This alienation becomes more problematic when one takes into the
account the relative sizes of the communities. The United States has
2.5 million Muslims, about 0.8% of the population. But France and
Germany have around 3.5 million and 4 million each, or about 6% and 5%
of their respective populations. Having more Muslim residents isn't a
bad thing, of course, but a larger community is going to experience
economic disparity and social alienation more severely than a small
population. It's also going to be more prone to extremism from within
and, just as worrisome, tension with the non-Muslim majority without.
Germans and Spaniards, after all, are twice as likely as Americans to
view Muslims unfavorably.
Concerns about the loyalty of Muslim-Americans have little basis. U.S.
Muslims are even happier with America than the average American. In
fact, 71% of American Muslims believe they "can get ahead with hard
work" -- an important sign of faith and investment in the American
system -- compared with only 64% of Americans overall. Similarly, 38%
are satisfied with the state of the United States, true of only 32% of
the general U.S. population. Encouragingly, that number rises to 45%
among foreign-born Muslims, who are more optimistic than their
native-born counterparts on every measure. (Native-born
African-Americans, one fifth of U.S. Muslims, poll more pessimistically
because they are, like the general African-American population they
come from, on average poorer. Their population has no ties abroad and
is not receptive to influence by foreign militants.) U.S. Muslims, unlike the
anti-globalist extremists elsewhere, are devout capitalists: they are
13% more likely to be self-employed or small-business owners than the
general population. Muslims, sometimes misunderstood as
hyper-religious, are not unusually so for America. Gallup polled 80% of
U.S. Muslims as calling religion important to them, compared to 76% of
U.S. Protestants. Both groups are equally observant: 41% say they
attend their place of worship weekly or more.
Like so many American immigrant groups before them, Muslim-Americans
willfully traveled to the U.S. seeking freedom and prosperity. They are
heavily invested in an America they want to make their own. This is no
doubt true of many Muslim Europeans, but unfortunately many others
traveled not by choice but by necessity as they fled poverty and
violence in neighboring regions. Arriving in Europe with less money,
less education, and less language, it is unsurprising that they have
difficulty adjusting. It is just as unsurprising -- and just as tragic
-- that Europeans, struggling through an economic recession just like Americans, are not always welcoming to the ever-rising immigrant population.
It's important to keep perspective. In even the most violent corners of
the Middle East and South Asia, terrorism is caused by a tiny minority
fringe of extremists. This fringe sometimes finds its way into Europe,
where it exploits an impoverished and isolated population of
immigrants. In America, that fringe has little more than a handful of
jihad-preaching websites that are as discredited among Muslims as the
Westboro Baptist Church is among evangelical Christians.