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Archive for February, 2016

The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part II

In Part II, I will answer the questions of what it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify with being an American? The majority of Muslim Americans are moderates—as the Pew research data will show. However, it is also true from their survey data that a small minority of particularly younger Muslims and native-born African Muslims may put the country at risk by adopting an extremist jihadist viewpoint.

These latter groups may need to be under local, state and national surveillance in order to prevent another Paris or San Bernardino violent attack. Under normal circumstances, such surveillance might be characterized as racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

However, we are no longer living under normal circumstances. The threats that have been perpetrated on the home front are too many. The nation cannot and will not ignore these threats. There will always be a need to balance civil or legal rights on the one hand, with the need to protect our citizens from harm on the other.

Now we move on to answering the first question above. A good starting point in answering the first question is to discuss what it means to be an American. One standard that’s been around for 109 years comes from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.

What it means to be an American

In 1907, one of our greatest presidents laid out what it means for immigrants of any origin to come to America and be an American. Nothing less than that will suffice. The standard set by Teddy Roosevelt was indeed high, as it should be.

Whether most groups of immigrants coming to America today are meeting this standard has yet to be determined. So what is this high standard set by President Theodore Roosevelt? In my estimation it is all about value judgments and that translates to where one’s sincere loyalty lies.

The Standard for Being an American

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”                                                                                    Theodore Roosevelt, 1907

In one of the previous Republican debates Senator Rick Santorum made the statement that “not all Muslims are jihadist, but all jihadists are Muslim.” Because of the open-ended suspicion generated by that statement, fear of Muslims overseas and Muslims here at home is causing increased tension between the Muslim world and those of non-Muslim populations worldwide. At the same time on the Home front, Islamophobia is running rampant here in the United States. This is very similar to the reaction against Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That, of course, led to the round-up and incarceration of Japanese American citizens in internment camps based on nothing more than race. Individuality, loyalty, or proven disloyal conduct were never part of the equation to incarcerate American citizens who were presumably as protected by the U.S. Constitution as any other citizen. History has showed that such hypocrisy subsequently brought shame and dishonor to the country that presumably ignored what Theodore had said about immigrants coming to this country. But these were not immigrants—they were American citizens.

Muslims in America

What is needed is a fresh factual look at the Muslim community, particularly a comprehensive review of their demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, education and income levels, identity, assimilation and community, political and social values, attitudes toward foreign policy, terrorism and concerns about extremism.

First up is a summary from Pew Research’s 2007 study. Here are their findings: In a 2007 survey titled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, the Pew Research Center found Muslim Americans to be “largely integrated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

However, forty-seven percent of respondents said they considered themselves Muslims first and Americans second. However, this was compared to 81% of British Muslims and 69% of German Muslims, when asked the equivalent question. A similar disparity exists in income; the percentage of American Muslims living in poverty is 2% higher than the general population, compared to an 18% disparity for French Muslims and 29% difference for Spanish Muslims.

Interestingly, Pew Research in 2007 found that 42% of Christians see themselves as Christians first, and as Americans second. An additional 7% of Christians see themselves as both equally.

Politically, American Muslims were both pro-larger government and socially conservative. For example, 70% of respondents preferred a bigger government providing more services, while 61% stated that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Despite their social conservatism, 71% of American Muslims expressed a preference for the Democratic Party. The Pew Research survey also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents believed that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background.

The same poll also reported that 40% of U.S. Muslims believe that Arab Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks. Another 28% didn’t believe it, and 32% said they had no opinion. Among 28% who doubted that Arab Muslims were behind the conspiracy, one-fourth of that claim the U.S. government or President George W. Bush was responsible. Only 26% of American Muslims believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism. Only 5% of those surveyed had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Only 35% of American Muslims stated that the decision for military action in Afghanistan was the right one and just 12% supported the use of military force in Iraq.

In 2011, a Gallop poll found that 93% of Muslim Americans considered themselves loyal to the United States.

The 2011 Pew Research Survey

Like Christians and non-Christians alike, religious and secular populations are very diverse. Between groups and within groups people are quite different. The Pew research below demonstrates such diversity among American Muslims. The following (It was written by Michael Lipka) is a precise and detailed summary of the Pew Research from 2011. Below are its major findings:

Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the World

By Michael Lipka

“Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries.

Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam.

Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years:

How many Muslims are there? Where do they live?

There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 – roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.

Although many countries in the Middle East-North Africa region where the religion originated in the seventh century are heavily Muslim, the region is home to only about 20% of the world’s Muslims. A majority of the Muslims globally (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific region, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population. With more than 300 million Muslims, Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050.

The Muslim population in Europe also is growing; it is projected that 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

How many Muslims are there in the United States?

According to estimates, Muslims make up just less than 1% of the U.S. adult population. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study (conducted in English and Spanish) found that 0.9% of U.S. adults identifies as Muslims. A 2011 survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, estimated that there were 1.8 million Muslim adults (and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages) in the country. That survey also found that a majority of U.S. Muslims (63%) are immigrants.

Pew research estimates that Muslims will make up 2.1% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, surpassing people who identify as Jewish, on the basis of religion as the second-largest faith group in the country (not including people who say they have no religion).

A recent Pew Research Center report estimated that the Muslim share of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) increased from about 5% in 1992 to roughly 10% in 2012, representing about 100,000 immigrants in that year.

Why is the global Muslim population growing?

There are two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam, and both involve simple demographics. For one, Muslims have more children than members of other religious groups. Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for all other groups combined.

Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 23 years old in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already is, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.

While it does not change the global population, migration is helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe.

What do Muslims around the world believe?

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely.

Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support Sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of Sharia law.

How do Muslims feel about groups like ISIS?

Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon and 94% in Jordan. Relatively small shares say they see ISIS favorably. In some countries, considerable portions of the population do not offer an opinion about ISIS, including a majority (62%) of Pakistanis.

Favorable views of ISIS are somewhat higher in Nigeria (14%) than most other nations. Among Nigerian Muslims, 20% say they see ISIS favorably (compared with 7% of Nigerian Christians). The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq.

In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% says suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% says they are often justified in these circumstances.

In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say that these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 40% in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26% in Bangladesh.

In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years. About two-thirds of people in Nigeria (68%) and Lebanon (67%) said earlier this year they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, both up significantly since 2013.

What do American Muslims believe?

Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.

Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.

When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).

As of 2011, U.S. Muslims were somewhat split between those who said homosexuality should be accepted by society (39%) and those who said it should be discouraged (45%), although the group had grown considerably more accepting of homosexuality since a similar survey was conducted in 2007.

What is the difference between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

Sunnis and Shias are two subgroups of Islam, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. While the two groups agree on some core tenets of Islam, there are differences in belief or practices, and in some cases Sunnis do not consider Shias to be Muslims.

With the exception of a few countries, including Iran (which is majority Shia) as well as Iraq and Lebanon (which are split), most nations with a large number of Muslims have more Sunnis than Shias. In the U.S., 65% identify as Sunnis and 11% as Shias (with the rest identifying with neither group, including some who say they are “just a Muslim”).

How do Americans and Europeans perceive Muslims?

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 asked Americans to rate members of eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating. Overall, Americans rated Muslims rather coolly – an average of 40, which was comparable to the average rating they gave atheists (41). Americans view the six other religious groups mentioned in the survey (Jews, Catholics, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons) more warmly.

Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party gave Muslims an average rating of 33, considerably cooler than Democrats’ rating toward Muslims (47).

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world (83% vs. 53%) and in the U.S. (65% vs. 38%), according to a December 2015 survey. That survey also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (68% vs. 30% of Democrats) and that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than people of other religions (49% vs. 20%). Overall, most Americans (61%) say Muslims should not be subject to additional scrutiny solely because of their religion, while U.S. adults are closely divided on the question of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. (Note: This paragraph was updated Dec. 17 to reflect a new survey.)

In spring 2015, we asked residents of some European countries a different question– whether they view Muslims favorably or unfavorably. Perceptions at that time varied across European nations, from a largely favorable view in France (76%) and the United Kingdom (72%) to a less favorable view in Italy (31%) and Poland (30%).

How do Muslims and Westerners perceive each other?

In a 2011 survey, majorities of respondents in a few Western European countries, including 62% in France and 61% in Germany, said that relations between Muslims and Westerners were bad, while about half of Americans (48%) agreed. Similarly, most Muslims in several Muslim-majority nations – including Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan – agreed that relations were bad, although fewer Muslims in Pakistan (45%) and Indonesia (41%) had this view.

