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Wed 3 Aug 2011 02:59 PM

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Muslim Americans least likely to back violence

US Muslims also more upbeat about the future than any other faith group, poll finds

Muslim Americans least likely to back violence
A young girl takes part in the American Muslim Day Parade on September 26, 2010 in New York

Muslim Americans are now more optimistic about their lives
than any other major American faith group as their economic well-being improves
and they feel more politically enfranchised.

A Gallup study released on
Tuesday found 60 percent of Muslim Americans surveyed reported they were
"thriving", slightly higher than for Americans of any other religion
except for Jews, who edged them out of the top spot by one percentage point.

Pollsters noted in particular
the rapid surge in positive sentiment among Muslim Americans. The percentage of
Muslims who were "thriving" grew by 19 points since 2008, double that
of any other major faith group.

"Muslim Americans are
happier and more optimistic today than at the end of 2008," Dalia Mogahed,
director of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, said by telephone.

"Muslim Americans today
feel a greater sense of belonging in their country," she added. Only three
percent of Muslim Americans said they were suffering, while 37 percent said
they were struggling.

Some 89 percent of Muslim Americans said that violent
attacks on civilians were never justified, compared to between 71 and 79
percent of other religious groups who felt the same way.

"The finding is
surprising because much of the rhetoric has been that the community hasn't been
vocal enough in its rejection of terrorism," Mogahed said.

Jewish Americans had some
views in common with Muslim Americans. A majority of Americans from both faiths
agreed on a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jewish Americans were also
the most likely religious groups, besides Muslims themselves, to believe that
Muslim Americans were loyal to the United States. Some 80 percent of Jews said
this, compared to 59 percent of Catholics and 56 percent of Protestants.

"There is an untapped
resource, and relationship and a possible coalition between Muslim and Jewish
Americans," Mogahed said.

Authors of the study said
they attributed Muslims’ upbeat outlook to improved economic conditions and a
sense of more political enfranchisement since the election of President Barack
Obama, a Christian with Muslim family roots who has reached out to communities
worldwide.

The report said Obama's
approval rating among Muslim Americans was 80 percent, and that 46 percent, or
a plurality, of Muslim Americans identified as Democrats, compared to only 9
percent who identified as Republicans.

"They may see Obama as
promoting policies that are more in keeping with their own political views than
those of former President George W. Bush," the report said.

Muslim Americans also felt,
to the tune of 64 percent, that their standard of living was getting better, up
from 55 percent in 2009 and 46 percent in 2008.

The report, which focused on
civic and spiritual engagement as well as overall well-being, said the
improvements in Muslim sentiment came despite continuing controversies.

Those included a controversy
surrounding a plan to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque near the site
of New York's September 11 Al Qaeda attack, and hearings on Islamic extremism
called by U.S. Representative Peter King, which critics viewed as a witch-hunt.

A Christian preacher also
caused an uproar last year by threatening to burn the Koran, and put himself
back in the spotlight in March after incinerating Islam's holy book.

"Despite some of these
perceived attacks on the community, they are feeling better overall about their
lives, about their country's leadership," Mogahed said.

Muslim Americans continued
to have a deep skepticism toward law enforcement and foreign policy. Some 60
percent of Muslim Americans had confidence in the FBI, while 70 percent had
confidence in the military, the lowest of any group.

Gallup said the study was one
of the most expansive of Muslim American public opinion to date. Instead of
finding respondents by selecting people with Islamic-sounding names or going to
parts of the country with large Muslim populations, the study is drawn from a
random selection of U.S. households.

Gallup said it interviewed
3,883 self-identified Muslim American adults from January 2008 to April 9,
2011. The margin of error or confidence level in the data is 95 percent, Gallup
said.

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