What to make of Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future (PDF here), an extensive study of polling data released by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center (ADGC) on August 2?
According to the report, Muslims are as likely as any U.S. faith group to describe themselves as "thriving" (p. 14), exceed all but Mormons in "combined integration-tolerance scores" (p. 42), are "least likely … to justify individuals or small groups attacking civilians" (p. 31), and surpass Jews (81% to 78%) in their support for a two-state solution (p. 29). Muslims also claim the most discrimination (p. 40) and are more likely than any other group to say that Muslims are both loyal to the U.S. (p. 35) and reject al-Qaeda (p. 32). The ADGC's indirect approach on the last two issues — asking others about Muslims' views and comparing the results to what Muslims say about Muslims — seems designed to push "Islamophobia" and preempt unwanted findings.
Georgetown's John Esposito and likeminded anti-anti-Islamists have declared the sanguine picture of Muslim Americans to be a massive defeat for those rightly emphasizing the threat of radical Islam in the United States. However, anti-Islamists have little reason to fret.
First, any ADGC analysis should be taken with a rather hefty grain of salt, considering that Dalia Mogahed directs the center. In addition to her well-documented history of promoting Islamists, whitewashing Shari'a, and beclouding Islamic terrorism, a 2008 book-length study by Esposito and Mogahed was criticized for using creative accounting to downplay Muslim radicalism.
Second, if the above numbers do reflect reality, they are far from a disaster for foes of radical Islam. Not only would genuinely good news about Muslim Americans' moderation be welcomed by anti-Islamists — most of whom yearn to see all Muslims embrace Western values — but the data also help undermine Islamists and their talking points:
The survey finds that support for Islamist lobby groups is feeble. Just 12% of Muslim men and 11% of women say that CAIR best represents their interests (p. 25); backing for ISNA, MPAC, and others is even weaker — an excellent opportunity for governments and media to dump these constituency-challenged radicals in favor of moderate partners.
Depicting the lives of Muslim Americans as fraught with suffering is the bread and butter of Islamists, but this grim portrait simply does not square with the data. If Muslims are "thriving" and "no other religious group … expects things to improve as much as do Muslim Americans" (p. 13), how bad can life really be for them? Not very bad at all.
Islamists inflate the number of U.S. Muslims to exaggerate their apparent clout, but the study further chips away at CAIR's oft-cited claim of seven million. Gallup's random polling sample contains only 0.45% Muslims (p. 59), which corresponds to 1.4 million among a U.S. population of 310 million, in the general range of a recent Pew estimate.
Those who rush to wholly pro-Islamist interpretations of the report miss the bigger picture.