The same survey also asked about characteristics the two groups may associate with one another. Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners.

Westerners’ views of Muslims were more mixed. A median of 50% across four Western European countries, the U.S. and Russia called Muslims violent and a median of 58% called them “fanatical,” but fewer used negative words like greedy, immoral or selfish. A median of just 22% of Westerners said Muslims are respectful of women, but far more said Muslims are honest (median of 51%) and generous (41%).

Do American Muslims meet the Standard for American Citizenship?

This actually is a complicated question. If one uses the standard set in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, then it’s very clear American Muslims do not meet the American standard for citizenship. Forty-seven percent of Muslims surveyed see themselves as a Muslim first before identifying themselves as an American. However, the Pew Research Center found that in 2011 that 93% of Muslims considered themselves loyal to the United States. It appears from the Pew data that the lion’s shares of American Muslims (approximately 93% if we extrapolate from a sample to the entire population of Muslims) is not a threat to the country, and are supportive of the United States.

The data also showed that Muslim Americans by and large are no friend of either al-Qaeda or ISIS. People who target Muslims in general are engaging in Islamophobia of the worst kind, actual discrimination. The picture that emerges from the Pew data is that, by and large, Muslim Americans are a diverse group within the religion of Islam and identify with being an American reasonably well considering acts of mistreatment by the general public. The most poignant findings of the 2011 Pew research data are as follows.

Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society and they are largely content with their lives. More than six-in-ten do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, and a similar number say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt an American way of life rather than remain distinctive from the larger society.

By overwhelming margins, Muslim Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives and rate their local communities as good places to live. And Muslim Americans are far more likely than the general public to express satisfaction with national conditions.

Assimilation and Identity

     A majority of Muslim Americans (56%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Far fewer (20%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society, with a similar number (16%) volunteering that Muslim immigrants want to do both. Native-born and foreign-born Muslims give similar answers to this question.

The U.S. public as a whole is less convinced that immigrant Muslims seek to assimilate. An April 2011 Pew research survey finds that just a third of American adults (33%) think that most Muslim immigrants want to adopt American ways, while about half (51%) think that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture.

National Identity

     When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or first as a Muslim, about half of Muslims (49%) say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, compared with 26% who think of themselves first as American. Nearly one-in-five (18%) volunteer that they think of themselves as both Muslim and American.

A May survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that 46% of Christians in the United States think of themselves first as a Christian, while the same percentage says they consider them first as an American.

Among both Muslims and Christians, people who say religion is very important in their lives are far more likely to view themselves primarily as a member of their religion.

     Among Muslims who say that religion is very important in their lives, 59% say they think of themselves first as Muslims. Among those for whom religion is less important, only 28% identify first as Muslim. Similarly, among Christians who place great personal importance on religion, 62% say they are Christians first, compared with 19% among those who view religion as less important.

Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted this year found substantial differences in views of national identity across Muslim communities. Nearly all Pakistanis (94%) consider themselves first as Muslims rather than as Pakistanis. By contrast, just 28% of Muslims in Lebanon say they consider themselves Muslim first – far fewer than the number of U.S. Muslims expressing this view (49%).

Many Muslims report having friendship networks that extends beyond the Muslim community. About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are Muslim; about as many say that some (36%), hardly any (14%) or none (1%) of their close friends are Muslim.

More women than men have a close circle of friends consisting mostly or entirely of other Muslims. And Muslim Americans who are highly committed to their religion are much more likely than those with medium or low commitment to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslims.

More than six-in-ten American Muslims (63%) see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, twice the number who do see such a conflict (31%).

A 2006 Pew Research survey found a nearly identical pattern among American Christians who were asked about a possible conflict between modernity and their own faith. Nearly two-thirds of Christians (64%) said there is no conflict between being a devout Christian and living in a modern society, compared with 31% who did perceive a conflict.

Muslims of all ages express similar views on this question. Similarly, there are only small differences between native-born Muslims and immigrants, as well as between those who are personally religiously observant and those who are less religious.

There are, however, sizable differences between men and women in views on this question. More than seven-in-ten men (71%) say there is no conflict between Islam and modernity, but fewer women (54%) agree. The view that there is no conflict between Islam and modernity is also much more common among college graduates than among those with less education.

