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Pew Survey- Muslims: Democratic, Socially Conservative, Concerned Citizens (Update #3)


For easier reading, the analysis will be split betwen three posts. Please read background and first 2 parts in order to better digest the information in this post:

Update-3:Religious Beliefs/Sects, Identity/Assimilation, Challenges, Political Values and Foreign Policies

Religious Beliefs/Sects

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  • As far as ‘religious beliefs’, 60% of Muslims stated they prayed daily, YET only 40% attended the mosque at least once a week. Sadly, his 40% figure represents less than church participation by US Christians. This is an important number to keep in mind when we look at the Muslim population question. Why this is sad is because Muslims do not only have one service per week, rather they have 35 services a week. So, we have 35 opportunities in the week to state an affirmative to the question, yet 60% of Muslims reported in the negative. I also wonder how it is that 60% prayed daily, yet 60% did not attend Jumuah (Friday) prayers?

  • One encouraging piece of news was that nearly 40% Muslims reported praying 5 times a day, which is also equivalent to the number of people attending mosque at least once a week. So, there seems to be a very stark line of practice between three groups of Muslims: one that prays 5-times and attends the mosque at least weekly and the other 20% that prays only sometimes, and the balance 40% that is a mixture of ‘never-pray’, ‘eid-pray’, etc.
    • There is another important facet to this result: Muslim activists and dai’s (callers to Islam) have a long way to go in basic dawah to Muslims to practice the 5 pillars of Islam. This reaffirms the need for establishing priorities, to stop engaging in petty polemics about differences in details of the beliefs, and instead work on bringing people to engage in basic worship. Once at least 90% of people start attending just Jumuah prayers, I am sure we could then move on to discuss the details inshallah!

  • As for specific religious beliefs, Sunnis make up 50% of the sample, Shias 16% and some other (who??) 22%. Obviously this 22% group is highly confused because if you can’t decide whether you are a Shia or Sunni, you probably don’t know much about your religion. Interestingly, only 7% of NBMs identified themselves as Shia, furthermore only 2% of African-Americans did so. Out of the converts, only 6% identified themselves as Shias. Obviously, converts are paying more attention to beliefs than FOBs who just follow the religion of their parents in many instances.

  • Contrary to what many Americans believe, under 20% converted to Islam for marriage or family reasons. Nearly 60% converted for the religious beliefs. Consequently NBMs (45%), especially African Americans (54%) attend the mosque at least weekly. As for Pakistanis, lo and behold, there is still hope with 57% of Pakistanis attending the mosque at least once a week. On the flip side, only 7% Iranians take the time to do it; yeah, big surprise there. High-five to the converts and Pakistanis!

  • Here’s another shocker: only 86% believed that Quran is the word of God. Pew writers consider this as a sign of ‘traditionalism’. If they had asked Muslims, they would tell Pew that this is a sign of mere ‘Islam’. Right away we can see that 14% of the Pew respondents were not even Muslims.


  • A plurality (43%) wants Muslim immigrants to adopt ‘American customs and ways of life’. One could look at this question two ways, and the answer would be radically different: you could think of it as adopting the culture that is not forbidden in Islam, because all culture is ‘halal’ until proven ‘haram’. On the other hand, one may look at this question as adopting like as in a big melting pot: your life on interest and debt, girl-friends, etc., etc. – the entire package. As one can see, the answer would be very different depending on context.

  • Nearly 30% think of themselves as Americans first, 50% as Muslims first. Based on the ‘religious’ beliefs discussion, if there are nearly 60% Muslims who don’t even pray Jumuah, then seeing half of them identifying as Americans first is not surprising. In fact, this correlation was stated in the report, with 60% of Muslims who go the mosque at least once weekly identify themselves as Muslims first, Americans second. While only 36% of those who don’t go to the mosque at all identify themselves as Muslims first. There is also hope in this stat for Muslim activists. The fact that half of those who don’t go to the mosque still identify themselves as Muslims before Americans shows a real spark of deen in their heart, which implies they have a lot of potential to be good, practicing Muslims.

  • Muslims are about as happy with their lives as the general public, though 10% less immigrants are happy compared to NBMs. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean if you immigrate to any country, there are always difficulties in making the transition. The interesting stat. on happiness that was that 90% of youth (under 30) are happy, dropping to 74% of 30+yrs. Well, if uncles would only stop politicking in the Masjid, their happiness would greatly increase. Muslims are also about equally pleased with their communities as the general public. Common-sense dictates a lack of satisfaction with the direction that the country is heading under the Bush theocracy. 54% are unhappy, but surprisingly that is still 7% less than the general public. So, we are no less pessimistic than the average person.

