By Alan Duke, CNN
August 2nd, 2011
(CNN) – Muslim Americans are more optimistic about their future than members of any other religious group in the United States, according to a Gallup report released Tuesday.
“They have generally optimistic and positive views about government, its agencies and the future of America, but they report a significant level of prejudice and discrimination,” said Ahmed Younis, an analyst for the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center.
Nearly half of the Muslim Americans surveyed by Gallup said they have experienced racial or religious discrimination in the United States, according to the report, which was compiled by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center from two years of polling.
“The American Muslim story is the American story in many ways,” said Younis.
The report assessed the group’s perceptions and attitudes and those of other religious groups toward Muslim Americans a decade after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Polling of Americans of other religions supported the Muslim American perceptions of prejudice, Younis said.
“The opinion of Americans is still divided and the perception of loyalty of Muslim Americans is still questioned by a considerable portion of Americans,” he said.
They express loyalty to the United States, but face distrust from a significant minority of other citizens, the report said.
The polling found that 69% identified strongly with the United States while 65% said the same about their faith.
“Muslim Americans are thoroughly American in their allegiance and identity and don’t see a conflict between that and being thoroughly Muslim,” Younis said.
Ninety-three percent of U.S. Muslims said they believe other Muslim Americans are loyal to the country, while significant minorities in other religious groups doubted that loyalty, the report said.
Thirty-seven percent of American Protestants and 35% of Catholics said they didn’t agree that Muslims living in the United States were loyal to the country.
Nearly all Muslim Americans, 92%, said they believed that Muslims living in United States had no sympathy for al Qaeda, the terror group responsible or the 9/11 attacks.
They are, as a group, critical of counter-terrorism measures imposed since the terror attacks and a large percentage distrust the FBI, the report said.
There is evidence of “a big friction” between Muslim Americans and federal law enforcement, Younis said.
Just 60% of Muslim Americans said they have confidence in the FBI, compared to 75% or more of Americans of other major faiths, the report said.
While 81% believe it is not possible to profile a terrorist based on demographic traits, just 49% of other Americans agree.
“There’s a significant percentage of Americans that believe racial profiling is an efficient way of conducting law enforcement activities,” Younis said.
Attitudes about racial profiling are also reflected in what Muslim Americans say about prejudice they face. Sixty percent of U.S. Muslims say other Americans pre-judge them based on their ethnicity.
“At 48%, Muslim Americans are by far the most likely of major faith groups surveyed to say they have personally experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year,” the report said. “The next most likely are Mormon Americans, although less than one-third of U.S. Mormons say this.”
Just 63% of Muslim Americans said they feel respected when they practice their religion in public. Eighty-one percent of all Protestants and Catholics and 85% of Mormon Americans said they felt respected.
“There is still a little bit of hostility in the public square as it relates to Muslim Americans and their place in society,” Younis said.
Muslim Americans generally feel better off and more hopeful in 2011 than they were in 2008, when a similar Gallup report was produced. While 60% said they were thriving, about the same level as most major religious groups, they are the most optimistic about their lives in five years.
Americans overall rate their future a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, but Muslim Americans rate theirs at 8.4, the report said.
Jewish Americans ranked as second most optimistic at 8.0, following by nonreligious, atheists and agnostic respondants at 7.9.
Mormans’ optimism was rated at 7.8 and Catholics at 7.7, while American Protestants were the least optimistic about the future with 7.4, the report said.
One explanation for their optimism is that Muslim Americans were hurt more than other major religious groups by the recession and have experienced more improvement in the recovery, the report said.
The election in 2008 of President Obama, a Christian with Muslim roots, may be one factor in their optimism, the report said. They give Obama’s performance an 80% approval rating, the highest of any religious group. President Bush’s approval rating among Muslim Americans was just 7% near the end of 2008.
With the exception of Jewish Americans, all other religious groups rate Obama below 50%, the report said.
Muslim Americans represent the most racially diverse religious community in the United States, the Gallup report said.
“For instance, Asian Muslims are easily the most likely in America to be thriving,” it said. “Black Muslims report more financial hardship than do white Muslims, and black Muslims are somewhat less likely than other Muslims in the U.S. to be satisfied with their standard of living.”
One “intriguing finding” of the analysis is the indication that “frequent mosque attendance might lessen stress and anger,” the report said.
“It also takes away from the theory that mosque attendance stokes Muslims’ anger and radicalizes them,” it said. “Rather, Muslim Americans are no different from other major U.S. religious communities who appear to draw peace of mind from their faith.”
The Abu Dhabi Gallup Center is a partnership between the opinion research firm Gallup and the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.