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City of Brass

There’s a fascinating survey of American muslims by Gallup that all sorts of interesting results (direct PDF link). One of the key findings is that American muslims consider themselves to be “thriving”, even more so than muslims in the Islamic world or Europe. However, somewhat counterintuitively, muslim Americans are the least content of all religious groups. As the New York Times article summarizes,

…the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see
themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany, according to the
poll.

And yet, within the United States, Muslims are the least
content religious group, when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants
and Roman Catholics.

Gallup researchers say that is because the
largest segment of American Muslims are African-Americans (35 percent,
including first-generation immigrants), and they generally report lower
levels of income, education, employment and well-being than other
Americans.

But American Muslims are not one homogeneous group,
the study makes clear. Asian-American Muslims (from countries like
India and Pakistan) have more income and education and are more likely
to be thriving than other American Muslims. In fact, their quality of
life indicators are higher than for most other Americans, except for
American Jews.

“We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Dalia Mogahed,
executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim
Studies, which financed the poll. “Ethnically, politically and
economically, they are in every way a cross-section of the nation. They
are the only religious community without a majority race.”

This is perhaps the starkest evidence yet of the gulf between the African-American muslim community and the rest of American muslims, who unlike in European countries are not from one predominant ethnic group but are rather a truly cosmopolitan mix. This graphic from the poll makes this inherent diversity clear (click to enlarge):

american-muslims.gifObviously, the very term “American muslim community” has limited value. This diversity implies that muslim Americans may find it nearly impossible to achieve any kind of political unity, but that is arguably a good thing in some respects, particularly with respect to immunizing resistance to violent extremism, which has not found as receptive an audience in American mosques as it has in Europe and the UK.

Despite this diversity, the poll still makes a number of broad assessments about the muslim American community as a whole, which I think still have value. For example, muslim Americans are generally more educated than any other group (except Jews), engage in less binge drinking (except Mormons),  and are more well-integrated to the mainstream than their European counterparts. Razib of Gene Expression blog has been really delving into the data and makes two broad conclusions over at Talk Islam:

1) some of the stress felt by muslims seems pretty clearly due to
anti-muslim sentiment which is particular & distinctive to muslims.
i.e., it can’t just be attributed to the fact that a large % of muslims
are racial minorities (some of the questions seem pretty keyed in to
this reality).

2) some of stress and anomie seems to be a byproduct of the
demographics of muslims. i.e., in many social & demographic ways
african american muslims are far more like african american christians
than asian muslims (who are mostly south asian i’m sure). some of the
questions also suggest to me that there is something more than the
conventional level of anomie in the african american community at work,
but rather a trend which emerges from the fact that large numbers of
muslims who

a) convert to islam and so move themselves out of prior social networks

b) but are not fully integrated into a muslim social network

i think this is most well illustrated by the demo of “asian
muslims,” who are probably the least likely to be converts, and so have
a natural communal framework which is historically robust. in contrast,
many of the black and white muslims are converts with weaker historical
ties, and don’t have as many people to rely on.

Clearly, depsite the diversity of the community there are some universal issues, of which Islamophobia and foreign policy rank highly (though with the latter, the muslim American community seems to have inherited some of the biases of the external Ummah).

Related: The New York Times goes into further detail on some of the other findings of the poll, as does the main website for the poll itself (Muslim West Facts). Also, there’s a healthy debate at Talk Islam about what the term “muslim American” even means. 

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