June 14, 2007
Written by C.N.
One cultural group in the U.S. that has been under increased scrutiny in the past several years has been Muslim Americans. For better and for worse, many segments of American society are paying much closer attention to their social, economic, and political characteristics these days. In this context, as described by the Christian Science Monitor, the well-respected Pew Research Center has just released a comprehensive report about the Muslim American population:
While the great majority of Muslims are foreign-born and have come to the United States fairly recently, they are happy with their lives, largely assimilated, and remarkably American in outlook. As a whole, they mirror the general population in education and income, and in the role religion plays in their lives. . . .
Almost two-thirds of Muslim-Americans see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society. When asked if they see themselves as a Muslim or American first, 47 percent said Muslim. That compares with 42 percent of American Christians (and 62 percent of evangelicals) who say they are Christians first. . . . One unusual development is that Muslims under 30 attend mosque more regularly than older generations, exactly the opposite of Christian youths. . . .
More than 75 percent of Muslim-Americans express concern about Islamic extremism around the world, and only 8 percent say that suicide bombing can ever be justified. Yet 15 percent of Muslim youths say it can sometimes be justified. . . . The survey reveals that native-born African-Americans are the most alienated portion of the Muslim population. Dealing with racial and religious intolerance, they are less satisfied with American life and believe more than others that Muslims should remain distinct from society.
Despite positive views of their communities, most Muslims feel their lives have become more difficult since 9/11. Some 54 percent say the war on terror singles out Muslims. Prejudice, being viewed as terrorists, and ignorance about Islam top their list of problems.
To summarize, the report findings describe Muslim Americans as largely assimilated into the American mainstream and generally satisfied with their lives as Americans. However, because of international events and the war on terrorism, they have some apprehensions about their position in the context of these volatile times. In terms of their cultural identity, they are more likely to assert an American identify first and a religious identity second than are evangelical Christians.
But something tells me that the piece that anti-Muslim critics will pick up on is that 15% of Muslim American youths say that suicide bombings can sometimes be justified, or that only 40% accept that a group of Muslims committed the 9/11 attacks. In other words, like any piece of data or research, this report is likely to be used to both welcome and ostracize Muslims Americans, depending on which piece of data one chooses to focus on.
Personally, I believe Muslims Americans are just like any other Americans and should be treated just like any other American. They are largely integrated into the mainstream of American society, they contribute to its economic and cultural strength, and like the rest of us, they have a range of opinions on different issues. This country is supposedly founded on principles of freedom of speech and religion, so in that sense, Muslim Americans fit in perfectly.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Muslim Americans Today" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/06/muslim-americans-today/> ().
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