Subtle Trends in Muslim American Assimilation

In 2011, Pew Research polled over a thousand Muslim Americans and declared them “middle class and mainstream” (here and here). Looking at the most general of averages, this is largely correct. Until recently, and with the exception of Somalians, Muslims who have immigrated to America will have passed through a stringent selection filter compared to their current European counterparts. However, taking a microscope to the statistics uncovers a more complicated picture, especially regarding assimilation of the second and third generations.

On many metrics, from old to young Muslims (and from foreign to native born), one finds a slide from moderate to immoderate views. The difference is not extreme, but nor is it negligible. Some examples:

1.  Younger Muslims are more unanimous than older Muslims in their rejection of “adopting American customs.”


2. Older, foreign-born Muslims are more likely to describe Americans as “friendly.” Younger, native-born Muslims are less quick to do so.


3.  Younger Muslims are more likely than older Muslims to report feeling discriminated against.


4. Native Muslims are more willing than foreign born Muslims to say that suicide bombing against civilians is “sometimes” or “rarely” acceptable. 10% of native-born Muslims think suicide bombing is “sometimes” okay. Of course, this number pales in comparison to the percentage of Muslims who think this in other countries.


5. Likewise, native-born Muslims are more likely to have a favorable view of Al Qaeda than their older, foreign-born counterparts; less are likely to have an unfavorable view.


6. One of the most interesting findings, in my view, is the reversal in response to the question of mosques expressing political views. Foreign-born Muslims are generally against it; native-born are all for it.


7. Younger Muslims are more skeptical about Arab involvement in the 9/11 attacks.


On some key metrics, then, it appears that younger, native-born Muslims are moving slowly in the opposite direction expected if Muslims were assimilating smoothly into secular American norms. This is not good, especially in light of the fact that, economically, Muslims are faring no worse than white evangelicals and Catholics. Any movement away from secularization among young Muslim Americans is not driven by economic inequality.

*Note: Some of these stats include African Americans who have converted to Islam.


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