Gallup report on American Muslims Raises Important Questions

Gallup report on American Muslims Raises Important Questions

by Sheila Musaji

Yet another research report has been released that paints a different picture of the American Muslim community than the negative view spread by Islamophobes.  A 132 page survey report “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future” was just released by Gallup.

As with all surveys and polls, at least some of the findings are capable of different interpretations. 

Some key numbers from the study:
— confidence in the U.S. military - 70% of Muslims - 91% other faiths
— confidence in the FBI - 60% of Muslims - 75% other faiths
— rejection of violent military attacks on civilians - 78% of Muslims - 38% of Protestants - 39% of Catholics - 43% of Jews - 33% of Mormons
— rejection of violent individual attacks on civilians - 89% if Muslims - 71% of Protestants - 71% of Catholics - 75% of Jewish - 79% of Mormons
— do Muslims sympathize with al Qaeda - 92% of Muslims said no - 56% of Protestants - 63% of Catholics - 70% of Jewish - 57% of Mormons said no
— are Muslims loyal to the U.S.  - 93% of Muslims said yes - 56% of Protestants - 59% of Catholics - 80% of Jewish - 56% of Mormons said yes
— are American Muslims more obligated to speak out against terrorism than other groups - 49% of Muslims said yes - 52% of Protestants - 44% of Catholics - 47% of Jewish said yes
— Muslims don’t speak out enough against terrorism - 28% of Muslims agree - 62% of Protestants - 66% of Catholics - 65% of Jewish - 68% of Mormons agreed
— are you registered to vote - 65% Muslim - 91% Protestant - 78% Catholic - 91% Jewish - 84% Mormon

A few points from the executive summary of the report:

— At least 4 in 10 in every major religious group in the U.S. say Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans, with Jews (66%) saying this in slightly higher numbers than Muslims (60%).
— Despite believing that they are often the victims of intolerance, Americans who practice Islam are among the most tolerant of U.S. faith groups studied. Muslim Americans’ combined integration tolerance scores — a measure of their appreciation for religious pluralism — are higher than those of Protestant Americans, Catholic Americans, and Jewish Americans and are matched only by those of Mormon Americans.
— Muslim Americans who attend religious services at least once a week have higher levels of civic engagement and report less stress and anger than do other U.S. Muslims who attend religious services less frequently. This raises the possibility of community leaders using mosques as a mobilizing platform to push Muslim Americans toward greater civic engagement.

A few of the findings are extremely positive.  American Muslims are more positive about the future than other religious groups - and American Muslims and American Jews have a great deal in common in their attitudes.

There is a lot of data here for the American Muslim community to study and attempt to act on.  Why is it that so many of our fellow Americans don’t know that we are loyal citizens, or that we have spoken out against all forms of terrorism.  Why are Muslims least likely to be registered voters? 

One study finding should be a major concern to American Muslims and to the leadership of existing national organizations.  The interviewers asked - which American Muslim organization most represents your interests?  These were the responses.  The best approval rating any organization received was 12%.  I believe that local, regional, and national leadership of the American Muslim community need to sit down and consider the meaning of this clear vote of “no confidence”.  They need to poll the American Muslim community to find out what expectations of the community they are not meeting, and what they would need to do to fix the problem.

— CAIR - 12% males - 11% females
— ISNA -  4% males - 7% females
— MPAC -  6% males - 1% females
— MAS   -  0% males - 2% females
— Imam W.D. Muhammad group - 3% males - 1% females
— ICNA - 2% males - 0% females
— Other - 6% males - 20% females
— None - 55% males - 42% females

Jim Lobe notes his take on the findings of the study:

Muslims in the United States express greater tolerance for members of other faiths than any other major religious group, according to a major new survey and report released Thursday by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center.

They are also more likely than any other religious group to oppose violent or military attacks against civilians, according to the survey, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future.”

Nearly four out of five (78 percent) U.S. Muslims say that military attacks against civilians can never be justified. That compares with less than two of five Protestants (38 percent) and Catholics (39 percent) and just over four out of Jews (43 percent) who take that position, the poll found.

Similarly, 89 percent of Muslims said attacks by “an individual person or a small group of individuals to target and kill civilians can never be justified.” Between 71 percent and 75 percent of Christian and Jewish respondents agreed.

The survey also found that Jewish and Muslim Americans shared many views, including how best to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Eighty-one percent of Muslims and 78 percent of Jews queried by Gallup said they supported a two-state solution.

Jewish respondents were also more likely than any other group, including Muslims themselves, to believe that Muslims face prejudice in the U.S.

