US Muslims: young, diverse, striving
A new portrait of Muslim Americans depicts a group that has achieved a great deal, yet struggles for a sense of belonging.
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For the most part, however, Muslim Americans "believe direct engagement is absolutely vital for their own standing in this society," Dr. Jamal says in an interview. "They also care about issues in the Muslim world and want to have some say in how those develop over time."Skip to next paragraph
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In the political realm, US Muslims are spread more evenly across the spectrum than are other religious groups. Thirty-eight percent describe themselves as moderate, with 29 percent saying they are liberal and 25 percent conservative.
In fact, although Muslims have a socially conservative image, they are the most likely group after Jewish-Americans to call themselves liberal. Seventy-nine percent voted for Barack Obama, the highest percentage of any religious group.
Mr. Obama not only spoke in terms of equality and embracing all religions, Jamal explains, but he also symbolizes for many immigrants "what they hope for themselves – a man who worked hard and climbed the mobility ladder and succeeded, despite discrimination.
"He is also seen as being able to influence Muslim politics in a more positive way while simultaneously being serious on the war on terror," she adds.
Voices of Muslim Americans from various walks of life appear in the report, and a predominant theme is civic involvement. One individual emphasizes "stepping out of our community into participatory America;" another calls on Muslim youths to enter public service.
Altaf Husain, a former national president of the Muslim Student Association now at Howard University in Washington, urges "an unrelenting focus on civic engagement ... to contribute to the betterment of American society."
At the same time, Muslims are struggling for a greater sense of unity within their own community. Gallup finds they are by far the most racially diverse religious group in the US: thirty-five percent identify as African-American, 28 percent as white, 18 percent as Asian, and 1 percent as Hispanic. Other religious groups surveyed are from 76 percent to 93 percent "white."
Cultural and other differences between African-American and some immigrant Muslim groups have not been easy to bridge.
"The Muslim community is a cross section of America's racial mosaic and holds within it the same struggles America as a whole has to deal with," says Ms. Mogahed of Gallup. "They are actively working for unity, and this may help America heal."
"Muslim Americans: A National Portrait" includes findings from the first-ever nationwide representative random sample of Muslim Americans (in the Gallup Daily Poll), as well as from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and Gallup World Poll.