 

Final Comments

The Pew Research organization has provided a valuable service to everyone in terms of good social research. There was lots of interesting data on Muslims living abroad and those living here in the United States.

Nevertheless, I detected many unanswered questions from the data they presented from their 2011 study that should be looked into. Such questions relate to degree of assimilation, legal questions regarding religious belief from religious practice, and finally, prejudice and discrimination among Muslim Americans.

Questions about Assimilation

The first question is what percentage of Muslim Americans wants Sharia Law in the United States rather than following our legal system of a U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions and all other federal, state and local laws and regulations?

Related to this is the question of whether Muslim Americans prefer sending their children to Muslim schools instead of integrating them into the general educational system in the United States? While those who follow Catholicism have church schools in the U.S., by and large, the children from these schools are nonetheless highly integrated into a secular society. To what extent is this true for the Muslim American child population?

Another unanswered question not asked in the Pew data relates to inter-faith marriages and marriage itself. What proportion of Muslim Americans marries non-Muslims? Are such marriages forbidden by Islamic law, culture, or the scriptures of Islam as well? It has been reported that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 of the American Muslim population (2008 estimate) engage in polygamy. Women under Islamic law are forbidden to have multiple husbands, but men are permitted to have two, three or four wives.

Questions about Religious Belief versus Religious Practice    

Another area for questions has to do with general differences between religious belief and religious practice. In the future will a legal brief dealing with Sharia Law be brought before United States Supreme Court as a violation of separation of church from state? Since Sharia Law is an integral part of Islam’s scriptures, will there be a separation of religious belief from its practice?

For example, the Mormon practice of having more than one spouse did separate belief from practice. Today, neither in Utah nor elsewhere in the United States is bigamy or polygamy allowed under the law. Was religious practice separated from religious belief in this case? Another example is where religious cults engage in human sacrifice. There is no doubt that belief is separated from practice in that case. Anyone can believe whatever they want; however, once belief crosses the line into actual behavior, American Law has something to say about that. Human sacrifice is viewed as murder, and is prohibited under all U.S. law.

The acceptability of foreign law (religious or otherwise) in the United States has yet to be decided by the United States Supreme Court. To my knowledge the U.S. Congress has yet to act against Sharia Law. Less clear is why?  Sixteen states have already passed state laws to forbid Sharia Law or foreign law. The legal issue, whether Muslims can be allowed to impose Sharia Law within the United States, a law that violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution that are concerned with the separation of church and State, is one the high court needs to address.

Questions about Prejudice and Discrimination

Islamophobia is real and has caused many Muslim Americans to complain about it. But what isn’t known are the racial, ethnic and religious prejudices held by Muslim Americans.

No group in society is immune from this aspect of life. Sociologists back in the 1950s found that there was as much prejudice and discrimination caused by minorities as there was among majorities in U.S. society. Its character was sometimes different, such as minorities’ prejudice and discrimination against other members of minorities. As then as it is now—nobody wants to confront this type of social phenomena.

Given that Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East have never been fond of the citizens of Israel, would such attitudes be prevalent among Muslim Americans living in the United States? Are there attitudes among the Muslim population that promote anti-Semitism and discriminatory behavior against people of the Jewish faith, or directed against Jews living here or abroad?

What’s needed is a comprehensive sociological study of racial, ethnic and religious attitudes (prejudices and discrimination) by Muslim Americans.

As one can see, many questions remain unanswered.

In Part III, I will discuss Sharia Law in more detail, and discuss if there is a plot underway to replace American Law with Sharia Law.

The most troubling aspect of all is that Sharia Law, as a religious practice, is a 7th Century set of religious rules that are barbaric, discriminatory, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant of all non-believers, as well as those from other religions.

Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan had the dream of world domination. World domination by any group in the past failed, and will fail in the future. Any group that intends, surreptitiously or otherwise, to dominate the United States and convert it to a non-democratic country will ultimately experience the wrath of the American people. Any real threats from abroad will also experience the wrath of the most awesome military power on the face of the earth. We will be all over such threats “like a fly on you know what.”

Our values here in the United States reject Sharia Law as it is a serious threat to all civil and human rights. It is an extremist set of religious laws that are currently practiced in many (but not all) Muslim countries around the world. Stay tuned for Part III.

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