Last week, Associate Theresa Kempker shared her reflections about “building a barrier of love” to protect Muslims being harassed by a hate group. I was there also and it made a lasting impression on me. I kept thinking, “why do they (the hate group) hate these people so much?” Perhaps it’s ignorance because it certainly isn’t Jesus’ teaching to hate. This experience made me curious about American Muslims and I share my findings.
According to Teaching Tolerance (Tolerance.org) America has one of the most diverse Muslim populations in the world. The breakdown looks like this: 1/3 are African-American, 1/3 are of South Asian descent, ¼ are of Arab descent, and the rest are from all over the world. One half of the 3.5 million American Muslims were born in the U.S.
Some of the first Muslim immigrants were slaves brought to the U.S. from Africa in the 17th century. Scholars say that ¼ – 1/3 of the slaves were Muslims. The next wave came in the late 19th century when large numbers of Arabs, mostly from Lebanon and Syria came to the U.S. Most were Arab Christians but there were many Muslims who settled in the Midwest. The first mosque was built in Ross, North Dakota in 1929.
American Muslims are present in all walks of life, doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, accountants, homemakers, academics, media personalities, athletes, entertainers. Think Muhammad Ali, Fareed Zakaria, Shaquille O’Neal, Dr. Oz, Cat Stevens.
In an annual survey conducted by the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding whose mission is to conduct objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States, they discovered:
- 80% of Muslims reject violence carried out by an individual or small group
- 76% of Muslims say violence against civilians can never be justified, compared to 59% of the general public
- Someone perceived to be Muslim accused of a terror plot received 7 times the media coverage as someone not perceived to be Muslim.
- Attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 357% more coverage than other attacks.
- 46% of Muslims agree that wearing a visible symbol such as a head cover or hijab, makes their faith identity known to others.
Interestingly, they also found that:
- 86% of Americans say they “want to live in a country where no one is targeted for their religious identity.” There was agreement across faith communities ranged from 95% of Jews to 78% of white Evangelicals.
- 66% of Americans agree that “the negative things politicians say regarding Muslims is harmful to our country.”
- 55% of Americans say that most Muslims living in the United States are committed to the well-being of America.
Many of us believe that all religious contain a piece of the truth about our creator and compassionate God. Without our Muslim brothers and sisters, we would be missing a piece.