The Gallup Poll’s recent survey on the various religious groups in America makes for interesting reading, particularly the data with respect to Muslims. I’ve noticed a few bloggers objecting to being labeled as Muslim Americans, but this is not a particular problem for me. First of all, compared to other things we’ve been called, I don’t get the objection. It beats being called a Terrorist Loving American. Or an Oppressed Muslim Woman. Or how about that Sand Nigger American? Oh! I almost forgot: Wahhabi American and Taliban American! Yeah, so Muslim American is music to my ears and my heart. I’m easily pleased that way. Secondly, so what? You’re not just an average American; you’re like every other minority in this country. There are African Americans, Chinese Americans, Irish Americans, and now Muslim Americans. So, this is a breakdown by religion…but the survey also talks about Jewish Americans. Given that it’s a survey of religious groups, they are discussing Catholic Americans, Jewish Americans, and Protestant Americans, too. That is the nature of the very survey! Some say that this is a code name for Pakistani American. I don’t really see it that way. Indo/Paks in this country call themselves…wait for it…Indian American and Pakistani American all the time. And when they’re feeling particularly cute, they call themselves ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis) routinely. Muslim American is just that: A Muslim who is also an American. It’s a discussion of a religious identity as opposed to a nationalistic one, and there is no reason to read more into it than there really is.
So, that’s the bloggers. Then, there’s the poll itself. It reveals our incredible racial diversity (nobody in the Muslim American community should be surprised), our amazing levels of education (again, should not be a surprise) second only to Jewish Americans, and that our gender economic parity is unparalleled. Basically our men and women are earning equal salaries, both in the high and low ends of the scale.
On the other hand, only about 51% percent of us vote, the lowest of any other religious group. We are the least likely to see ourselves as “thriving.” And 90% of our youth did not smile the day before. Why do so few of us vote?! I don’t get it. Voting is free, people. They won’t throw you into Gitmo for voting. Maybe your vote won’t make a difference, but how the hell will you know if you didn’t even bother to show up?! With regards to the non-thriving bit…yes, I can see where this is coming from. We’ve definitely suffered an image problem over the last couple of Presidential terms, which is a significant period of time. This image problem definitely extends to the university campuses and workplaces across America, and it certainly is demoralizing. Conversely, out of the Muslims in various Western countries, we are among the groups with the largest percentage of respondents to say that we are thriving. Basically, we have less to worry about than our brethren in, say, France, Germany, or Great Britain. Out of places in the Muslim world, the only country where Muslims have a similarly optimistic outlook on thriving or not is Saudi Arabia. So, basically, America makes us about as happy as Saudi Arabia would? If I’m reading that right. Of course, those of a neo-conservative philosophy should love that parallel.
As for the fact that 90% of our youth have not found something to smile about the previous day, this is downright tragic. Kids, you’ve got your text messaging cell phones, your Facebooks, your education, pretty much everything you could ask for. In addition, when you bring home that 4.0 GPA (think back to the education part of the poll), your parents treat you like kings and queens for about a decade. You’ve got a lot to smile about, and if there isn’t anything to smile about, we have to remember the hadith that says, “Even a smile is charity.” If you chilled out with your friends the day before, did you not smile with them? If you went to the mall, did you not smile at random strangers as a basic form of human greeting? (Or is this just more proof that I’m weird?)
I wonder…are we not thriving or smiling as a community because we’re too busy freaking out about being called Muslim Americans? Dudes and dudettes, there are people in the world who really have nothing to smile about. There are people in the world who really aren’t thriving. At least you got a chance to take part in a survey. The least you can do is feel acknowledged and smile about it! I know it may sound like I’m trivializing the seriousness of our ills, but I’m truly baffled.