The immigrant experience is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Islam in America. Most U.S. Muslim adults (58%) hail from other parts of the globe, their presence in America owing largely to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that lowered barriers to immigration from Asia, Africa and other regions outside Europe.
But the U.S.-born share of the American Muslim population is also considerable (42%). It consists of descendants of Muslim immigrants, converts to Islam (many of them black) and descendants of converts.
When Pew Research Center surveyed American Muslim adults in 2017, the findings revealed important similarities between foreign-born and U.S.-born Muslims. For example, immigrants and U.S.-born Muslims engage in religious practices at about the same levels. At the same time, there are also important differences. Immigrants tend to have secured a stronger socioeconomic foothold than U.S.-born Muslims, and they generally express more positive opinions about their place in America.
Diversity in origin, race
Both the immigrant and U.S.-born Muslim populations are racially and ethnically diverse, though in different ways. A large share of foreign-born Muslims are Asian, while many U.S.-born Muslims are black or Hispanic. And substantial shares of both foreign-born and U.S.-born Muslims identify as white, a category that also includes people who identify racially as Arab, Middle Eastern or Persian.
Muslim immigrants in the United States, roughly half of whom (56%) have arrived since the year 2000, come from a wide array of countries, and no single region or country of origin accounts for a majority of them. In total, immigrant respondents in Pew Research Center’s 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims named 75 different countries of origin. And this is reflected in their racial and ethnic diversity: No single racial or ethnic group accounts for a majority among Muslim immigrants, with 45% identifying as white and a similar share (41%) identifying as Asian.
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