U.S. Muslim women liberated, growing, research finds
American Muslims include some of the world’s most liberated Islamic women and the largest percentage of young people of any religious community in the country, according to a new report issued March 2 by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.
The survey also coined a new phrase: “post 9/11 trauma” to apply to the country’s estimated 2 million to 4 million Muslims.
Fifty-nine percent of MuslimAmerican women work; a greater percentage than women in other faiths, according to “Muslim Americans: A National Portrait.” The survey, which polled 946 selfidentified Muslims from January to November 2008, has a sampling error margin of 4 percentage points.
Whereas women in Muslim majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are only half as likely to attend Friday prayers at a mosque, 40 percent of Muslim women attend mosque here, about par with 42 percent of Muslim men.
It’s “not true” that U.S. Muslim women are oppressed, Ahmed Younis, a senior analyst for the center said. “Muslim women are roughly equal to men in education, income and mosque attendance.”
The survey also revealed Muslims are the country’s most ethnically diverse religious group: 35 percent are black; 28 percent are white, which includes ethnic Arabs; 18 percent are Asian; 18 percent are “other”; and 1 percent are Hispanic.
Muslims also have the largest households in the country at 3.81 persons on average compared with 2.9 in the general population, and the highest numbers of children, an average of 1.33 compared with 0.75 in the general population. This outstrips the next largest group — Mormons — who average 1.24 children per household.
Forty percent have college degrees or postgraduate degrees, second only to American Jews, and much higher than the general public at 29 percent.
Seventy percent are employed compared with 64 percent of Americans overall.
They are the heaviest smokers, at 24 percent, among American religious groups. The next highest at 19 percent are Catholics.
Muslims are 49 percent Democrat, 8 percent Republican and 37 percent independent. In terms of categories, 38 percent identified themselves as “moderate” with the remaining 61 percent split between “liberal” and “conservative.”
“After Jews, Muslims are most likely to call themselves ‘liberal,’” Mr. Younis said. However, only 64 percent of all Muslims are registered to vote compared with 81 percent of the general populace, he said.
Eighty percent said religion is ‘very important’ in their lives, which comes between 85 percent of Mormons who agree with that question and 76 percent of Protestants who agree. Internationally, the 80 percent figure is most sim- ilar to levels in Iran, analysts said.
Jews, incidentally, at 39 percent, are the least likely American group to say religion is very important to them.
Young Muslims are much more religious than many of their peers, according to the survey. Seventy-seven percent said religion is ‘very important’ to them, comparable to the 74 percent of Protestants, and much more than young Jews at 42 percent and young Catholics at 57 percent.
At a March 2 press conference, analysts introduced a variety of nuanced questions to measure Islamic well-being in this country. Questions ranged from frequency of feelings of anger to whether they felt respected, stressed, worried or rested.
Muslims scored lower than other religious groups in many of these categories, including “thriving,” a catchall for physical and emotional health. Forty-one percent of American Muslims said they were “thriving” and 56 percent said they were “struggling,” which is lower than all other American religious groups.
Dalia Mogahed, executive director for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a Muslim herself, said her co-religionists suffer from “post 9/11 trauma.”
She explained, “The community has gone through a turbulent eight years. Muslims are the most negatively viewed religious community in the country. Only 35 percent of Americans harbor no prejudice against Muslims. Nineteen percent of Americans said they harbor “a great deal” of prejudice.
Additional Gallup poll data show that only 45 percent of all Americans believe Muslims are loyal citizens, she added, “so there is an aspect of being pushed away, of being seen with suspicion.”
This alienation is keener among those ages 12 to 21, she said.
“They went through a very turbulent eight years at an important part of their lives,” she said, “from being invisible to being the most interesting minority in America in a negative way.”