Last month, my wife and I joined a small group of Muslims and thousands of Christians at the annual March for Life in Washington to call for an end to what we believe is the unjust murder of unborn children in America. My wife’s hijab attracted interest, but we didn’t feel out of place among marchers, many of whom were white evangelicals.
Despite our deep theological differences on other issues, we were at home in the company of fellow believers.
Yet, the Muslim presence at the March is perennially small, even insignificant. In fact, Muslims also decline to join forces with conservative Christians on other traditional social causes such as opposing same-sex marriage.
While research suggests that American Muslims overall are significantly more liberal than white evangelical Protestants, there remains a significant pool of conservative Muslims who in a parallel universe would consider evangelicals their natural allies.
That parallel universe could have existed if the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hadn’t unleashed a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment. Without that, many Muslims would make common cause with evangelicals, something I hope is beginning to happen in America.
The absence of American Muslims from the social conservative space is a result in large part not of theology but of mistrust and even animosity between them and evangelical Christians. When I told a Muslim friend I was meeting with evangelical leaders to get ideas for greater Muslim participation in the March for Life, he asked incredulously, “Why would you talk to Islamophobes?”
His reaction was understandable. There is a widespread sense in the American Muslim community that American foreign policy is influenced by evangelical antipathy toward Islam, as in the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A 2017 poll from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of white Evangelicals believe that Islam is not part of mainstream American society. Such views manifest in diverse ways, as in opposition to mosque-building in local communities, anti-Muslim screeds on social media and bans on travel from Muslim countries.