NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 1, 2005

If the United States is ever attacked by American jihadis, we will no doubt ask the same questions about our Muslim community that Britons are now asking about theirs, says the Wall Street Journal.

First, the Journal disposes of the common misconception that Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans are one and the same. In fact, most Arab-Americans are not Muslim, and most Muslim Americans are not Arab. While the U.S. Census Bureau is forbidden by law from keeping figures on religious identification, it does collect voluminous information on race and ethnicity.

Here is what we do know:

  • According to the 2000 census, there are 2.1 million Americans of Arab descent, of whom only 24 percent (according to the Arab American Institute) are Muslim.
  • A 2004 Zogby International survey reveals about one-third of Muslim Americans are of South Asian descent, 26 percent are Arab and another 20 percent are American blacks.
  • The actual number of Muslims in America remains controversial; all major Muslim advocacy groups put the number at above six million, but in the most credible study to date, Tom Smith (University of Chicago) estimates the total Muslim population at 1,886,000.

Whatever the real figure, the Journal says Muslim Americans, like Arab-Americans, have fared well in the United States. Consider:

  • According to the Zogby study, 59 percent of American Muslims have at least an undergraduate education, making them the most highly educated group in America.
  • Muslim Americans are also the richest Muslim community in the world, with four in five earning more than $25,000 a year and one in three more than $75,000.
  • As for civic participation, 82 percent are registered to vote, half of them Democrats.

The Journal says America's Muslims tend to be role models both as Americans and as Muslims. But, of course, there can be no guarantees.

Source: Bret Stephens and Joseph Rago, "Stars, Stripes, Crescent," Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2005; Census 2000 Special Report, "We the People of Arab Ancestry in the United States," U.S. Census Bureau, March 2005; and Tom W. Smith, "Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States," National Opinion Research Center, October 2001.

For text (subscription required):,,SB112485081894821528,00.html

For U.S. Census Bureau Arab American Report:


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