While 60 percent of Muslims agreed with the proposition that “most Americans are prejudiced against Muslim Americans,” that was less than the 66 percent of Jews agreed with it. Protestants and Catholics, in contrast, were roughly evenly split on the question.

Jewish respondents (80 percent) were also more likely — besides Muslims themselves (93 percent) — to see Muslim Americans as being loyal to the United States, compared to less than 60 percent of Christian respondents. Conversely, more than a third of Protestant and Catholic respondents questioned Muslims’ loyalty, as did 19 percent of Jews.

The survey, which was based on nearly 2,500 interviews with respondents, 475 of whom said they were Muslim, poses a major challenge to efforts, primarily by right-wing Christian and Jewish groups in the U.S., to depict Muslims — and Islam as a religion — as fundamentally alien, if not actively hostile, to “Judeo-Christian” or “Western” values and U.S. society.

Jim Streeter reports in the L.A. Times that

The polling also indicates significant common ground between Muslims in America and their Jewish counterparts. The two groups largely share similar views on resolving the decades-long conflict in the Middle East. Eighty-one percent of Muslim Americans and 78% of Jewish Americans support the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.  A majority of Jewish Americans, 70%, also said they didn’t believe American Muslims sympathized with Al Qaeda. The only respondents more likely to agree were Muslim Americans themselves.

The Jewish Forward published an article American Jews and Muslims share common values which noted that

The poll, released Tuesday, found that the Muslim Americans exceeded Jewish belief in religious pluralism and in the fairness of elections, and also in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—81 percent for Muslims, 78 percent for Jews.

Jews and Muslims also were the only religious groups surveyed in which a majority backed President Obama.

Jews were the least likely group, besides Muslims, to question the loyalty of Muslims, with 70 percent of Jewish Americans denying that Muslim Americans sympathize with the al-Qaeda terrorist group and 80 percent agreeing that Muslims are loyal to the United States. They disagreed, however, on whether Muslims spoke out enough against terrorism, with 28 percent of Muslims and 65 percent of Jews saying that Muslims were not vocal enough. The 65 percent put Jews in the middle of the religious groups surveyed.

Interestingly, Jewish respondents were slightly more likely than Muslims to believe that Muslims face prejudice in American society.

There have been a number of other studies and reports abut the increasing numbers, particularly among the younger generation, who are leaving organized religions.  Although these studies have been primarily concerned with Christians (both Protestant and Catholic), the phenomenon and the issues raised by those who are No longer affiliated with organized religious groups should also be studied and discussed in the American Muslim community.

I believe that this same phenomenon is also happening in our community, and probably in about the same numbers.  The American Muslim community clearly experiences the same pressures as the wider community.

A PEW First Report on the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey  documents a high level of change in religious affiliation over the lifetime of adult Americans. More than 40% of Americans have changed their religious affiliation in some respect since childhood.  More than 25% have either converted to another religion, or become unaffiliated. Those who consider themselves unaffiliated include a larger proportion of young people.

In an introduction to the survey, this comment appears:  “There is some indication in our survey, as well as in some other surveys, that the number may be somewhat larger than in past generations, and there is some suggestion this generation may not return to religious affiliation at the same rate as the baby boomers and other previous generations. -  the ranks of the unaffiliated-and this is true for those under 30-include a very significant percentage who may not be affiliated with a particular religious group, but who nevertheless tell us religion is somewhat or very important in their lives. So you see a double pattern here: both a growth in the ranks of the unaffiliated and a growth in the ranks of the religious who are not affiliated.”

The Barna Group published a study of young Christians You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church, and discovered that almost 60% of young Christians disconnect from their churches after the age of 15.  Summarizing the studies findings as to why this is the case, they raised

First, the study says, churches appear to be overprotective. Nearly one-fourth of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time. Twenty-two percent also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18 percent said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games.
Many young adults also feel that their experience of Christianity was shallow. One-third of survey participants felt that “church is boring.” Twenty percent of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church.

The study also found many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science. Over one-third of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and one-fourth of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.”

Some also feel that churches are too simple or too judgmental when it comes to issues of sexuality. Seventeen percent of young Christians say they’ve “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” Two out of five young adult Catholics said that the church’s teachings on birth control and sex are “out of date.”

The fifth reason the study gives for such an exodus from churches is many young adults struggle with the exclusivity of Christianity. Twenty-nine percent of young Christians said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and feel they have to choose between their friends and their faith.

