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Washington — Muslims in America attend worship services weekly just as much as Protestant Americans.
Among the nation’s faith groups, they are the most racially diverse.
And they’re younger: more than a third of Muslim adults — 36 percent — are between the ages 18 and 29, double the percentage of young U.S. adults overall.
So says a sweeping new study by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which indicates that U.S. Muslims reflect both the successes and challenges of American life: While 30 percent of Muslim Americans work in professional occupations, another 27 percent said there were times in the previous year when they lacked enough money to buy the food they needed.
“I think one of the biggest myths that was shattered is that Muslim Americans are incredibly different from the rest of America, whereas we find that the community really reflects the rich … American mosaic,” said Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the center, who discussed the new findings at a presentation at the Newseum on Monday (March 2).
The 137-page report, “Muslim Americans: A National Portrait,”
reveals similarities and differences between Muslims and other Americans from the perspectives of race, age, gender, political viewpoints and economic standing.
Among U.S. Muslims, no racial/ethnic group makes up a majority: 35 percent describe themselves as African-American; 28 percent as white; 18 percent as Asian; 18 percent as “other”; and 1 percent as Hispanic.
They are also diverse politically, with 38 percent saying they are moderate, 23 percent liberal, 21 percent conservative. Another 6 percent said they were “very liberal” and 4 percent called themselves “very conservative.”
Asked about party affiliation, 49 percent of Muslim respondents said they were Democrats, 37 percent independents and 8 percent Republicans.
While Muslims put themselves in different political categories, they are less likely than other Americans to register to vote. With 64 percent registered, Muslims rank as the lowest percentage among religious groups studied by Gallup.
Ahmed Younis, senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, said lower levels of political involvement are a familiar pattern for immigrant groups.
“There is no group of Americans that has ever politically integrated before they become of substance financially, economically,” said Younis, former national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Political integration is what comes last. It has always been what comes last in the integration experience of any new American community. That includes Catholic Americans. That includes Italian Americans.”
Researchers found that economic disparities among Muslims reflect racial income differences in the country. For example, while 44 percent of Muslim Asian-Americans have a monthly household income of $5,000 or more, just 17 percent of Muslim African-Americans report such a high income.
Eight in 10 Muslims said religion is an important part of their daily lives, an emphasis surpassed only by Mormons (85 percent).
The research showed that the same percentage of Muslims as Protestants — 41 percent — report attending worship services each week. And those services are attended equally by men and women, which contrasts sharply with many countries with Muslim majorities, where men attend more often than women.
“Despite their differences across race and class,” Mogahed said, “Muslim Americans, regardless of their race, say religion is an important part of their daily lives, sometimes differing from their racial peers in the general public.”
Researchers paid particular attention to young Muslims since they comprise a far larger percentage of Muslims than their counterparts in the general population. More than a third (36 percent) of Muslims are ages 18 to 29, compared to just 18 percent of the general population.
Despite high levels of education and employment, researchers found that Muslims — including young Muslims — were less likely to be classified as “thriving,” a Gallup measure of how they felt about their current and future circumstances. With 41 percent considered thriving, Muslims ranked as the lowest percentage among religious groups studied by Gallup.
The findings on U.S. Muslims were drawn from a total sample of
319,751 respondents who were contacted by cell and landline phones between January and November 2008. A total of 946 respondents described themselves as Muslims, creating a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the study of the American Muslim community.
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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