American Muslims are more likely than their counterparts in the rest of the world to feel accomplished and successful yet feel socially alienated from mainstream society, according to a poll published Monday.
Muslim-Americans had a more positive outlook on the world than Muslims in other countries but also experienced higher levels of discontent than other religious groups in the U.S. according to the poll by the Gallup Organization.
Despite being economically integrated with high rates of engagement in the workforce, American Muslims felt socially alienated and said they struggled to find happiness within their society.
Racially and politically diverse but very religious, Muslim Americans are younger and more highly educated than the typical American but resemble Americans in their outlook on life more than that of Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries.
The Gallup survey Muslim Americans: A National Portrait, was conducted by the Gallup's Center for Muslim Studies, is the first of its kind to conduct research on a random selection of American Muslims. Out of 319,000 people interviewed across the U.S. last year, Gallup identified 946 Muslims were selected for the study.
"It is a national portrait in every sense of the word," Magali Rheault, senior analyst with the Gallup's Center for Muslim Studies told AlArabiya.net. "We found that American Muslims signified the mosaic that is America."
Muslim-Americans were found to be "thriving," or categorized themselves as being at the upper end of a scale measuring life satisfaction, more than Muslims in nearly every Muslim-majority country. Yet American Muslims were less content than other religious groups in the U.S. at 41 percent, 15 percent below Jewish-Americans, for example.
The poll found that Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Germany ranked higher than U.S. Muslims under the "thriving" category, with Saudi Arabia ranking the highest at 51 percent followed by Germany at 47 percent.
But less than 20 percent of Muslims in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan were thriving while those who were “suffering” ranged between 20 and 45 percent.
Politics, religiosity and women
Data culled showed American Muslims to be the most ethnically and politically diverse religious group in the United States.
"We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Rheault. "They are the most racially diverse religious group surveyed in the United States."
Political ideology underscored such diversity as U.S. Muslims were found across the spectrum from liberal to conservative, their party identification resembling that of the Jews. Four in 10 said they were liberal, a small minority affiliated with the Republicans and half were Democrats.
Eighty percent said Islam was a vital part of their daily lives, a percentage exceeded only by the Mormons at 85 percent. The study also reported that women attended mosque with the same frequency as men, which differ from their coreligionists in the Arab world.
Contrary to gender stereotypes and reflecting the trend among the general society, Muslim American women were found to have higher degrees more than their male counterparts with 42 percent of Muslim women having secondary education compared with 39 percent of Muslim men. American Muslims as a religious group came second only to Jewish Americans in terms of attaining higher education.
Muslim American women also showed surprisingly high levels of participation in the work force and reported near to equal income to men, giving the religious group the highest degree of economic gender parity.
Flourishing but dissatisfied
Despite economic and educational accomplishments, Muslims in the U.S. are the most dissatisfied compared to any other religious group including Jews, Roman Catholics, Protestants and Mormons.
The biggest segment of Muslims are African-American, who comprise 35 percent of Muslim-Americans and report lower rates of income, education and employment.
Social alienation was the main source of discontent, cutting across the wide social, racial and political spectrum of Muslims and manifesting itself in the low levels of Muslim voter registration, involvement in inter-religious activities and sense of belonging within the residential community.
"American Muslims in general were found to feel alienated from the mainstream,” Rheault explained, “especially among Muslim youth who despite showing different markers of well being still lagged behind other youth in terms of their hope for the future."
Young Muslim Americans initially presented a "positive profile," as they were highly engaged in the workforce and had good health compared to Americans on the whole. Yet when asked to evaluate their lives and their plans for the future, very few were optimistic about their future while many were unsatisfied about their lives.
"It could be that young Muslims are less satisfied with their image in the media and therefore express less optimism," Rheault speculated, adding that the Gallup center plans to further investigate this issue.