U.S. Muslims well assimilated, content with life, poll finds

May 23, 2007|By Karoun Demirjian | Karoun Demirjian,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- Muslims in the United States are better assimilated and more concerned about religious extremism than their counterparts in Western Europe and elsewhere in the world, according to a poll released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, covering the views of 1,050 Muslims out of an initial sample of more than 55,000 people interviewed in English, Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi, is the most comprehensive of its kind.

It indicates a mostly immigrant adult Muslim population that is hardworking, educated, relatively affluent and, despite shared concerns about post-9/11 discrimination, generally content with life in the United States.

That contentment is not as evident among American Muslim youths.

The poll found that those younger than 30, despite having deeper American roots, are comparatively accepting of religious fundamentalism and far more likely to think of themselves as "Muslims" before "Americans."

Muslims in their 20s were also found to attend mosque more than older adults and to be more sympathetic to extremists.

About a fourth of young Muslims think suicide bombing in the name of Islam can be justified, at least in rare circumstances, compared with 9 percent of Muslim adults older than 30, the poll found.

The pollsters said such trends are troubling but not cause for alarm.

"In general, the youth are the ones who, regardless of what their religion is, regardless of what race they are, tend to support more violence," said Amaney Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University and an adviser to the poll.

The issue of religiosity is not as clear-cut, Jamal said.

"The youth population is more likely to attend mosque, but they pray less, they read the Quran less," she said. "Mosque serves other purposes. In many ways the mosque is a safe haven for people to feel comfortable with their Muslim identity."

A majority of Muslims feel that their identity is under siege to some degree, the survey found. Fifty-three percent of those polled said it has been more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since 9/11 because of discrimination, but 73 percent said they had never experienced such discrimination.

Muslim groups have welcomed the survey results.

"I think the survey results show that the American Muslim community is very well assimilated in our society and that the vast majority of American Muslims reject terrorism and religious extremism," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Karoun Demirjian writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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