Instead of fearing them—or menacing them with AR-15s outside their mosques—we should be thankful that American Muslims are as successful and well-integrated into our society as they are.
That may seem counterintuitive in the wake of a horrific terror attack by Islamic extremists, but the reality is that terrorism in the United States is exceedingly rare, and there’s no evidence that American Muslims embrace extreme views at a higher rate than Christians or Jews.
There’s a common view that there exists a “Muslim culture,” and that it’s defined by religious leaders in the Middle East. The reality is that Islam’s 1.5 billion adherents around the world are highly diverse. And America’s Muslim community may offer the best evidence that Islam isn’t inherently violent, and doesn’t drive significant numbers of Muslims to terrorism in the absence of other social, economic or political problems.
American Muslims have been described by The Wall Street Journal (somewhat patronizingly) as “role models” for Muslims everywhere. Almost seven in 10 Muslims identify as political moderates or liberals, according to a 2009 survey by Gallup. Multiple surveys have found that, by and large, American Muslims have an optimistic outlook on life in this country, and want to be welcomed into the mainstream.
That’s likely a reflection of their success in America. Lori Peek, a Colorado State University sociologist and author of Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11, told Reuters that studies have found that Muslim immigrants have been among the most successful at integrating into our society. They value education, participate in our politics, and tend to live in diverse communities.
It’s believed that America’s Muslim community is the wealthiest in the world. According to Pew, 45 percent report making at least $30,000 per year, a higher share than the 36 percent of Americans as a whole. They report owning a business or being self-employed at a higher rate than the general population. Forty percent of Muslim Americans hold a college degree—compared with 29 percent of the population as a whole—and according to Gallup, one in three have a professional job. Muslim women are among the most educated in the country— second only to Jewish women—and work outside the home at the same rate as Muslim men. The gender gap in pay among American Muslims is smaller than that of any other religious group.