While there are many ways to interpret the results of the Pew Research Center survey “Muslim Americans: Middle-Class and Mostly Mainstream,” it is important not to overlook the positive aspects of the study. The poll clearly showed that American Muslims are mainstream, highly educated, middle-class people who believe that hard work pays off.

It also confirmed that, overall, American Muslims have a positive view of the larger society. They are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives in the United States, and most say their communities are excellent or good places to live. The survey found that Muslim Americans reject extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in western European countries. In fact, 78 percent of U.S. Muslims say that suicide bombings against civilians are never justified.

Contrast this to the survey conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Public Attitudes, released in December 2006, which showed that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are never justified. The Pew research found that only 1 percent of those surveyed reported “suicide bombings against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam” while another 7 percent reported the bombings are “sometimes justified in these circumstances.” Again, contrast this to the 24 percent of Americans, reported in the Maryland study, who believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.” (See the Christian Science Monitor’s “The Myth of Muslim support for terror” at

Having said that, Muslims continue to believe that religious extremism is unacceptable. The recent fatwa against extremism, issued by the Fiqh Council of North America and endorsed by more than 120 American Muslim leaders and institutions (the term fiqh refers to Islamic jurisprudence), clearly states that “Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives (and that) there is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism.”
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The question that we all need to ask is what are we, as a whole society, doing about these numbers and their causes, and how are we going to address them? Finally, contrary to how certain special-interest groups, including some media outlets, have been spinning it, the Pew study makes it clear that Muslims are indeed well-integrated into the fabric of our society, are content socially and economically, believe in the American dream and are mainstream and moderate.

These results affirm what Muslims have been saying all along.

Ahmad Al-Akhras, Vice chairman, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Columbus


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