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Major poll finds US Muslims Mostly Mainstream


Despite their deep dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and U.S foreign policy, a major new survey found U.S Muslims--most of whom are immigrants--are largely integrated into U.S society. And the Pew Research Center reports the estimated 2.3 million American Muslims are moderate in their views on many of the issues that have divided others of their faith and Westerners around the world. Mohamed Elshinnawi has more.

The Pew Research Center survey found that U.S Muslims tend to be better assimilated and more content with the larger society they live in than their European counterparts. Pew President Andrew Kohut says a polling sample of more than 1,000 American Muslims revealed their outlooks and attitudes are mostly mainstream.

"I think the most significant findings are that the Muslim American population is a very content, moderate, middle class segment of the public, unlike the Muslim minorities in Europe,” he says. “Muslims are not of lower income or lower education levels. They mirror the general public even though two thirds of them are first generation. They were born elsewhere. They have decidedly American points of view; if you work hard you can get ahead in this country.

Mr. Kohut says U.S. Muslims are participating in the full range of American experiences. But, he says many of them feel their lives became more difficult after September 11th, 2001 -- that they feel they are singled out and scrutinized. While 76 percent of American Muslims say they are concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, Kohut adds there were some negative findings:

"We only find, for example, less than one in 20 that they have a favorable view of al-Qaida, or believe that suicide bombings can be justified in defense of Islam, but among younger Muslims under 30 years of age that number swells to 15 percent."

Ibrahim Hooper is the Communication Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington. "There was a poll at the end of last year that polled American population of all faiths asking them whether they thought attacks on civilians were justified in the war on terror and a similar figure said that was the case, so it is the nature of polling that you will get that kind of figures,” said Hooper. “But I think we should really focus on the bulk of the report that the vast majority of American Muslims are rejecting terrorism and religious extremism."

Mr. Hooper says that the survey shows that there is no conflict between being a Muslim and living as an American in this society.

Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University says he agrees. "There are Muslims who are active in the political community, in Congress. There are almost 10,000 Muslims in the Department of Defense, in the Army and they are very practicing Muslims, so I do not see Islam as a prevention from being very integrated."

The Pew Research survey also shows that nearly three quarters of respondents believe that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background. As we randomly gauge non-Muslim American feelings about their Muslim fellow citizens we get different opinions.

"In my own experience with Islam and with people of Islamic background I have very good experiences," said one woman. "As a non-Muslim, I really hope mainstream Muslim Americans speak out even more forcefully and take actions to defeat the terrorists in our midst," said a man on the street in Washington.

Another woman said, "We need to work together, and coming from a Christian background, Abraham is the founder of basically Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We come from the same foundation, now we have to build on that foundation

Some footage courtesy of Bridges TV

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