  • Over 70% Muslims believe that hard work will yield good results and success, 7% higher than the general public. But within this group there is a striking difference between African-Americans (AA) and the rest of the Muslims (immigrants and non-AA NBMs): 56% and 74% respectively. AA Muslims like their non-Muslim counterparts (at 59% for the same answer) among the AA community are not very optimistic about hard-work and its resulting in success. I don’t find this particularly surprising. A nation that has been enslaved and repressed (as in the case of AA), only recently released to its full potential, will take a long time to heal and stop the cycle of poverty. That is why I am a strong proponent of affirmative action and social-action programs for uplifting AA communities. Becoming Muslim is only a return to religious roots, but it does not imply a change in social well-being.

Challenges & Problems

  • As mentioned, more than half the Muslims believe that life is harder as a Muslim since 9/11. Those with advanced post-grad degrees, incomes above $100k, high religious commitment agree most with this. The religious correlation makes sense, but why the highly-educated & high-income correlation? My guess is that this group is more in touch with the news, with what’s going on, perhaps more active with Muslim organizations such as CAIR, higher travel frequency (which is the biggest bane for Muslims).

  • US Muslims consequently believe that discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping are some of the biggest problems facing them. Most Muslims believe that they are being singled out for surveillance and monitoring. Dah! You would be foolish to believe otherwise. Nearly every Muslim has himself been visited by the Feds or knows of at least one and usually many fellow Muslims who have had Feds over for tea at their home or workplace.

  • A very interesting side by side analysis of American Muslims and African Americans regarding ‘encounters with intolerance’ yields very similar results. Nearly a third of Muslims mentioned this encounter, while 46% AA faced it. The results are most skewed towards being worse for AA in police profiling. Please note that Muslims don’t wear the label “Muslim” on their backs, yet to have 33% face such encounters is mind-boggling. The point is that many Muslims may escape this attention because they may not ‘look’ it, so the results could have been much worse. As Sh. Yasir Fazaqa once mentioned, that as a black Muslim, he has to face the ‘double-whammy’!

Political Views

  • Ok, drum-roll please. All our hearsay and anecdotal evidence regarding Muslims turning Democratic are in fact true, based on the survey. Over 60% now lean Democratic, only 11% Republican and 26% neither. If one were to parse the 26%, even assuming a 50% split, you are talking about nearly a 75% Democratic lean. This is getting close the African-American slant towards Democrats, which is nearly 80-90%. Could there be a correlation between the treatment that Muslims and AA face and their leaning towards Democrats? Based on personal experience and my own perceptions, I would say this correlation is probably 75% true as well.

  • · Muslims favor big governments (closer to Democratic platform— makes sense). A lot of this bigger government idea is related to providing more services, especially for the poor. This compassion is part and parcel of the Muslim belief, with the poor-due (Zakat) equivalent to 2.5% of total wealth, one of the Muslim’s five pillars of faith.

  • · Most FOBs (60%) want mosques to stay out of politics (I guess they had enough of it back in their motherlands) though they do not mind Masjid politics one bit! On the flip-side, 70% of NBMs want mosques to express political views. My gut-feeling on this one is that FOBs are more afraid to speak their mind in the Masjid because of some fear of being dragged in the fish-net… also they may not be used to freedoms of speech granted to all citizens. While NBMs, many of them converts may be used to seeing their churches get involved and having less reservations in voicing their opinions.

  • Over 60% of Muslims in the sample were registered to vote, compared to 13% higher in the general public sample. Under 50% of under 29 yrs of age were registered. The lesson? There is a lot of opportunity to ‘get the vote out’ and increase Muslim participation in the political arena, i.e. if of course they agree with the concept. If they don’t, don’t bother and move on to the one who does. There are plenty who are not motivated by any religious belief not to participate, but are just lazy.

Foreign Policy / Extremism

  • Muslim views on US foreign policy is not surprising: 75% disagree with the Iraq war, about 50% with the Afghanistan war. What is interesting is that FOBs are less anti-war than NBMs. For Iraq, it is 85% vs. 70% (NBMs vs. FOBs), for Afghanistan, it is even more striking: 65% vs. 40% (NBMs vs. FOBs). I cannot really make much sense of the difference on this one. Similarly, a greater majority of NBMs believe that the war on terror is baloney (71%) vs. FOBs (49%) for an average of 55%. The average is similar to doubts expressed by Pakistanis in Pakistan (59%), in Jordan (52%) and other Muslim countries.

  • Interestingly, 40% of Muslims believe the ‘official’ 9/11 story. 28% don’t really buy it, though 18% of these 28% doubters claim that they just don’t know. So, at the outset, it may seem that Muslim are conspiracy-theorists, but only 7% believe US government’s role and only 1% in Jewish/Israeli role. So, all the Muslim pundits ranting against the supposed Muslim conspiracy theory addiction: time to get off your high horse and face the facts. This sort of mentality is rare, and probably very similar to the perception held by the general public (in terms of percents). In fact American Muslims believe the ‘official’ story much more than Muslims in Europe and Muslim countries.

