Mohamed Younis, a senior analyst at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, discussed the realities surrounding faith, freedom and the future of Muslim life in the United States and Western Europe with an audience of more than 100 people at the University of Central Florida.
The event was organized by UCF’s Global Perspectives Office. It it was a feature of the newly created Al Ghazali Islamic Studies Program at UCF, a partnership among Global Perspectives and UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities.
Younis began his presentation by explaining that Gallup surveys public opinion to “get a temperature reading of Muslim-Americans and how they compare to other religious groups” within the contexts of politics, society and spirituality in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
Younis said the studies are particularly significant considering “the exciting, interesting and scary events that have happened in the Middle East this year.”
By measuring a special index known as “life evaluation,” the Gallup Center categorizes groups as thriving, struggling or suffering based on their perceived level of well-being.
An interesting finding of the study, Younis said, is that Muslim-Americans feel better off and more hopeful now than they did in 2008.
He noted that Muslim-Americans are just as likely as any other faith to be classified as thriving. In fact, he said, the life evaluations for Muslim-Americans improved more than any other religious group since 2008.
Younis said this is in direct contrast to the life evaluations of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Bahrain, where “the number of people categorized in the suffering group is skyrocketing.”
Muslim-Americans are also the most likely to reject violent military acts on civilians, which means they believe that it is never morally justifiable to target and kill civilians, he said. Similarly, the majority of Muslim-Americans, as well as Jewish-Americans and atheists, are not sympathetic to al Qaeda, and most believe that the Muslim community is doing enough to speak out against terrorism.
The data suggests, too, that the general Muslim-American population does not exhibit anti-American sentiments, Younis said. On the contrary, Younis noted, many Muslim-Americans strongly identify as American, and they express loyalty to the United States.
Yet despite this high level of loyalty, Muslim-Americans still face distrust from a significant number of fellow citizens, Younis explained. They are also more likely to have experienced racial and/or religious discrimination than any other religious group in the past year, he said.
Near the end of the forum, Younis was asked if it is easier for Muslims to integrate into American society than into Western European society.
He said that is not necessarily true because the level of assimilation is depends on factors that groups have to navigate in a new country, such as immigration rates, history and economic conditions.
Younis concluded by saying the dynamic of the community, the country and even the individual will dictate the local reality and experience for integration.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office and the Al Ghazali Islamic Studies Program, sponsors and partners of Younis’ presentation included the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.