The invaluable Pew Research Center just released the most extensive survey of American Muslims conducted to date. The work is made even more insightful in light of the surveys Pew has conducted on and concerning other Muslim populations in the West. Predictably, the headlines of media sources that've picked up on it focus on the near economic parity of American Muslims with the rest of the country. But digging a little deeper reveals several points of interest.
As is the troubling case with Hispanic immigrants in the US, subsequent generations of Muslims are assimilating toward the norms of the native underclass. While only 45% of the foreign-born are dissatisfied with the state of the US, a full 77% of the native-born are. While the foreign-born generally believe Muslims should attempt adopt American customs and cultural norms (47% to 21%), slightly more of the native-born Muslim population wants the Islamic community to remain distinct from the mainstream (38% to 37%) than wants it to assimilate.
The reason for the trend, similar to one that occurs among Hispanic immigrants, is that the absolute gains in terms of access to better schools, healthcare, infrastructure, and wages realized in coming to the US are enough to offset the 'short-changing' of Islamic culture and the perceived inequities between American Muslims and non-Muslims for first-generation migrants. Subsequent generations who've not experienced the relative hardships of home are less gracious and more demanding.
More happily, US Muslims are more industrious and less hostile to the Occident than European Muslims are. The reasons are at least twofold: For one, closer proximity to the places of origin means Europe tends to get more of the Islamic norm, whereas the greater hassle of crossing an ocean to come to the US and the lack of numerous large Islamic communities in America selects for a more secularized, successful migrant in the US. Secondly, the relative lack of parallel societies in the US as compared to Europe necessitates more assimilation to the host society.
Of course, as the number of Muslims in the US continues to grow, American Muslims will increasingly come to resemble European Muslims. Already, the newer crop of Muslims in the US are farther removed from the American mainstream than those who've come before.
Among those between the ages of 18-29, 42% reported that they believed people had been more suspicious of them due to their Islamic identity, compared to only 29% of those 30 years or older. Conversely, 48% of young Muslims said people have been more supportive of them because of who they are, compared to 28% of those 30 years or older who felt the same way.
In other words, younger Muslims in America are more aware of and sensitive to their Islamic identities than older Muslims are. Increasing numbers of Muslims, technological advances that allow geographically disparate groups to retain ever-stronger relationships with one another, the inevitable continuing conflict between the Occident and the burgeoning Islamic world, and the continued encouragement of parallelism given by leftist elites and academia are only going to bring greater ethnic and cultural solidarity at odds with the values of the host communities.
The average American Muslim's perspective on the War on Terror further delegitimizes the quixotic neocon notion that the appeal of universal liberalism trumps all ethnic and cultural ties, even in the eyes of groups that voluntarily left those same ethnic and cultural ties in search of something better. While 45% of the general public feels going into Iraq was the right decision (this number is a little dated since it is partially comprised of data from 2004), 12% of Muslims in the US feel the same. Regarding the effort in Afghanistan, 61% of the general public is supportive compared to only 25% of Muslims in the US. And by the widest margin of all, 67% of the general public believes the War on Terror is a sincere effort to make the world a safer place, while only 26% of Islamic residents of the US do.
Astoundingly, most do not believe Arab men were behind 9/11--apparently only 40% of Muslims in America buy into the narrative of the nineteen hijackers!
In every way, young Muslims are more fervently Islamic than their secularized elders. And the US Muslim population is disproportionately young (30% between the ages of 18-29 compared to 21% of the general public) and male (54% to 48% of the general public). Fifteen percent of Muslims between the ages 18-29 believe suicide bombings are often justified. Even as youthfulness and secularization are strongly correlated in the US, the trend runs in the opposite direction among Muslims. This isn't assimilation, and it suggests a future Islamic-American community more distinct from the rest of the US than it is today.
While more Muslims may obstensibly say they favor an adoption of American society (43% to 26%), those of all stripes in the US (irrespective of age or where they were born) are more likely to consider themselves Muslims first and Americans either second or not at all than they are to primarily consider themselves Americans, by a margin of 47% to 28%. This is especially pronounced among Muslims between the ages of 18-29, with a margin of 60% to 25%.
Relatedly, 61% of multiple-person households with at least one Muslim are entirely Muslim--only 23% are mixed, with at least one non-Muslim member living under the same roof. Given that they make up about .4% of the US population, this is voluntary segregation. We're witnessing the foundations for the creation of a parallel society of settlers, not immigrants.
A more globalized, interconnected world highlights a difficult Libertarian quandry--how to react to the free flow of people and ideas when those people and ideas are overwhelmingly in opposition to the Libertarian motto, "Live and let live"?
Like other third-world immigrants in the West, Muslim Americans favor a larger, more intrustive state structure that redistributes wealth to the poor and actively controls citizens' behavior (70% of Muslims in America favor a larger government, only 21% want it reduced in size; 59% want the government to be more involved in enforcing standards of morality on the citizenry, while 29% think the government should back off). Overwhelmingly, they favor Democrats (63% to the 11% who lean Republican).
Functioning libertarian (or socialist, for that matter) societies require a high IQ, individualistic, homogenuous population. The Libertarian open borders position works against such a society. Honest Libertarians must ask themselves whether they'd like to submit to a vigorous national sovereignty or throw out everything else they believe in, because the free flow of third-worlders into the US will work against virtually every political position they hold.
Finally, most conversions to Islam among formerly non-Muslim natives are made by young black men. This addition to the ummah is sure to make Islam more amiable in the eyes of the general public!
In recapitulation, the US' Muslim community is more functional and assimilated than the European Muslim community is. But as the American Muslim population expands in size and influence, the experiences of the US and Euorpe with regards to Muslims living in their midst will continue to converge.