  • A majority of Muslims are concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism around the globe. This is understandable if the one feels that extremism is rising because of repressive Muslim governments or because of ill-thought foreign policies by the West. US Muslims were less concerned about Islamic extremism in US (36%), while 46% of the general public is concerned about it. Although the American public AND the Muslims need to be more concerned about the rise of theocracy in this country in the form of Christian extremism and its influence on the government (because they are the sizeable majority here) than Islamic extremism.

  • Most Muslims believe that a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict can be reached (61%). This is in line with the views of the general public surprisingly, and at odds with most Muslims around the globe (in Western and Muslim countries). Also, college-educated Muslims tend to favor this view more than those that are not.

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Pingback: » Muslim Americans- Pew Survey & the Media Twist (2 Updates)

  2. Hassan

    May 24, 2007 at 12:02 AM

    I find muslims leaning democrats and in favor of big government extremely disturbing. My humble opinion is that they do not know what they are getting into. They would keep being reactionary and jump from one party to another. As far as big government part is concerned, I do not mind big government based on sharia, but I feel threatened from big governments otherwise, that would try to do/implement justice based on their rationality. Hence this case, I would ask them to leave me alone, we can support good social work through charity organization etc.

    Now, on issue of Affirmative Action, I remember discussing it with you on your old blog. Can you compare an average FOB, and difficulties he/she has to face to establish himself/herself, to difficulties faced by African American individuals? So why African Americans get preferential treatment? As I said before, I find Affirmative Action racist, and its not solving issues but helping status quo.

    By the way I think its illegal for non-profit organization to endorse or criticize candidates in official way.

  3. Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 24, 2007 at 12:48 AM

    I think it is pretty disturbing that only 50% of Muslim-Americans (and 40% of Muslim American FOBs) disagree with invasion of Afghanistan. If this statistic is true… it shows that Muslims in America are in SERIOUS need of da’wah… esp concerning al-Walaa wa al-Baraa.

    I guess now we know why our ummah is suffering so much… so many sell-outs…

  4. Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 24, 2007 at 12:50 AM

    … I wish AlMaghrib would add an entire class on walaa and baraa (i suppose to its aqeedah series)… May Allah raise the da’wah in this country. Aameen.

  5. Abu Bakr

    May 24, 2007 at 12:22 PM

    I think al-Wala wal-Bara was going to be addressed in Aqidah 4

  6. Ahmad AlFarsi

    May 24, 2007 at 1:29 PM

    “was going to be adressed” is the operative phrase. I spoke with a brother working for AlMaghrib (not saying who) about year ago, and he personally told me that living in this country, we just cannot teach walaa and baraa the way it should be taught.

    My take: time to leave this country since it seems that we are unable to fully practice/teach our deen here, if we cannot even properly teach al-walaa wa al-baraa (a fundamental point of aqidah)…

    … speaking of which, I heard that there was this island off the coast of the UK that is completely owned by some family (not under the jurisdiction of ANY country)… and that apparently it is for sale on e-bay for a few million… any brothers wanna pitch-in so we can start our own khilafah there? :) I’ve got about 5 bucks right now :D

  7. AnonyMouse

    May 24, 2007 at 4:36 PM

    Hey, can sisters also donate? I’ve got a few loonies and toonies lying around… :P

  8. Tariq Nelson

    May 26, 2007 at 5:44 AM

    I’ve always heard that some 80% of Muslims don’t pray and/or regularly pray in the masjid. Now we are seeing that 60% actually DO pray and 40% DO come to the masjid.

    So where’d we get the 80% number?

    Judging by Eid crowds, I’d say that about half of those are people that you NEVER see at all

  9. Tariq Nelson

    May 26, 2007 at 6:02 AM

    In other words…perhaps there are not as many “un-mosqued” as we thought

  10. Amad

    May 26, 2007 at 10:53 AM

    Based on anecdotal evidence and what our experiences are, I think 60-80% of non-praying folks seems more of a reality check.

    That is why I feel that the survey may be skewed by looking for ‘Muslim-Muslims’… u know not the Muslims just by name or even Muslims not by name.

    Also, they base their population figures for Muslims on extension of this survey, which is another reason that I feel it is underestimating Muslims.

    I agree the 400k Muslims is a stretch. As I said, I have often heard about 200k… but I haven’t dived into this topic yet.


  11. Tariq Nelson

    May 26, 2007 at 11:32 PM

    Just a thought considering what Amad said: Perhaps that 2.5 million number may represent the number of “practicing” Muslims?

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