Facts About Muslim Americans (Americans Need to Know)

My very dear friend, Nader Hasan, is saying what Americans say they want to hear: be American and Muslim and proud of both, and no violence in the name of Islam, ever.

Nader’s vehicle is the Nawal Foundation. It stands for Muslim American patriotism, renunciation of any violence in the name of Islam, and dialogue with America to forge common patriotic ground. Please visit the website and the Facebook page. Americans need to support this foundation. It does precisely what a Muslim American organization needs to do.

Nader was interviewed by ABC’s Bob Woodruff last Friday. The interview is scheduled to appear this Sunday on Christiane Amanpour’s show at 10 am Eastern. Check it out.

And now here’s what you thought you knew, but didn’t, about Muslim Americans. It’s from the Gallup organization, perhaps the most sophisticated polling organization in the world. Gallup did extensive polling of American faith groups (Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic) on a wide range of issues. They published their results in Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future (August 2011). The results are revealing.

  • 93% of Muslim Americans says Muslims living in this country are loyal to the United States. Jews say so at 80%, No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic say so at 69%, and the rest in the mid to high 50s. This is remarkable because Muslims are more likely than other groups to be immigrants or first-generation Americans, i.e., without established roots in the country. It’s also remarkable because Jews — the putative antagonists of Muslims in Israel/Palestine — register such strong belief in the patriotism of Muslim Americans.
  • Muslim Americans are most likely by far (89%) to say individual attacks on civilians are “never justified” (compared to “sometimes” and “depends”). All other faith groups register in the 71-79% range. The specific phrase “suicide bombing” is not used here — but the results confirm that Muslim-Americans overwhelmingly say, “no way, never.”
  • Far more than any other faith group, Muslim Americans (78%) say military targeting and killing of civilians is “never justified.” (compared to “sometimes” and “depends”). All other faith groups register in the 33-56% range.
  • 81% of Muslims and 78% of Jews in America support a two-state-solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (All faith groups register majority support for a two-state solution.)
  • Are Muslims more obligated to speak out against terrorism? Muslims are split, half and half. Most other faith groups are also split, except for No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic, which register 69% against more obligation to speak out. But all faith groups (except Muslims) say, by a substantial majority, that Muslims are not speaking out enough against terrorism. In other words, Muslims believe they are speaking out, but they’re not perceived as speaking out.
  • “It is possible,” says Gallup, “that Muslim-Americans organizations rely too heavily on websites and email lists to speak out against terrorism. … The websites where condemnations are posted are generally of most interest to U.S. Muslims and may not be seen by a wider audience.” Source: Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future (August 2011), p.37.
  • Are Americans prejudiced against Muslims? 60% of American Muslims say yes. Remarkably, 66% of American Jews say yes. Substantially fewer in any other faith group say yes. By far more Muslims (48%) say they have actually experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year. Distant seconds are Mormons (31%) and No Religion/Atheists/Agnostics (25%).
  • All faith groups register majority agreement with the proposition that they are respected when they practice their religion in public — but Muslims (35%) and Jews (24%) are much more likely than the other faith groups to disagree.
  • Muslim-Americans are the most respectful of other religions of any faith group.

What is most striking here is the opportunity. Muslim-Americans are in every sense good Americans, as we all best understand that term. But there has been too much silence and too little dialogue, too much hijacking of the narrative by extremists, and too much stereotyping.

When well over half the images of Muslims that Americans see in the media are of jihadist extremists, it’s no wonder many Americans harbor suspicions about Muslim American patriotism. But the jihadist extremists do not represent Islam. In fact, they are supported by a tiny fraction of Muslims worldwide, and an infinitesimal percentage among Muslim Americans. The jihadist extremists are a media phenomenon — nevertheless, to be sure, a dangerous phenomenon, but wildly unpopular among Muslims, and wildly exaggerated in their significance in Muslim communities.

It’s time to join common ground. The very real threat represented by jihadist extremists is best marginalized by Muslims and non-Muslims uniting in vocal opposition to their poison. And that is best accomplished by Muslims and non-Muslims talking to each other with mutual respect. And that is what my friend Nader Hasan’s Nawal Foundation is all about. It’s the driving issue, the supreme opportunity, of the 21st century.

UPDATE: Nawal Foundation founder Nader Hasan’s interview with ABC’s Bob Woodruff.


12 Responses to Facts About Muslim Americans (Americans Need to Know)

  1. John Myste says:

    I have railed against the composition fallacy used to indict Muslims quite a bit.

    That said, I consider the study completely invalid.

    Muslim Americans have a vested interest in appearing to be sane and patriotic in response to the prejudice so many Americans feel for them.

    Their answers probably reflect this.

    • Your additional logical fallacy is this: x, which is y, has a vested interest in appearing to be y, because of z. Why wouldn’t Muslim Americans already be “sane and patriotic,” regardless of the same “vested interest” all Americans have in appearing to be “sane and patriotic”? There is plenty of evidence of saneness and patriotism among Muslim Americans. Why should it be suspect because a study shows it? And what is the suggestion here? That Muslim Americans are “pretending” to be sane and patriotic? Isn’t that the silly vitriolic narrative of the Muslim-bashers? The ones you’ve railed against? Why do we appear to be disagreeing?

      • John Myste says:

        Your additional logical fallacy is this: x, which is y, has a vested interest in appearing to be y, because of z.

        Just as wrong logic is not technically fallacious, fallacious logic can arrive at the correct solution.

