Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Muslims (part 1): the Racial Analysis

Fantastic survey released on the attitudes and religious habits of American Muslims was just released by Pew Research (

The media has been focused on the percentages of American Muslims who support suicide bombings, but the data reveals some other profoundly important stories, especially related to Islam and race. The survey indicates clearly, on a number of measures, that Black Muslims are the only truly anti-American group of Muslims. On measure after measure, Black Muslims evidenced a profound alienation from American values, if not an open hostility to America itself, which was markedly divergent from the attitudes of Muslim immigrants from other countries. (Note: To be clear, when I refer to Black Muslims, I mean America-born, not immigrant, Black Muslims; immigrant Blacks were a small segment of the survey population, but always included in the foreign-born numbers.)

This highlights the dual nature of Islam in America. Among native-born Americans, Islam is a counter-cultural, if not anti-American, movement. By contrast, foreign immigrant Muslims generally believe in the American dream and desire to integrate. Native-born Americans convert to Islam as a sign of rejecting American values and American society.

In answer to the question, “Do you think of yourself as an American first or a Muslim first,” Black Muslims distinguished themselves with their anti-Americanism, with only 26% choosing “American first.” This anti-Americanism is clearly expressed along racial lines, being less strong among non-black native-born American Muslims, 46% of whom consider themselves “American first.” Looked at from the other side, 58% of Black Muslims considered themselves “Muslim first”, an even higher amount that the 46% of immigrant Muslims who considered themselves “Muslim first.” In other words, first generation immigrant Muslims consider themselves more American than American born-and-raised Black Muslims!

A further sign of Black Muslim alienation from American values in answer to the question “Does hard work bring success in America?” Only 56% of Black Muslims agree with this principle, compared with 75% of other native-born Muslims, and 74% of immigrant Muslims. Black Muslims are even less supportive of hard work than African Americans more generally, who agreed 59% of the time.

On the question of whether immigrants should adopt American ways or remain distinct, Black Muslims again led the pack of anti-Americanism, with 47% saying that immigrant Muslims should remain distinct. Again there was the racial divide with non-black native-born Muslims, among whom only 27% of agreed. There was a huge difference with the Muslim immigrants themselves, among whom only 21% agreed. Clearly, immigrant Muslims are interested in working hard, succeeding, and integrating, although Black Muslims think they shouldn’t.

This alienation is further amplified in answer to the question “Do anti-terror policies single out Muslims?” 74% of native-born Muslims said yes, but only 47% of immigrant Muslims agreed. This despite the fact of their own personal experiences: native-born Muslims are significantly more likely than immigrants (54% vs. 22%) to report having been the recipients of supportive words since 9-11. Overall, 32% of American Muslims say someone had offered them support because they were Muslim, which is virtually identical to the percent that reported experiencing an act of prejudice or hostility. In other words, despite the myth of harassment of Muslims since 9-11, the number who has received positive support is just as high as those who have felt hostility, and the support level is highest among native-born Muslims! Talk about ideology trumping experience…

Black Muslims are also the most politicized group of American Muslims, with 79% believing mosques should express political views. By contrast, only 30% of immigrant Muslims agree. (Interestingly, Iranians were the most anti-political, with only 10% agreeing. I guess they know better than most what Islamic politics looks like!) Non-black native-born Muslims were also considerably more political than immigrants, although less than Black Muslims, with 54% agreeing that mosques should express political views. This statistic, more than others, highlights the role of Islam among White and Black Americans as a political, anti-institutional movement.

Native-born Muslims disapproved of the invasion of Muslim lands even more than immigrant Muslims. 65% of American-born Muslims disproved of the invasion of Afghanistan, versus 40% of immigrant Muslims. 85% of American-born Muslims disproved of the invasion of Iraq, versus 70% of immigrant Muslims.

In answer to the question “Is the War on Terrorism a sincere effort to reduce terrorism?” native-born Muslims again demonstrated their alienation, with 71% answering “No.” Think for a moment about what that implies. 71% of American-born Muslims believe the War on Terror is just a pretext for aggression, with all the profound mistrust of the government that implies. This is compared to the much less skeptical immigrant Muslims, among whom only 49% felt that the War on Terror was insincere.

The most profound and disturbing sign of alienation among Black Muslims is found in their views of al-Qaeda. Only 36% of Black Muslims viewed al-Qaeda as “very unfavorable.” This is compared to 63% of immigrant Muslims and 69% of non-black American-born Muslims. The percent who actually admitted to viewing al-Qaeda as “favorable” was also highest among Black Muslims, at 9%, compared to only 3% among immigrant Muslims.

Overall, the data is clear and disturbing: Black Muslims are the most anti-American Muslims in America. So how many of them are we looking at? Overall, the survey indicates, 20% of 1.5 million adult U.S. Muslims are native-born African Americans, giving us about 300,000 Black Muslims. Not that many overall, but still a sizable amount of strongly anti-American Muslims.

The breakdown of that group is also important, since the Nation of Islam (NOI), with its virulent anti-American, anti-Jewish, and anti-white teachings, along with its history of support for violence, is of considerable more concern than orthodox Muslims (for a brief summary and analysis of their teacings, see The survey classified three types of Muslims: Sunni, Other (which included Shia and the NOI), and non-denominational. 48% of Black Muslims identify as Sunni, 34% as non-denominational, and 15% as Other. Since the number of Shia Black Muslims is negligible, that means about 15% affiliated with the Nation of Islam, for a total of 45,000. How many of the 34% who are non-denominational are lapsed NOI members, is hard to tell, but that 34% is a group of 100,000 Black Muslims who could be lapsed or apostate NOI members now just referring to themselves as Muslims.

Thus, the core group of America-hating Black Muslims probably numbers between 50,000 and 100,000. It is no surprise that terrorist groups are courting this group, with its anti-American feelings and strong demographic skew towards violent felon. (Clarifying note: the NOI is notorious for its jail-house conversions). This corresponds with the high number of arrests made on home-grown Black Muslims terrorists recently. I can think of a number off the top of my head, including the DC Snipers, the group in South Florida, and the Navy traitor. What other cases am I forgetting?

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