Muslims in America: why so little terrorism?

President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said that it’s appropriate to consider restrictions on immigration by people identified as Muslims. The Muslim population in Western Europe is the source of acts of terror. In the United States, there are very few domestic acts of terror committed by Muslims. Terrorist movements might be called an extreme and the most violent expression of ethnic animosity; it’s a failure to integrate.

Self-identified Muslim immigrants practice their religion at a far higher rate (68%) than do Christian immigrants (27%). 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 Muslim women always wear a head cover or hijab when out in public. This might suggest a high level of cultural isolation.

But foreign-born Muslims in America are highly likely to become citizens — some 80% — when they are eligible to do so. Among eligible Mexican immigrants, the rate is about one third.

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

Also, unlike in Europe, the Muslim population here is well educated and middle class. The Muslim foreign-born also are highly educated, 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, American culture is much less secular than is European culture. Public expression of belief in God and religious practices are much more common here. And fourth, the right to express one’s faith without encumbrance from government is a fundamental part of the Constitution.

These observations found in The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, By National Academies Press, pp 323-324 , available here

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