslims whose parents were also born in the United States, 59% are African American, including a sizable majority who have converted to Islam.
It also found that the US Muslim population has grown by about 400,000 since 2007 to 2.75 million people, of whom 1.8 million are 18 or older.