The Transatlantic Muslim Divide

Compared with the tension that exists in Muslim communities across Europe, America’s Muslims are a more contented lot.

A recent Pew Forum study found Europe’s Muslims to be “markedly less well off than the general population, frustrated with economic opportunities and socially isolated,” while most American Muslims say that “their communities are excellent or good places” to live; 71% say they can succeed in the US if they work. Both income and college graduation levels match the national norms. 63% of American Muslims report no conflict between religious devotion and living in modern society.

Although 53% of US Muslims think that life is more difficult since the terrorist attacks of 2001, most think that this is the fault of the government, not their neighbors. Indeed, 73% said they had never experienced discrimination while living in America. Moreover, 85% said suicide bombing is rarely or never justified, and only 1% said violence to defend Islam was “often” permissible. In Europe, significantly higher percentages of Muslims believe that suicide bombings are “often” or “sometimes” justified.

“What emerges,” according to Amaney Jamal, an adviser to Pew, “is the great success of the Muslim American population in its socioeconomic assimilation.” Yet “assimilation” is not what succeeds. “Assimilation” means dissolving into the mainstream, but Muslim-Americans do not, remaining devoutly Muslim in a country overwhelmingly Christian.