Eye On… the U.S. – Second Generation Muslim Americans

As we look at the unique experience of being Muslim in America, we want to examine the ways that second generation Muslims combine the precepts of Islam with the social norms of the United States. Does being born and raised in America affect Muslim identity? Are second generation Muslims more or less likely to be devout? Does the immigrant experience of their parents affect their perceptions of American life?

According to the Pew Research Center, second generation Muslim Americans account for 18% of the Muslim population in the United States and are slightly more likely to be classified as white than first generation Muslims (52%). When asked about the strength of religious conviction, there’s little variation in the responses from second generation Muslims: fasting during Ramadan, completing the five daily prayer, and obeying halal restrictions are only slightly less common when compared to immigrant Muslims. 40% of second generation Muslim women are likely to wear head coverings.

Satisfaction with life in the U.S. trends lower for those who were born in the States, as opposed to their immigrant parents. As Yasmin explains below, it’s possible that second generation Muslim feel more responsibility to affect change in the place of their birth. Politically and socially, second generation Muslims are more likely to recognize injustice and discrimination and feel empowered to take some form of action. However, whether immigrant or natural citizen, Muslims often express a high level of pride in being Muslim and American.

What should we do with this information? As with any set of statistics, we must acknowledge that numbers and percentages can’t tell us more than personal connection. However, it’s also important for us to acknowledge the considerable breadth of experiences within the Muslim community in America. Appearances, political affinities, and the level of religious devotion can vary, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not serve the Church well in making meaningful connections with Muslims. As we study these statistics, we must also recognize each Muslim as an individual that we have the opportunity to befriend!

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