Pew: Christians still make up most of US immigrant population, but Muslim share is growing

No worries!  Only a quarter of a million US Muslims say violence against civilians in the name of Islam may sometimes be justified!

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life came out with a new study just yesterday about the religious make-up and size of the mostly legal immigrant population in the US.

As you read through this ponder these facts (I’ve rounded the numbers):

~ The US population is around 315 million.

~Pew says the US Muslim population as of 2011 was 2.75 million.

~We are adding roughly 1 million immigrants a year (for the past 20 years) and 100,000 of them are Muslim.

~Christians make up the largest share, but the share of Muslims and Hindus is growing.

Here are some interesting segments of Pew’s conclusions (I’ve highlighted the parts that interest me):

Over the past 20 years, the United States has granted permanent residency status to an average of about 1 million immigrants each year. These new “green card” recipients qualify for residency in a wide variety of ways – as family members of current U.S. residents, recipients of employment visas, refugees and asylum seekers, or winners of a visa lottery – and they include people from nearly every country in the world. But their geographic origins gradually have been shifting. U.S. government statistics show that a smaller percentage come from Europe and the Americas than did so 20 years ago, and a growing share now come from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.

With this geographic shift, it is likely that the religious makeup of legal immigrants also has been changing. The U.S. government, however, does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents. As a result, the figures on religious affiliation in this report are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin.  [US refugee program does track religious affiliation, they just don’t make the information public.—ed]

While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one-in-five (19%) to one-in-four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012).

More coming from Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The geographic origins of new permanent residents have shifted markedly during the past two decades, according to U.S. government data. In 1992, a total of 41% of new permanent residents came from the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East-North Africa region or sub-Saharan Africa. By 2012, more than half (53%) of new green card holders were from those regions.

No surprise!  Most Muslim population growth in US is coming from immigration.

The estimated number of new Muslim immigrants varies from year to year but generally has been on the rise, going from roughly 50,000 in 1992 to 100,000 in 2012. Since 2008, the estimated number of Muslims becoming U.S. permanent residents has remained at or above the 100,000 level each year. [Readers, that means that probably the biggest chunk of legal Muslim immigration is coming through our refugee and asylum programs—ed]

Between 1992 and 2012, a total of about 1.7 million Muslims entered the U.S. as legal permanent residents. That constitutes a large portion of the overall U.S. Muslim population (estimated at 2.75 million as of 2011).

Most Muslim immigrants coming from Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Iraq, Somalia and Ethiopia.

The most common countries of origin among Muslim immigrants in 1992 included Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh. Those countries, as well as Iraq, also were among the most likely birthplaces of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012.

In recent years, a higher percentage of Muslim immigrants have been coming from sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 16% of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012 were born in countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia. In 1992, only about 5% of new Muslim immigrants came from sub-Saharan Africa.  [Whew! That means about 16,000 Somalis and Ethiopians came last year!  Higher than I thought!—ed]

Now just for fun, go to Pew’s worldwide Muslim survey last month, here.

Don’t you just love it how Pew spins this with the word ‘few’!

Few U.S. Muslims voice support for suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam; 81% say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam. Around the world, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. However, substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.

So, if we have roughly 2.75 million Muslims in the US and 8% say it’s often or sometimes justified to use suicide bombings and violence against civilians in the name of Islam, that means that 220,000 American Muslims think violence against civilians is justified (someone check my math, maybe I have too many zeros!).  Ahhhhh!

I’m confident (aren’t you?) that when we take immigrants from Egypt, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories that we are only getting those from the percentage who do not approve of violence against civilians in the name of Islam—right!

I bet there is a lot of juicy stuff in here for anyone with the patience to dissect it!

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