Little Support for Terrorism Among Muslim Americans: Pew Global
by Richard Wike, Pew Global Attitudes Project, Greg Smith, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life; December 17, 2009
Recent events such as the Fort Hood shootings and the arrest of five Muslim American students in Pakistan have raised questions about the threat of homegrown terrorism in the United States. However, the Pew Research Center's comprehensive portrait of the Muslim American population suggests it is less likely to be a fertile breeding ground for terrorism than Muslim minority communities in other countries. Violent jihad is discordant with the values, outlook and attitudes of the vast majority of Muslim Americans, most of whom reject extremism.
A Middle Class, Mainstream Minority Group
As the title of Pew Research's 2007 study suggests, Muslim Americans are "middle class and mostly mainstream." Compared with their co-religionists in other Western societies, they are relatively well integrated into mainstream society. Unlike Western Europe's Muslim populations, Muslims in the U.S. are generally as well-educated and financially well-off as the general population. Most (72%) say their communities are good or excellent places to live, and most believe in the American dream -- 71% say that in the U.S., most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard.
When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or as a Muslim, 47% of Muslims in the U.S. think of themselves first in terms of their religion, while 28% identify themselves first as Americans and 18% volunteer that they identify as both. At 46%, French Muslims are about equally as likely as those in the U.S. to think of themselves first as Muslim. However, Muslim Americans are less likely to identify primarily with their religion than are Muslims living in Britain, Germany, and Spain.
Primary identification with religious affiliation is not unique to Muslims. Religious identity is almost equally as high among American Christians, 42% of whom say they think of themselves first as Christian. About half (48%) of Christians in the U.S. identify first as Americans, while 7% volunteer that they identify both with their nationality and their religion.1
Roughly six-in-ten Muslim Americans (62%) say that the quality of life for Muslim women in the U.S. is better than the quality of life for women in most Muslim countries, while 7% say it is worse, and 23% believe it is about the same. French Muslims are equally likely to think that life is better for Muslim women in their country, while in Britain, Germany and Spain, Muslims are somewhat less likely to hold this view.
Many Muslim Americans share the concerns of the broader population about Islamic extremism. Roughly three-quarters (76%) are very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, compared with 81% of the U.S. general population.2 About six-in-ten Muslim Americans (61%) are also worried about the potential rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S., although this is lower than the level of concern among the general public (78%).
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