Busting 12 Myths About American Muslims

Busting 12 Myths About American Muslims December 26, 2017

post 32 Dr ozBefore I talk about busting myths about American Muslims, let me start by dispelling a myth about Muslims worldwide.

“All (or most) Muslims are Arabs or Middle Eastern”

Not true.

Arabian Peninsula/Middle East/North African regions are predominantly Muslim, but the entire region makes up about 20% of Muslims. The majority of the Muslims (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.[1]

There are numerous myths and misunderstandings when it comes to American Muslims. Most, if not all, of them are based on skewed media reporting, resulting in stereotyping.

Much of the data in this article is based on several studies (in addition to the one cited already) conducted by Pew Research center[2], ISPU (Institute of Social Policy and Understanding)’s ‘ISPU-AMP 2017 Study’, conducted by Dalia Mogahed and Youssef Chouhoud[3] and ISPU-One Nation Bay Area’s ‘Bay Area Muslim Study’ by Professor Hatem Bazian and Professor Farid Senzai.[4]

So let’s bust some of these myths- one at a time.

  1. “Muslim Americans are old folks”

The research show that American Muslim community is generally younger compared to rest of Americans. While Millennial make up 32% of all U.S. adults, they account for roughly half of American Muslim adults, i.e half of American Muslims are millennials. So if you are marketing for millennials, you need to pay attention to the American Muslims!

  1. “American Muslims are mostly immigrants”

According to the Pew Research Center, American Muslims overall are largely an immigrant population (58%). What that also means is that 42% of American Muslims are not immigrants, much larger proportion than most would think.

52% of the Muslim American Millennials were born abroad, compared to the 64% of the older Muslim Americans. About half of the Muslim Americans were born in the USA, and are probably singing, “Born in the USA, I was…”

  1. “American Muslims are Arabs or Asians, and lack diversity”

The Muslim American community is actually more diverse than any other group, having no majority race. According to the ISPU AMP 2017 study, 25% Muslim Americans are Black, 24% white, 18% Arab (yes only 18%!), 18% Asians, 5% Hispanic and 7% of mixed race. A similar trend was found by the Pew Research Center’s study on the American Muslim Millennials.

The Bay Area Muslim study found that South Asians made up the largest group (30%), followed by Arabs (23%), Afghans (17%), Blacks (9%) and whites (6%).

  1. Religiosity: “All Muslims are ‘religious”. “Young Muslims are not very religious”.
Courtesy: Shutterstock
Courtesy: Shutterstock

 Roughly two-thirds of U.S. Muslims (65%) say religion is very important in their lives.  About 6 in 10 report praying at least daily and about 4 in 1o say they attend religious services at least weekly. By some of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations. [5]

Put differently, about 1 out of 3 American Muslim does not consider religion as very important in their lives. More than half don’t attend the Friday prayers. This may be due to the inability to take time off work for the mid-day Friday prayers, but a good 40% don’t pray on a daily basis-one of the 5 pillars of Islam.

Muslim Millennials are MORE likely than older Muslim adults to say religion is very important in their lives, and that they attend religious services at least weekly.

66% of the millennial said the religion is very important vs 54% of older American Muslims!

This is something I have observed myself at Friday sermons and in my dealings with the younger Muslim Americans.

The bay area Muslims seem to be “more religious”, and according to the Bay Area Muslim study 2 out of 3 Muslims indicated they attend weekly Friday sermons and prayers regularly.

  1. “American Muslims are anti-gay”

When asked whether “Homosexuality should be accepted in society”- 52% Muslims said, yes! The younger Muslims, like their Non Muslim counterparts, were more supportive of homosexuality. This may come as a surprise to even the American Muslims.

In terms of sexuality,  the ISPU-AMP 2017 poll showed that 90% of the American Muslims identify themselves as “straight” and the rest reported themselves as ‘bisexual’, ‘others’, or refused to answer.

  1. “American Muslims are all Democrats and anti-Republicans”

This may be partly true in that most Muslims favor or lean towards Democratic Party but the support is not as universal as one might assume, especially after the 2016 presidential election. Muslims support or lean heavily towards Democratic party (66%), and less so towards Republicans (13%), while 20% reported “others, or undecided”.

