Survey: U.S. Muslims Assimilated, Opposed to Extremism

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Unlike Muslim minorities in many European countries, U.S. Muslims are highly assimilated, close to parity with other Americans in income and overwhelmingly opposed to Islamic extremism, according to the first major, nationwide random survey of Muslims.

The survey by the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of U.S. Muslims said the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets to defend Islam is never justified. But 5 percent said it is justified "rarely," 7 percent said "sometimes," and 1 percent said "often"; the remaining 9 percent said they did not know or declined to answer.

By comparison, Muslims in France, Spain and Britain were almost twice as likely to say suicide bombing is sometimes or often justified, and public acceptance of the tactic is even higher in some countries with large Muslim populations, such as Nigeria, Jordan and Egypt.

Titled "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream," the Pew report draws a picture of a diverse population of about 2.35 million U.S. Muslims, of which two-thirds of the adults were born abroad, and which has a generally positive view of the larger society.

Most call their communities good or excellent places to live, and most report that a large portion of their closest friends are non-Muslims. They are slightly more satisfied than the general public is with the state of the nation.

On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the United States should adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct. And they are even more inclined than other Americans to say that people who want to get ahead can make it if they work hard; 71 percent of U.S. Muslims agreed with that statement, compared with 64 percent of the general public.

"What emerges is the great success of the Muslim American population in its socioeconomic assimilation," said Amaney Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University who was a senior adviser on the poll. "Given that for the past few years they've been dealing with the backlash from 9/11, these numbers are extremely impressive."

A majority say their lives have become more difficult since Sept. 11, 2001, and most think the government has singled out Muslims for monitoring. About one in four said they do not think that "groups of Arabs" were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Though socially conservative, Muslims lean toward the Democratic Party, six to one.

Farid Senzai, another Muslim adviser on the poll, said the findings are in sharp contrast to the "ghettoization" of Muslim minorities in parts of Western Europe, where Muslim immigrants are markedly less well off than the general population, frustrated with economic opportunities and socially isolated.

Just less than half of Muslim Americans have attended or graduated from college, close to the national figure of 54 percent, and the income distribution among Muslim families closely matches the national norm.

Still, the poll found "pockets of sympathy for extremism" particularly among African Americans and young Muslims, said Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew Research Center.

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