The last reason the study gives for young people leaving the church is they feel it is “unfriendly to those who doubt.” Over one-third of young adults said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church and 23 percent said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith.

Another study Conducted William J. Byron, a professor of business at St. Joseph’s University and Charles Zech, founder of the Center for the Study of Church Management of Villanova’s School of Business, processes the opinions of 300 non-churchgoing Catholics in Trenton, New Jersey, found 7 principle reasons that Catholics leave the church:

1.  the sex abuse crisis, 2. The church’s stance on homosexuality, 3. Dissatisfaction with the priest, 4. Uninspiring homilies on Sundays, 5. Perception that church hierarchy is too closely tied to conservative politics, 6. Church’s stance toward divorced and remarried Catholics, 7. The status of women.



TAM previously published an article responding to claims that had been made about the American Muslim community during Rep. King’s hearings.  Here is the section discussing some poll results:


This is yet another instance where King only includes partial “facts”, or only those “facts” that support his biases.  If King is concerned about radicalization then he might look at a number of polls in our TAM collection Polls and Surveys relating to Islam and Muslims

The PEW poll he refers to was done in 2007, and one of the findings was that 15% of young Muslims, between the ages of 18 and 29, consider suicide bombing justified “often” (2%) or “sometimes” (13%). If you add the young Muslims who “rarely” (11%) approve (but approve nonetheless) such bombings, that would be about one-in-four Muslim youth who think that blowing oneself up to kill others can in some ways be rationalized.  While 80% of American Muslims oppose attacks on civilians according to the Pew poll, 13% said some circumstances may justify such attacks.

If the poll is accurate, that is a genuine concern, and one that the American Muslim community has been working on.  For example, Malik Mujahid, a long-time community leader has suggested that the Muslim community must reallocate its resources to focus on young people.  The Muslim community in the United States is a strong and self-reliant community. It is pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars every year in Islamic education. However, most of these funds are going into Islamic schools. This author is personally committed to Muslim schools. However, these institutions educate less than a one percent of Muslim students. The above described challenge requires our community to reallocate a substantial amount of its resources to reaching out to it’s youth in public schools and campuses for supplemental education, moral support and counseling.    Just looking at five campuses in Chicago, I noticed that Hillel chapters, which represent Jewish students, have more than 30 full-time staff including rabbis. However, there is not a single full-time or part-time staff member at Muslim organizations on campus, much less an Islamic scholar. We can learn a great deal from the Jewish community in the U.S. in their struggle to keep young Jews connected to their Jewish heritage and community.    Sound Vision intends to develop a great amount of content this year focused on topics like Islam in a pluralistic context and discussing objections to Islam. However, we and others who have been concerned about the challenges and frustrations of Muslim youth in America are unable to do much because of the absence of resources.

Here are just a few examples of polls that counter Peter King’s understanding that the PEW poll showed Muslims to be more likely to hold views in support of terrorism.

A 2007 University of Maryland, Program on International Public Attitudes Poll found That 46% of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24% believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.” - Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria. 

A Cornell University poll found that found 44% of Americans favor at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans.  Another poll found that nearly 30% responded favorably to the ideas of requiring Muslims to register with the federal government, having undercover agents infiltrate Muslim organizations, and permitting the government to engage in racial profiling. 

A First Amendment Center Survey found that most Americans think the founders wanted a Christian U.S. University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality poll shows that committed tea party supporters in Washington state are, by significant majorities, hostile to civil rights for African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and LGBT people. 

A CNN Poll examining religious views in the United States found that 59% of Christians are more likely to describe themselves as Christian first and American second (12% higher than the recent PEW Poll of American Muslim attitudes).  53% of Christian Americans are now less likely to see the possibility for peace between Islam and Christianity and 53% think conflict is inevitable between the two religions, up from 45 percent in 2003.  57 percent say they believe the Book of Revelations’ description of the violent end of the world, where all but Christians perish. Nearly one in five believes it will happen in their lifetime.  This is not surprising since 42% of Americans saw themselves as “Christian first” as opposed to “American first” according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project national survey conducted in 2006.

More non-Muslim Americans think that attacks on civilians may be justified than do American Muslims according to these polls.  Wouldn’t this be an excellent reason to broaden the scope of these hearings, and study radicalization, no matter where it is found?


America’s Breivik Complex: State terror and the Islamophobic right, Max Blumenthal

Existing Reports and Studies on The American Muslim Community

Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians, Loonwatch

Surveys Show Muslims in Every Country Less Likely to Justify Killing Civilians than Americans and Israelis, Loonwatch