National Geographic article celebrates the diversity of American Muslims

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Leila Fadel writes in her May National Geographic article that, “Today an estimated 3.45 million Muslims in America are living in a climate of hostility, their faith distorted by violent extremists on one end and an anti-Muslim movement on the other”, yet American Muslims are thriving.

Her article is part of the National Geographic series, Diversity in America, which covers racial, ethnic, and religious groups, and examines their changing roles in 21st century life.

Fadel observes that the anti-Muslim rhetoric of conservative politicians and commentators, including Trump, is increasing this hostility. More than 100 U.S. mosques were targeted with threats, vandalism, or arson in 2017, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) reported that Muslim children are bullied more than children of other faiths. This is a trend that has occurred over the past few years; a 19% increase in incidents against Muslims was documented by the FBI from 2015 to 2016. According to the Pew Research Center, half of American Muslims say that being Muslim has become more difficult in recent years.

Despite this rising hostility, the Muslim population of the U.S. is increasing, growing faster in suburbs than in cities, and especially in southern and western regions. Muslims account for 1% of the current population and its roots date back to the 16th century. Compared with the 962 in 1994, there are now 2,100 U.S. mosques.

And Fadel writes that Muslim communities are thriving. Modest clothes for Muslim women and halal products are being incorporated into American stores. A Muslim Barbie wearing a headscarf has been introduced and Muslim colleges have been established. Muslim activists have made alliances with other marginalized communities, which is part of a trend of increasing political engagement amongst Muslims. This includes Muslims running for and being elected to office.

Members of the Muslim immigrant and U.S.-born generations are translating their faith, which is often seen as alien, “into culturally relevant lingo”, especially important given that nearly half of American Muslims are millennial, born after 9/11 and needing to find their place in the religion.

Fadel describes the U.S. Muslim population as a “mosaic”, comprised of “a variety of race, practice, class, culture, and language”, as diverse as Mecca. She describes her visits to many of these different communities throughout the country; Sufi converts meditate at a spiritual retreat in Pennsylvania, while South Asian Shiites congregate next to a strip mall in a Chicago suburb. “All of this is Islam in America”, she writes. Her interviewees detail their experiences of anti-Muslim hostility, but also appreciation for the U.S. protection of freedom of expression and worship.

Check out the article here.

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Sources

Fadel, L. (2018) ‘How Muslims, Often Misunderstood, Are Thriving in America’. [online] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/05/being-muslim-in-america/. [Accessed 7 May 2018].