CC ISSUE: OCT2011 Last updated: 2011-09-29 14:28:02
Muslim Americans: The Past, Present and the Future
Dr. Zaher Sahloul
Recent published studies about Muslim Americans have painted an optimistic picture of the Muslim community, its present and its future. Previous studies have shown that Muslim Americans are the most racially diverse religious group in the United States. African Americans make up the largest contingent within the population, at 35%, 28% are white, 18% Asian and18% from other racial backgrounds.
Muslims are a young community with an average age of 37. They tend to have large families, second only to Mormons. They are mostly middle class and happy with their lives. In addition, as a group, Muslim Americans have the highest degree of economic gender parity at the high and low ends of the income spectrum. Muslim American women are one of the most highly educated female religious groups in the United States, second only to Jewish American women.
According to a recent Gallup study, Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom and the Future, a decade following September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans still face some public distrust and are more skeptical of law enforcement than are other U.S. faith communities. Despite these challenges, American followers of Islam are optimistic about their future, and they embrace their country’s civic institutions and religious pluralism.
Other important findings of the study showed that:
- Muslim Americans are more likely to say military attacks on civilians are never justified. At least 7 in 10 American adults from all major religious groups agree that these attacks are never justified, but Muslim Americans again are most opposed, with 89% rejecting such attacks.
- More than 50% say that they faced discrimination in the last year, more than any other religious group.
- Frequent mosque attendance and a strong religious identity are associated with greater civic engagement and emotional health among Muslim Americans.
- Muslim Americans were the most likely of any religious group to express confidence in the fairness of elections.
- Muslims are among the most integrated and tolerant among faith groups even though that they believe that they are often the victims of prejudice. Muslim Americans are among the most tolerant of all major faiths in the U.S. Their combined integration-tolerance scores — in effect, a measure of their welcoming of religious pluralism — is higher than that of U.S. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews and is matched by that of Mormon Americans
- Most Americans also admit to knowing almost nothing about Islam. This knowledge gap not only hurts Muslim Americans, but also American society as a whole, since the health of democracy depends on a well-informed citizenry.
The study concluded with recommendations to further improve integration and civic engagement of Muslim Americans stressing on interfaith dialogue and civic engagement.
The study recommended:
- Increasing opportunities for education and engagement in and among faith groups. Gallup’s research uncovered a link between Muslim Americans’ trust in their national institutions and the quality of interaction between Muslim Americans and people of other faiths.
- Increase multi-religious service opportunities focused on the needs or challenges of the larger local community. This approach can help build shared experiences based on shared interests and, therefore, trust between communities and individuals.
Muslim Americans, especially in Illinois, have been leading the way in interfaith dialogue, interfaith-civic engagement and building coalitions with other faith groups promoting shared values and social justice. Through different initiatives, such as Illinois Muslim Action Day, and being a member of different coalitions like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees Rights for comprehensive immigration reform and the Golden Door Coalition for better lives for refugees, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago has been a model that other Islamic federations and Councils are following.
We are mapping the way ahead, united by faith, empowered by a collective vision, enriched by our diversity and joined by our faith and civic partners. Join us in our journey.