Lesson: Democrats- don’t take American Muslims for granted.

  1. “American Muslims are an unhappy bunch when it comes to the future of the nation”

According to the ISPU 2017 study, Muslims are satisfied with the country’s trajectory, despite the vast majority being displeased with the outcome of the presidential election. 41% of Muslims report being satisfied with the country’s current trajectory, a higher percentage than any other major faith group or those who are not affiliated with a faith. (Only 15% American Muslims favored a Donald Trump presidency.)

Despite the negative perceptions, Muslims continue to be civically engaged. The Bay Area study showed that 2 out of 3 Muslims volunteer their time to their mosques, non-profit organization and other local charities.

  1. “Domestic Violence does not happen among American Muslims”

This may be myth among the American Muslims, but it is not true. Domestic violence occurs in the Muslim community as often as it does in Christian and nonaffiliated communities, but Muslim victims are more likely to involve faith leaders.

Among Muslims, 13% said they knew someone in their faith community who was a victim of domestic violence (DV), similar to 15% of Catholics, 17% of Protestants, 14% of non-affiliated, and 15% of the general public, with 7% of Jews saying the same.

Just about half of the Muslims report the DV to their faith leaders. This is much higher than Catholics (23%), Protestants (35%) and Jews (28%). This is likely a reflection of Muslims involving their faith leaders/Imams in their domestic disputes.

  1. “Islamophobia is made up. Discrimination and Bullying against Muslims is rare”
courtesy: tolerance.org
courtesy: tolerance.org

Bullying is indeed a major problem for Muslim children as is the religious discrimination for all ages. Muslims (38%) and Jews (27%) were the two most likely groups to express serious safety concerns for themselves or their families from the white supremacist groups, as a result of the elections of 2016. Muslims are nearly twice as likely to report bullying among their school-age children as Jewish Americans (42% vs. 23%), and four times as likely as the general public (10%).

  1. “Muslims don’t care about ‘Black Lives Matters’- BLM”

This is totally not true. In fact Muslims are the most likely group to support the BLM movement (66%) compared to Jews and unaffiliated (58%) and Protestants/Catholics (39%).

  1. “American Muslims are uneducated, and women are even further behind in education”

The data shows that American Muslims have similar level of higher education as compared to Catholics and Protestants (and less than Jews). Muslim women are actually more likely to achieve post high school and higher level of education than Muslim men (73% vs 59% ). Come on guys!

The report also shows higher resilience shown by Muslim women despite higher level of discrimination and bullying they face. They are less likely to change their appearance to “look less Muslim”.

The Bay Area study indicates the Muslims in the bay area are more educated than rest of the country. 74% have achieved some college or higher and 1 out of 4 has completed graduate school.

  1. “American Muslims are not patriotic”

Flag faith usa-1491732__480I am sick of hearing that American Muslims don’t feel “American” or ‘don’t love America’. There is a perceived dichotomy between “America and Muslims”, even though Muslims are integral part of the American fabric.The Pew Research Center study confirms what American Muslims already knew- 9 out of 10 American Muslims reported they are “proud to be Americans”!



And here is an addendum after a good friend of mine reminded me of CNN’s Van Jones’ comments on American Muslims. If you knew an America Muslim family, you would know this to be very true. You can read more about that post here.

Honestly, if a Muslim family moved next door to you, you would be the happiest person in the world. First of all, the chances of your kids getting into trouble just went way down. OK, went way down. Because (American) Muslim community has the lowest crime rate, the highest entrepreneurship, the highest educational attainment for women in the country (US). They are the model American community.


Which one these factoids surprised you the most?

If you feel the facts noted here helped dispel some myths and helped you understand your American Muslim neighbors better, please continue to spread the word, and share it on your social media-icons can be found in the left upper corner of this post.


[1] Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world-August 9, 2017


[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/26/5-facts-about-muslim-millennials-us/

[3] https://www.ispu.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/AMP-2017-Key-Findings.pdf

[4] http://www.ispu.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ISPU_Executive_Summary_WEB.pdf

[5] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/

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