Over the past decade, the Muslim community has become included in diversity initiatives in the United States. Hollywood is finally producing shows that feature Muslim characters, such as Hulu’s Ramy, Netflix’s Mo, and Disney+’s Ms. Marvel. Universities are adjusting dining hall hours to accommodate Muslim students who fast during Ramadan, and they are increasing the number of reflection spaces on campus to facilitate Muslim ritual prayer. Nike launched its Pro Hijab, a headscarf for Muslim women athletes, and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad became its model. Muhammad also served as the inspiration for the first Muslim Barbie doll.
These initiatives enhance our sense of belonging as Muslims in the U.S.—but they are not enough to actually challenge Islamophobia.
The Nov. 8 midterms almost saw Dr. Mehmet Oz become the first Muslim U.S. Senator. The Republican TV doctor-turned-politician—who wasn’t exactly popular among a wide swathe of Muslim Americans—would have been a controversial first for the community. But Oz’s loss to Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania masks what was otherwise a record-breaking election for the community of at least 3.45 million people.
Muslim Americans won at least 83 seats across local, state, and federal midterm elections as of Thursday morning, according to an analysis by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights and advocacy group, and Jetpac, a nonprofit focused on increasing Muslim political representation in the U.S. Almost 150 Muslim Americans had run this year for office, including 51 state legislative candidates across 23 states.
This year’s wins surpass the prior record of 71 that CAIR and Jetpac counted in 2020; they have been tracking this data for the last six years.
Beyond these topline figures, several Muslims became the first representatives of their communities to enter statehouses. Illinois had its first Muslim Americans elected to the general assembly: 23-year-old Nabeela Syed and 33-year-old Abdelnasser Rashid both won seats in the state house. Salman Bhojani and Suleman Lalani became the first Muslims elected to the Texas legislature. In Georgia, Palestinian American Ruwa Romman became the first Muslim woman elected to the State House. In total, Georgia elected four Muslim Americans to office.
(RNS) — To Eman Abdelhadi, getting an abortion was the most sensible thing to do. She was six weeks pregnant and a graduate student who wasn’t financially ready to have a child. She felt no shame or guilt going through with it.
“I had no qualms about it. I grew up in an environment and a religious tradition that sees my life as the most important thing,” said Abdelhadi, a professor at the University of Chicago who was raised in a Muslim household. “It felt very clear to me. There was never anything like, ‘You did something unethical.’”
Abdelhadi, whose mother was a gynecologist in Egypt, grew up with the idea that abortion was a “nonsensical thing to legislate” and that legalizing it was necessary to prevent people from seeking other, potentially dangerous means of terminating pregnancies.
Islamic law is flexible, Abdelhadi said, and when it comes to making a decision about abortion, “people will consult with their families, their religious leaders, and then they’ll ultimately make a decision for themselves.”
“You’ll do what feels right,” she said.
As the United States Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, Muslim Americans are gearing up for what the landmark reversal could mean for their communities.
Most American Muslims believe gun control laws should be stricter, a new report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (Ispu) has found.
According to the poll, 65 percent of Muslim respondents believe existing gun control laws need to be stricter, slightly higher than the 64 percent of Jews and Catholics that were polled.
Muslims are more likely than Protestants (54 percent), white Evangelicals (30 percent), and the general public (57 percent) to hold this view.
According to the survey, white Muslims were more likely than white Americans in the general public to believe gun laws should be stricter. But Black Muslims were more likely than Black Americans to believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be less strict.
The report, which will be released in full in August, comes just two weeks after 21 people, mostly children, were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
According to data from the Washington Post, more than 311,000 children in America have experienced gun violence in school since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. In that same period, 185 were killed and 369 were injured.
“All Americans are unfortunately impacted by gun violence, directly or indirectly. As our local, state and national leadership work to find effective solutions, public opinion is critical to understand,” Meira Neggaz, Ispu’s executive director, told Middle East Eye.
“Our work researching American Muslim opinions, in comparison to other groups in the country’s faith landscape, uncovers that most groups and the majority of Americans are aligned in their concern about the current state of gun laws.”
We know that health disparities are a looming threat to minority groups’ quality of life and well-being. Yet, most popular attention on minority health disparities, both in the medical literature and in the public, focuses on racial and ethnic disparities. While these inequities are real and rightfully deserve attention, other demographic gaps, such as those among Muslim Americans, are also important.
Part of what makes the Muslim population so beautiful is the immense diversity; no single racial or ethnic group constitutes more than 30% of the total Muslim American population. What’s more, millions of Muslims are also racial or ethnic minorities and (or) immigrants. This creates a risk of intersectional stigma — which can adversely affect individual mental health.
As authors, we care about this topic because our background as Muslim Americans means we cannot remain silent about the challenges that confront our community. Washington State is home to a steadily growing Muslim population, with a current population of over 100,000 Muslims, with the majority of them residing in King County.
Growing up in the greater Seattle area, we have witnessed incidents of harassment and discrimination against Muslims. Muslims of all ages and backgrounds are subject to this discrimination. In school, Muslim kids often experience bullying and harassment; in public, there have been countless incidents including women’s hijab being pulled off and in which Muslims were called derogatory names and were subject to hate crimes.
Having this happen to you or even seeing it happen to your fellow Muslims takes an immense toll on one’s sense of safety, belonging, confidence wearing Islamic dress (such as the hijab), and overall expressing one’s freedom of religion.
Political scientist David Laitin has highlighted the role that religious identities play in this dynamic. As he pointed out in a recent interview, Syrian refugees were “mostly Muslim and faced higher degrees of discrimination than will the Ukrainians, who are largely of Christian heritage.”
