Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, many Muslim Americans have had to live with increased hostility and suspicion from their fellow citizens. Opposition to mosques, taunts at shopping malls and schools, and Islamophobia have hounded them as they try to live their American dream. So what has been the impact on these Americans after a decade of discrimination? The answer is both surprising and predictable.
On the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Muslim Americans are almost twice as likely to identify with the United States as they are with those who share their religious identity worldwide. They feel equally American and Muslim, attending religious services regularly while strongly identifying with the United States. Muslim Americans over all are confident in the FBI and college educated. The percentage of Muslim Americans who rate their lives high enough to be considered "thriving" has increased more over the past two years than that of any other major religious group in the USA. These are some of the findings from: Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future , a report by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center released on August 2, 2011. It was based on Gallup surveys conducted throughout 2010.
Over a quarter of American Muslims reported they were self employed. This is higher than the percentage of self-employed Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Protestants, accordingly to the polling done by Gallup, and almost 7% larger than the number of self-employed in the general American population.
In perhaps the most remarkable finding from the Gallup poll, 8 in 10 Muslim Americans indicated that the work environments their supervisors create are trusting and open. Statistics that are on a par with the general American population. To me this finding says a lot about the decency of most Americans who refuse to let the opinions of an extremist fringe control how America treats its religious minorities.
The results are surprising only to the extent that logic would signal the opposite: Muslim Americans and their fellow citizens ought to have moved further apart over the last ten years. But that is logic in a vacuum, it is just not the way the United States has worked over the 200 year arc of its history.
The results are predictable because it has, over time, always been so in the grand experiment that is the United States. Think back to the First World War when masses of newly arrived Germans were tainted with a fiercely unpatriotic, anti-American sentiment. My wife's grandmother, already a second generation immigrant then, stopped speaking German to avoid facing this bigoted behavior. As recently as the 1930s it was not uncommon to see signs on some of New York's toniest apartment buildings that openly discouraged Jews from renting in them. Yet, America today is a different place.
The trends reported in the report are hugely important for future civil harmony in America as the number of Muslim Americans grows from roughly 2 million today to over 6 million by 2030, raising their political and cultural clout, especially in urban areas where most of them will live. The trends illuminated in the report point to a far more harmonious outcome for Muslim and non-Muslim Americans than today's headlines would suggest.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence, Calvin Coolidge used to say. The Gallup survey and report attest to the truth of Coolidge's saying. Muslim Americans persisted and continue to persist to claim their rightful place in America. A large majority of their American brethren continue to insist they will not let the American engine of immigrant absorption that is unique in the world, be hijacked by those who would seek to derail it.
The report's findings also show there is still a long way to go before Muslim Americans have the same image in the United States as Americans of other faiths. But the Gallup results signal that the journey will not be without end. So, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, let's savor the moment and proclaim, Allahu Akbar -- God is Great -- and take a bow.