Muslims in U.S. optimistic about future, poll finds

Ten years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslim Americans are more optimistic than other major faith groups about their future, even as they report greater discrimination and less confidence in the FBI and the U.S. military, a new poll has found.

In the report by Gallup, which measures American Muslims’ political, social and spiritual engagement, almost two in three Muslims said their standard of living is improving, up 18 percentage points from 2008 and higher than any other faith group surveyed. This is the same period that Muslim leaders say has been the most oppressive for Muslims in this country, with rhetoric against their faith group appearing to rise.

Gallup analysts credited Muslims’ optimism in part to the election of President Obama, who has not appeared at an American mosque since taking office but has often spoken out about the need for Muslim equality and civil rights. Only 9 percent of American Muslims identify as Republicans, Gallup said. Eighty percent of Muslims in America said in 2011 that they approve of Obama, vs. 7 percent who expressed support for President George W. Bush in 2008.

At the same time, Muslim Americans are the religious group least likely to be registered to vote: 65 percent compared with 91 percent of Protestant Americans and Jewish Americans. The report’s authors speculated that this may be because many Muslim Americans are immigrants who have not yet become citizens (the poll did not ask respondents about citizenship) and because Muslim Americans tend to be younger than people of other religions, a trait associated with low voter registration levels.

American Muslims were more likely than people of other religions to see the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a mistake, and they are significantly more likely to blame anti-Americanism in Muslim countries on U.S. policy, rather than on misinformation spread by those countries’ leaders and media.

The report was done by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a Dubai-based partnership between Gallup and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi that is meant to expand polling across the Muslim world. The study was based on several polls conducted from 2008 to 2011, including follow-up interviews with 2,482 adults, including 475 Muslims.

The poll is one of the largest and most recent surveys done of Muslim Americans, who are difficult and expensive to accurately poll because they are a relatively small group, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center.

On Tuesday, the day the poll was released, a panel at the National Press Club discussed the study, including the finding that Jewish Americans hold similar views to Muslim Americans and the perception of whether U.S. Muslims sympathize with al-Qaeda. Ninety-two percent of American Muslims and 70 percent of American Jews did not believe that U.S. Muslims sympathize with the organization — higher percentages than people of other religions.

Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society called for greater efforts to educate Americans about Muslims. Unlike some European nations where Muslims live in enclaves and are more socially isolated, he said, American Muslims are “more integrated” into U.S. society.

The coming decade will be key to deepening that integration, said Mohamed Younis, a senior analyst at the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center and one of the authors of the report.

“The first 10 years after 9/11 were about reacting to what happened,” he said. “We have to make sure the next 10 years are about strategically having a plan to get communities involved and to strengthen communities. . . . The next 10 years are going to be crucial for the future of Muslim Americans in the next 50 years.”

Polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.

Tara Bahrampour, a staff writer based in Washington, D.C., writes about aging and mental health.
Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.
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