The media provide information that shapes such attitudes toward Muslims. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of Americans found that people’s negative opinions on Muslims were mostly influenced by what they heard and read in the media. Communications scholar Muniba Saleem and colleagues have demonstrated the link between media information and “stereotypic beliefs, negative emotions and support for harmful policies” toward Muslim Americans.
After a six-year hiatus, U.S. President Joe Biden last week resumed the 22-year-old tradition of hosting an Eid celebration at the White House.
“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists,” Biden told a group of prominent Muslims.
Biden’s comments marked a significant change of tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in 2016, “I think Islam hates us.”
Trump did not host a White House Eid celebration while president, though he did issue statements marking the annual Muslim festival and invited diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar dinner during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019.
The shift in the White House’s tone comes at a time when U.S. Muslims fear Islamophobia is on the rise.
Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a 9% increase in the number of civil rights complaints it received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.
“CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarceree rights, school incidents, and anti-BDS/free speech,” the report said. BDS refers to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement that seeks to advance social change through economic pressure.
Huzaifa Shahbaz, an author of the report, told VOA the rise in complaints about Islamophobia coincided with the lifting of COVID-related restrictions and the reopening of workplaces, worship centers and restaurants.
Others echo CAIR’s findings and point to other reasons as well.
“Over the last year, we’ve seen racism in the United States rise across the board as a consequence of the pandemic, the intensification of white supremacist groups, political polarization, and even though we have Trump out of the office, this rising climate of racism is still feeding the Islamophobia that exists really heavily in the United States,” said Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at Wayne State University.
One in a new series of interviews with contemporary faith-based leaders reinventing American faith.
(RNS) — Rami Nashashibi, who founded the Inner-City Muslim Action Network on Chicago’s South Side 25 years ago, is a community builder, a teacher and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award. Georgetown University has called him one of the world’s 500 most-influential Muslims.
What he is not is an imam. He is part of a rising generation of lay leaders blending ancient tradition with modern activism to mobilize their faith communities. Leaders such as Nashashibi are not replacing traditional institutions or houses of worship, but they bring an immediacy to their faith-based work that is re-energizing American religion.
Born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, Nashashibi founded IMAN in 1997 with his friend Abdul-Malik Ryan, a lawyer and Muslim convert, in Chicago Lawn, a traditionally Black neighborhood that was rapidly becoming a hub for Arab Americans. The two had the goal of providing a place where first-, second- and third-generation Muslim Americans, converts and non-Muslims would all feel included.
Forty-nine years ago, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that changed the lives of American women, formally legalising the right to abortion across the United States.
Now, as Roe v Wade faces its most serious threat in decades, Muslim Americans, like many others across the US, have been contemplating what overturning that decision could mean for women’s reproductive rights and access to safe abortions.
Aliza Kazmi, co-executive director of HEART, a national organisation that focuses on sex education in the Muslim community, said reproductive access and choice – including safe abortion care – is already limited or non-existent for many in the US, namely people of colour and low-income people.
“We know that many Muslim women are already being pushed away given how health inequities impeding abortion access exist and persist including due to Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, homophobia, transphobia, heteropatriarchy, Christian supremacy, etc. within the provision of health services,” Kazmi told Al Jazeera in an email.
“Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, this narrowing would devastate a majority of people in this country,” she said.
Estimated proportions are calculated by averaging weighted responses (ranging from 0% to 100%, rounded to the nearest whole percentage) to the question “If you had to guess, what percentage of American adults…” True proportions were drawn from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and polls by YouGov and other polling firms.
A parallel pattern emerges when we look at estimates of majority groups: People tend to underestimate rather than overestimate their size relative to their actual share of the adult population. For instance, we find that people underestimate the proportion of American adults who are Christian (estimate: 58%, true: 70%) and the proportion who have at least a high school degree (estimate: 65%, true: 89%).
The most accurate estimates involved groups whose real proportion fell right around 50%, including the percentage of American adults who are married (estimate: 55%, true: 51%) and have at least one child (estimate: 58%, true: 57%).
Misperceptions of the size of minority groups have been identified in prior surveys, which observers have often attributed to social causes: fear of out-groups, lack of personal exposure, or portrayals in the media. Yet consistent with prior research, we find that the tendency to misestimate the size of demographic groups is actually one instance of a broader tendency to overestimate small proportions and underestimate large ones, regardless of the topic.
If exaggerated perceptions of minority groups’ share of the American population are due to fear, we would expect estimates of those groups’ share that are made by the groups’ members to be more accurate than those made by others. We tested this theory on minority groups that were represented by at least 100 respondents within our sample and found that they were no better (and often worse) than non-group members at guessing the relative size of the minority group they belong to.
Black Americans estimate that, on average, Black people make up 52% of the U.S. adult population; non-Black Americans estimate the proportion is roughly 39%, closer to the real figure of 12%. First-generation immigrants we surveyed estimate that first-generation immigrants account for 40% of U.S. adults, while non-immigrants guess it is around 31%, closer to the actual figure of 14%.
Although there is some question-by-question variability, the results from our survey show that inaccurate perceptions of group size are not limited to the types of socially charged group divisions typically explored in similar studies: race, religion, sexuality, education, and income. Americans are equally likely to misestimate the size of less widely discussed groups, such as adults who are left-handed. While respondents estimated that 34% of U.S. adults are left-handed, the real estimate lies closer to 10-12%. Similar misperceptions are found regarding the proportion of American adults who own a pet, have read a book in the past year, or reside in various cities or states. This suggests that errors in judgment are not due to the specific context surrounding a certain group.