Intro to Muslims in America

This week our director of public policy, Jack Moline, attended a program on the new report on Muslims in America conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. The report indicates that are many areas of consonance between Jews and Muslims. For Jack’s report on the event and the full findings from the Gallup Center follow below:

On August 2, I attended the roll-out of the new report on Muslims in America conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. Mohamed Younis, the chief investigator, presented major findings, and was followed by a panel discussing their significance. Speakers included Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center, D. Paul Monteiro of the White House and Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America. (You can find the full report here)

The polling, conducted with a huge sample of the American general population, focused on responses of the Muslim Americans themselves – neither on the teachings of Islam nor on the activities of religious or political leaders. Similarly, other groups in the poll – Jews, Mormons, Protestants, Catholics and no-faith-declared – were tracked by responses.

Perhaps the most surprising result for our community is the consonance between Jewish and Muslim communities in most significant attitudes. A comparable number from each group (81% of Muslims, 78% of Jews) favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Protestant numbers are in the low 60% range. Similar results reflect attitudes toward faith in the integrity of government, fairness of the legal system, rejection of violence against civilians (by the military), pride and loyalty to our country and concern for the vulnerable. Among two of the most interesting divergences are religious behavior (Muslims are significantly more likely to attend mosque than Jews are to attend synagogue) and rejection of violence against civilians by other civilians (Muslims are much more certain that it is never justified than Jews are).

One area of great interest is engagement in the political life of the country. An extremely high percentage of Jews are registered to vote and exercise the franchise. Muslim registration rates are significantly lower, as is participation, especially among those under 36, reflecting the general population trend. Significantly, the Muslim population is much younger on the whole than the Jewish population.

Acting on these findings is frustrated by two factors. The first is the disorganization of the Muslim community. There is no denominational structure, and less than 20% can identify a group they believe speaks for Muslims, divided among CAIR, ISNA and MPAC. The panel identified the second factor as the lack of religious leadership that is “fluent in America.” Muslims who are American citizens are likely to be much more attuned to American culture than their foreign-trained leaders. Further exacerbating this problem is the diverse ethnicity of mosques and the inclusion of a significant population of African Americans who maintain distinct communities.

You can “drill down” into much of this information on the web site. As more of significance emerges, we will attempt to keep you posted.

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