        However, unless I misunderstand you this not a technical fallacy, but a psychological phenomenon. You cannot argue that a group that is often maligned about how they are believed to perceive America would then be honest about how they feel about America when asked. If they were in fact guilty as charged, the data would be skewed. In logical terms, the antecedent of a proposition cannot be proving by something that assumes the antecedent to be true in order to be valid.

        I am not arguing that Muslims hate American. I routinely deny this. I am, however, arguing that it violates the accepted rules of logic to determine if Muslims hate America by asking them.

        • John Myste says:

          That was gibberish. Please forgive me and allow me to try again:

          In official logical terms (per the soft science of critical thinking), the antecedent of a proposition cannot be proven by an argument that assumes the antecedent to be true in order for the conclusion to be demonstrated.

          • Your earlier post was most lucid, not gibberish. My concern with your essential point is that it effectively invalidates all polling about Muslim-Americans. I know, anecdotally, that some Muslim-Americans are true patriots. Your challenge nullifies their voice, renders them speechless because disqualified to say credibly they are patriots. And that, in turn, multiplies suspicion. I get your point about how Muslim-Americans might be inclined to answer poll questions about patriotism — but I consider it an indictment of polling generally, and therefore terribly misdirected as to polling about Muslim-Americans. How, in your framework, would Muslim-American patriots be registered in mainstream American consciousness? How would we ever know they existed? Deeds, to be sure — but that has already happened, and America still suspects. And in polls they could register 100% patriotic Americans — and still, with your framework, be suspect. That’s not right. And I think the answer is to get to know a Muslim-American. Find a real human being that textures our understanding of this abstraction called Muslim-American. Have a friend, who is Muslim-American, speak to the current controversies, and give a measure of comfort about their loyalties.

            Then, and only then, logic surrenders to understanding, ideology to aufheben.

  2. Hi Ken, it was very interesting reading it, why don’t they,I mean this Nawal foundation spread some of their believes also in the middle east??or maybe they do? somehow,the extremists of all religions are always louder and make more damage then the majority that just wish to live. if possible in peace.
    warm regards

    • Welcome Ruthy! Thank you for the visit. The Nawal Foundation is focused on America right now, but perhaps in due course its message will spread abroad. You are certainly right about extremists of all religions, and their power to drown out moderate voices. The Nawal Foundation is very much about ramping up moderate voices, making them as audible as the extremist voices that get most of the media play.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Kendrick. The stats are compelling and reassuring. Of course, those who are solidly entrenched in their beliefs that Muslim Americans are trying to destroy the U.S. from within, won’t embrace the results — for lots of reasons, including the peculiar one expressed by Myste. I’ll definitely visit the FB site and “like” it. All Americans should embrace those of us who have a vested interest in being patriotic. I am far more worried about the new Aryan nation types whose vested interest is singularly dangerous.

    • Thank you, as always, for your gracious comment, and especially thank you for your intention to “like” the Facebook page. This really is a unifying message. This is what Americans, at their best, are all about. We can do this together, despite some of the naysayers from both extremes.

  4. I think your first sentence speaks volumes.

    <i?My very dear friend, Nader Hasan, is saying what Americans say they want to hear: be American and Muslim and proud of both, and no violence in the name of Islam, ever.

    They say they want Muslims to condemn the violence and be proud Americans, but to those who are suspicious already, it doesn’t matter. And to the Creeping Sharia Jihad Watch people? Nothing will ever satisfy them.

    I don’t know if it will get better. Maybe? They’re the target now. So many immigrant groups have gone through it but became “accepted” in the end.

    • Yes, dear Spinny, it will get better. Muslim Americans may be subject to more prejudice than most, but they are not a victim class. They are thriving in America because of exactly what makes America great. In my anecdotal experience, most Americans aren’t looking for reasons to hate Muslims. They are looking for reasons not to hate them. They just want to see Muslims saying the same things about extremist violence that they say. They just want to know that their Muslim neighbors are kindred American spirits. Hate is a problem in America, but it is not an epidemic. Most Americans don’t have any wish to hate. The more dialogue, therefore, the more reassurance about our commonalities as Americans, the better it will get.

      Your comparison to previous immigrant groups is interesting — and your optimistic conclusion especially compelling. But I’d have to qualify the comparison this way. The many other immigrant groups you reference have come here in periods when racial and ethnic bigotry were more normative. The Irish, the Jews, the Chinese, etc. — all were subject to bigotries (in some cases, legislated bigotry, e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — and all of this putting aside the uniquely horrific experiences of Africans and Native Americans) that were viewed at the time as accepted and normative. Bigotry against Muslims is not normative. Its poison has multiple warriors against it. The context, therefore, is much more personal, much more the product of a specific distrust rather than a general hatred — and much more likely to be affected by the voices of people like Nader Hasan. I say that because the task here really is not the same reflexive anti-discrimination (or anti-“Islamophobia”) that it has been in previous eras. It’s much more about trust and patriotism. It’s much more about getting Muslim- and non-Muslim-Americans on the same page they’re actually already on. That’s what the Nawal Foundation is about.

  5. bronxboy55 says:

    Excellent post, Kendrick. I think the problem is that just as a handful of people intent on destruction can cause widespread suffering, so too can that same handful of people ruin the perceived reputations of more than a billion Muslims. And I agree with you: there’s a reason they’re called extremists.

    Thank you for writing this.

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