A Gallup poll released Tuesday found that most Muslim Americans are very optimistic about their lives in the United States and loyal to a country that's given them a wealth of economic opportunities even though some Americans continue to treat the community with hostility.
But the report also identified one area of concern: how to improve the strained relationship between Muslims and other Americans.
Experts said the survey findings were important because they could mitigate some of the concerns Americans have about the susceptibility of American Muslims to extremist causes. The thinking goes that if people are satisfied with their lives, they're unlikely to get sucked into radical movements, which often prey on vulnerable people.
Asked to rate what their lives would be like in five years, Muslim Americans gave higher ratings than members of most other religious groups did. On a 1-to-10 scale, Muslims rated their future lives at 8.4, while Americans of other religious groups give average ratings of 7.4 to 8, Gallup pollsters said.
Mohamed Younis, a senior Gallup analyst, attributed Muslims' positive outlook to a range of reasons, from political factors to the slowly recovering economy having improved their standard-of-living expectations.
"We definitely see a lot of approval for President Barack Obama and a changed rhetoric around the role of Muslims in America and Muslim-U.S. relations globally," Younis said. The survey found Obama's job approval rating at 80 percent among American Muslims.
The survey, which consisted of two polls conducted from January 2010 to April 2011, comes from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center with some financial support from the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The firm surveyed 1,500 Muslim Americans and thousands of Americans from other faiths, with a margin of error of 0.3 to 6.6 percentage points.
With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaching, some Americans are still skeptical of the allegiances of Muslims who live in the United States. The poll found that more than a third of Protestants and Roman Catholics didn't believe that Muslim Americans were loyal to the United States.
More than nine in 10 Muslims surveyed thought that their community was loyal.
The concerns of some Americans may have been raised by incidents such as the November 2009 shooting spree that killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, and the attempted bombing of New York's Times Square in May 2010. U.S. citizens of Muslim extraction have been charged in the first case and have pleaded guilty in the second.
Panelists who introduced the survey at the National Press Club said those events didn't represent the true face of Muslims in this country, a group that on average is younger, holds a greater percentage of professional graduate degrees, and earns a higher income than average Americans.
"There are so many American Muslims who (have) served in the Army and in law enforcement. Those stories have not been told. All that you hear about is the negative view of Islam and Muslims," said Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America.
Law enforcement agencies remain concerned, however, about corners of the American Muslim community, such as Somali Americans living in Minnesota. Several dozen young Somali Americans have traveled in recent years to their East African home country to fight for al-Shabab, a State Department-designated terrorist group.