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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. In many ways, they stand out not so much for their differences as for their similarities with other religious groups.
In their level of religious commitment, Muslim Americans most closely resemble white evangelicals and black Protestants. In their basic political orientation, they closely resemble black Protestants as well as seculars. When it comes to their views on some social issues, such as homosexuality, Muslims' conservatism matches that of white evangelicals. Muslims are even more likely than evangelicals or any other group to support a role for government in protecting morality.
Muslims account for less than one percent of the country's population, whereas eight-in-10 Americans are Christian. Recent public opinion surveys by the Pew Research Center find that, with respect to the intensity of their religious beliefs, Muslim Americans most closely resemble white evangelicals and black Protestants. Within all three groups, large majorities (72% of Muslim Americans, 79% of white evangelicals and 85% of black Protestants) say religion is "very important" in their own lives. Those notably high percentages set all three groups apart from Catholics (49%) and white mainline Protestants (36%).
Half of Muslim Americans (50%) view the Koran as the word of God to be taken literally, word for word. Majorities of both white evangelicals (66%) and black Protestants (68%) hold a similar view of the Bible. Among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, by contrast, far fewer than half (25% and 22%, respectively) take a literal view of the Scriptures.
None of this is to suggest that Muslims and Christians do not have distinctly different religious beliefs and practices. Nevertheless, the resemblance in religious intensity of Muslims to many groups that might think of themselves as wholly unlike Muslims is striking.
- Source: How Muslims Compare With Other Religious Americans, by Robert Ruby and Greg Smith, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, July 6, 2007
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