Despite having a faith tradition different to the predominant Christian traditions in the United States, Muslim Americans share much in common with other US religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants, a new study has found - writes Chris Herlinger, for ENI from New York, USA.
"Although Muslims constitute a small minority in the United States, and their holy book and many of their religious rituals are distinctly their own, Muslim Americans are by no means 'the other' when it comes to religious life or politics in the United States," said the study's authors, Robert Ruby and Greg Smith of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
"In many ways", say the two researchers, "[Muslim Americans] stand out not so much for their differences as for their similarities with other religious groups."
The Pew study - "How Muslims Compare With Other Religious Americans" - found that though Muslim Americans generally tend to be more politically liberal than white evangelical Christians, the two groups share similar conservative positions on a number of social issues, including that of homosexuality.
Some 61 percent of Muslims and 63 percent of white evangelicals agreed that "homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society". By contrast, only 36 percent of white "mainline" Protestants and 31 percent of Roman Catholics agreed with this statement.
The Pew study, released on 13 July, found that Muslim Americans also share affinities with black Protestants in the United States, thus making Muslims, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants the most expressly religious groups in the country.
The study indicates that substantial majorities in each group - 72 percent of Muslim Americans, 80 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 87 percent of black Protestants - believe that religion is "very important" in their own lives. This is in marked contrast to Roman Catholics at 49 percent and white traditional Protestants at 36 percent on the same issue.
The study also found striking similarities between Muslims, white evangelicals and black Protestants on the issue of personal identity, with 28 percent of Muslim Americans and white evangelical Protestants and 33 percent of black Protestants identifying themselves as Americans first and members of their religious tradition second.
A higher percentages of white evangelicals (62 percent) and black Protestants (55 percent) identify themselves more by faith than nationality than the number of Muslims who do so (47 percent), the study indicated.
The results of the study can be found at: http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=234
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]