Muslims in America: why terrorism risk is low compared to Europe

Richard Alba and Nancy Foner, authors of the 2015 book Strangers No More, offer four reasons why there is so little terrorist risk among Muslims in the United States. First, they note that the foreign-born are Muslim in the United States is tiny compared to Europe. They are 1% of the American population, compared to 11% in France.

Also, unlike in Europe, the Muslim population here is well-educated and middle class, with over 30% completing college, a higher rate than native-born Americans. Their household incomes on average match the general public.

Third, even as deToqueville noted in the early 19th Century, public expression of belief in God and religious practices are much more accepted and common here than in Europe. Muslim immigrants match Christians in America in about 70% saying that religion is very important. And fourth, the right to express one’s faith without encumbrance from government is a fundamental part of the Constitution.

In some respects, immigrant Muslims are more American than Americans. Yet Michael Flynn, the future director of the National Security Council, says that “Islam is a political ideology that hides behind the notion of it being a religion” (23:55)…it is.”like a cancer.”

We know a fair amount about Muslims in America in part thanks to studies by the Pew Research Center.  Since 1992, Muslims as a percentage of new legal immigrants rose of 5% to 10%.   Muslims make up one percent of the general population. Among the 85,000 refugees admitted in 2015, 46% were Muslim.

A fifth of Muslims in Americans say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society. Half of the Americans public thinks that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture. Half of Americans think the being Christian is an important factor in being American.

Muslim immigrants are more likely (74%) to say that hard work gets you ahead than does the general public 62%). Although they less inclined to show the American flag, they watch sports and recycle about the often as the general public. Foreign-born Muslims in America are highly likely to become citizens when they are eligible to do so. They get involved in solving community problems moderately less than does the general public.

Muslim immigrants practice their religion at a far higher rate (68%) than do Christian immigrants (27%) (page 319 here).

According to a Pew survey, religion remains important past the first generation. About three out of five first and second generation perform the daily prayer (Salah). Thirty percent of Muslim women always wear a head cover or hijab when out in public.

Asked if terrorism is ever justified to defend Islam, 1% of both native and foreign born Muslims said “often;” about 80% said “never.” Among Muslim immigrants, 75% had a very negative view of Al-Quiada while 3% were favorable. Muslims have the same level of concern about extremism in American as does the general public. Muslims with high school or less education are the only segment that perceives “great deal” of support for extremism in the Muslim community.

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