Microtrends on Muslims
The first book I ever bought for my Kindle is “Microtrends” by Mark Penn. It is the perfect book for commuting because each of its chapters is a few pages long and is a self-contained microtrend about some aspect of American society. It makes for perfect information snacks but I must admit that I have almost missed my train stop a couple of times because I just wanted to sit down and read the next chapter.
What is fascinating is just how diverse this shows American society to be. “Cougars” and “Internet Marrieds”, “Stained Glass Ceiling Breakers” and “Pro-Semites”, “Southpaws Unbound” and “Hard of Hearers”, “Late-Breaking Gays” and “Dutiful Sons”, the book makes you want to “ask around or watch people on a busy street corner for a few minutes, and you will spot them soon enough”.
But for this post, I wanted to discuss the “Moderate Muslims” chapter. I read this at the time that Bush visited Bahrain and the other Gulf states. On the train, as I read my Kindle, I could see the front page of the “Express“, the local free daily, with photographs of (very cute) Israeli children waving Israeli and American flags. On page seven, however, was some masked gunman with a burning American flag. I am not sure what he was thinking (was he thinking?) but it was clear to me who I would prefer to discuss the Middle East peace process with. So it is no surprise that:
Almost half of Americans have a negative view of Islam. When asked to rate their views of all major religions, only Scientology ranks lower.
The book was written before Tom Cruise’s latest Scientology gem, so the Muslims may well have inched further ahead, but it is still a bad place to be. What is interesting, given the project I am currently working on, is that:
If one knows a Muslim personally, one’s views are moderated – but only a little more than one-third of Americans do know a Muslim personally.
Here is why knowing a Muslim makes a difference:
Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions – up from the 35 percent who felt that way six months after the 2001 attacks. More than half of Americans say Muslims are not respectful of wormen. Forty-four percent say Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs. Twenty-two percent say they wouldn’t want a Muslim living next door.
But if you look at an actual demographic portrait of Muslims in America, there’s quite a contrasting picture.
Americans think Muslims are violent? An overwhelming 81 percent of American Muslims support gun control, compared to barely half of Americans who do. Muslims are religiously extreme? Twenty-five percent of Muslims say they attend religious services on a weekly basis – virtually identical to the 26 percent of Americans overall who say they don’t.[…]
In fact, if I were to describe for you a cohort of Americans who got married at a rate of 70 percent, registered to vote at a rate of 82 percent, were college-educated at a rate of 59 percent, and were on average making more than $50,000 a year – what group would you guess they were?
Because that’s the average Muslim in America. Young, family-oriented, well educated, prosperous, and politically active.
What I want to do is to help ordinary Americans get to know these ordinary Muslims and their values.