Poll finds Muslims in United States more confident than those abroad

By Christopher Blake
April 16, 2009

they instantly associate Islam with terrorism,” Bassam Omar, sophomore business administration major, said. “If a group of Christians went and tried to blow up a building, you wouldn’t see people accusing all Christians of being terrorists.”

Omar, 20, lives in Collegeville, Pa., and commutes to Cabrini College. He was born and raised in the United States, other than a three-year stint in Egypt. Omar’s Islamic faith plays an important role in his life. He regularly visits a mosque in Devon, Pa.

“I don’t live by my religion 110 percent, but not a lot of people do,” Omar said. “But I try to be the best Muslim I can be.”

The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies recently conducted a poll that found Muslims in the United States are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving.

The organization interviewed more than 300,000 American Muslims by telephone in 2008 while focusing on 946 Muslims.

“I believe on an overall basis, most Muslims are content with their religion. I have yet to meet a Muslim that has questioned their religion or said, ‘I don’t approve of this or I don’t approve of that,'” Omar said.

However, the poll found that within the United States, compared with Jews, Mormons and Roman Catholics, Muslims are the least content religious group.

“I don’t see myself as Muslim first and then an American. I see myself as an American Muslim,” Villanova University Muslim Student Association President Irfan Kahn said.

Kahn heads the Villanova chapter of the nationwide organization that was founded in the late 1960s. Campuses across the United States raise awareness on the Islamic tradition through the student-run group.

“We try to get together and bring a community aspect to Muslim life in America,” Kahn said.

Kahn estimates the Villanova MSA has 55 members including 20 non-Muslims.

Each year there are two major events held, including a Ramadan dinner celebrating the Muslim Holy Month and an Islamic Awareness Week that educates students on faith.

A counseling service that allows members of the Muslim community and non-Muslims to come discuss and question the faith has been implemented. In addition, they provide weekly transportation to Friday services at the Foundation for Islamic Education at Villanova in Villanova, Pa.

“There are a lot of similarities between Muslims and Christians; there are a lot more similarities than differences to be honest,” Kahn said. “We highlight how closely Islam, Judaism and Christianity are related because that is something you do not hear a lot about, especially after Sept. 11.”

Although Cabrini does not offer a Muslim Student Association, Muslim students, including Omar, can appreciate the organization’s actions and intentions.

“I think it would be a good idea if Cabrini tagged up with Villanova and other schools to get involved with the organization,” Omar said. “It would be beneficial for the students to learn about Islam so the ignorance is not ongoing.”

The Gallup poll found clear signs of social alienation among American Muslims. “They are less likely to be satisfied with the area where they live. These indicators are “worrying,” Senior Analyst at the Muslim Studies Center Ahmed Younis said.

“We’re in this financial crisis, there’s a lot of political turmoil across all religious groups and I think American Muslims are mimicking the same feelings that their non-Muslim counterparts are. They’re seeing their finances dwindle, they’re seeing their homes being in danger of being foreclosed, so their mimicking the same things that everyone else is going through,” Kahn said.

Christopher Blake

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