Young US Muslims: A Threat?

The Christian Science Monitor, May 31, 2007 | Go to article overview

Young US Muslims: A Threat?


Last week, the first major survey of US Muslims revealed a surprisingly assimilated group. It's not easy researching this thin population slice (estimated at .8 percent), because the US Census doesn't track religion. Yet just as important as the survey results is the reaction from non-Muslims.

Some media commentary has accused the Pew Research Center, which conducted the study in four languages, of burying a troubling headline: 1 in 4 Muslims ages 18-29 lend some degree of support to suicide bombings to defend Islam.

The commentators blame political correctness for downplaying this finding while highlighting results that show most US Muslims are much like the middle-class mainstream.

But let's follow this criticism to its end. What if Americans were to concentrate on this youthful empathy for suicide bombing - which is a measure of attitude and not behavior - and repeat it as if it was the most important thing to know about the 2.4 million Muslims that Pew estimates live in the US?

First, it would make for a very lopsided picture. Most Muslims, it turns out, are "highly assimilated" with American society - this despite the fact that they're fairly recent arrivals, with 65 percent being foreign born. They're keen to fit in. Almost 80 percent of Muslims are US citizens, most say their largest proportion of friends is non-Muslim, and Muslims mirror the US population in both education and income.

Meanwhile, Muslims identify with their religion about the same as American Christians do theirs. Forty-seven percent of Muslims identify themselves as "Muslim first" (28 percent as "American first"); 42 percent of American Christians also state their faith first. …

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