Most U.S. Muslims Hold Moderate Political Views, Survey Finds

Washington - Muslims living in the United States tend to be happy with their lives and moderate in their political views, according to a new, independent survey.

American Muslims largely are assimilated into society, and income and education levels among Muslims mirror those of the general U.S. population, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, an independent, nonpartisan opinion research group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. About half the Muslims in the United States have attended college or university, the poll showed, which is comparable to the figure for all Americans.

“What emerges [from the survey] is the great success of the Muslim American population in its socioeconomic assimilation,” said Amaney Jamal, assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, in published reports. Jamal was a senior adviser on the Pew survey.

The survey, released May 22, found that Muslims living in the United States make up a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants from Arab and South Asian countries, yet “decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes.”  However, 35 percent of Muslims in the United States today are native-born Americans, and Muslims have lived in North America since the 17th century.

Interviews for the survey were conducted in English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

Most Muslims living in the United States said they do not perceive a conflict between practicing their religion and living in a modern society, and they believe hard work is rewarded in America, the survey reported.  Financial institutions serving the Muslim market in the United States often consult with Islamic scholars in designing such financial products as home mortgages that are acceptable under Islamic law, or Shariah, which forbids the paying or charging of interest, for example. (See related article.)

The poll shows that Muslims in the United States reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in West European countries, as shown in results from a 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey. American Muslims feel they are subject to more security surveillance than other Americans since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, yet say they have a largely positive view of U.S. society and the communities in which they live. More than three-quarters of foreign-born Muslims rate their U.S. communities as excellent or good places to live.

According to the survey, a majority of U.S. Muslims, including both males and females, said they believe life is better for women in the United States than in many Muslim countries. No laws in the United States prohibit the wearing of religious garb, and Muslim women in the United States are free to choose to wear the hijab (traditional headscarf). (See related article.)

The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide data on groups defined by religion because U.S. law prohibits the government agency from asking a mandatory question on religious affiliation, a restriction that reflects constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion. However, random telephone polls conducted by the bureau’s American Religious Identification Survey, in which adults were invited but not required to state their religious identification, found that the number of Muslims in the United States more than doubled between 1990 and 2001. Estimates on the number of Muslims in the United States vary from 2.35 million, according to the Pew Research Center, to 8.6 million, according to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Experts agree that Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States today. (See related article.)

The full text of the report is available on the Web site of the Pew Research Center.

For more stories on U.S. society, see Population and Diversity.