- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

Middle Eastern immigrants to the United States are among the fastest-growing groups in America, numbering about 1.5 million in the 2000 census and potentially reaching 2.5 million by 2010, according to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
There are also 570,000 U.S.-born children of Middle Eastern immigrants, and by 2010 that could grow to 950,000, according to the report, which was based on an analysis of census data.
The number of Middle Eastern immigrants is a sevenfold increase over 1970, and one key part of that growth has been a gigantic shift from mostly Christian immigrants to mostly Muslim immigrants, said Steven A. Camarota, the center's director of research. He said in 1970 only 15 percent of immigrants from Middle Eastern nations were Muslim; in 2000, about 75 percent were Muslim.
At a forum to discuss the center's report yesterday, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, said about 80 percent of Islamic schools, newspapers, mosques and other institutions subscribe to a militant version of Islam.
"In its long history of immigration, the United States has never encountered so violent-prone and radicalized a community as the Muslims who have arrived since 1965," he concluded.
Stephen Steinlight, a senior fellow at the American Jewish Committee, said the growing Muslim population in the long term could substantially change America's history of support for Israel.
"Down the road, that's only going to get worse. The battle's going to be joined at a different level," he said.
But Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), defended the new immigrants' rights.
"I think you're going to find that people, when they come to this country, are going to have viewpoints that differ with him. When they're going to come, they have every right as American citizens to voice their viewpoints on American foreign policy," she said.
Mr. Camarota estimated there are about 3 million Muslims in the United States, with about two-thirds of those being Middle Eastern immigrants or their U.S.-born children and the rest mostly native-born converts.
That's less than half the 6 million to 7 million number of Muslims that CAIR and other advocacy groups cite, and far below the upper estimate of 12 million Muslims found in some news reports.
"It just doesn't comport with everything we see in the demographic files," Mr. Camarota said.
The numbers matter, Mr. Steinlight said: "As an ethnic group in the United States which as every other group seeks to promote its agendas, the good news in the short to midterm is they're smaller."
Ms. Hassan, though, said CAIR stands by its estimate of Muslims. She said CAIR's unique connections to Muslim communities and institutions gives them better information.
The CIS report found that Middle East immigrants are less likely to own their home, one in five lives in poverty, and almost 23 percent of households headed by a Middle East immigrant use at least one major welfare program.
Still, they tend to be better-educated than native U.S. residents about half hold bachelor's degrees, compared to 28 percent of natives. They also perform as well economically as natives 30- and 40-year-old Middle Eastern males with a college education have the same median income as natives, and Middle East immigrants are more likely be self-employed.
Those were encouraging findings, Miss Hassan said, pointing also to the data that showed 55 percent of Middle Eastern immigrants have gained American citizenship significantly more than the 38 percent average for all immigrants.

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