Though Islam in the United States remains largely undocumented and unexplored, Muslims and the tenets of Islam have made diverse and profound contributions to American life. Institutions such as slavery, modern-day immigration, and black separatism were the most significant vehicles bringing Muslims and the practice of Islam to an American context, leading to processes of adaptation and assimilation that in turn have created the unique and robust religious experiences that make Islam in America a showcase for resiliency and the flourishing of individual belief in American religious life.
The status of Muslims in the United States is quite distinct from that of their counterparts in Europe. They are for the most part middle-class and integrated. Political dynamics since 9/11 have brought new attention to this community and resulted in policy changes that have a disproportionately negative impact on the American Muslim population, especially in the realm of anti-terrorism and immigration policy. In spite of these adverse policies, the American Muslim community has proved resilient, responding to challenges with a combination of savvy national political advocacy, grassroots activism, and interfaith outreach suggesting that the American Muslim community may emerge from these challenges with positive community identity, extensive social and political networks, and a deeper commitment to preserving the integrity of the American legal, political, and social institutions that they have engaged in their efforts to combat discrimination and xenophobia.
While specific figures are wide ranging, most national surveys in the past 10 years place the Muslim population at less than 1% of the adult population. A 2007 survey by Pew Research Center places the figure at 0.6%, but preceding surveys fall somewhere below that estimate: Baylor (2006) at 0.2%, Pew (2000-2007) at 0.5%, 1)Compiled Pew Research Center national surveys from 2000 through 2007; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” Pew Research Center (May 22, 2007), 10. General Social Surveys (1998-2006) at 0.5%, 2)General Social Surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10. Gallup (1999-2001) at 0.3%, American Religious Identification Surveys (2001) at 0.5%, 3)American Religious Identification Study, conducted by Barry A. Kosmin and Egon Mayer of the City University of New York Graduate Center; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10. and the National Election Study (2000) at 0.2%. 4)National Election Study conducted by the University of Michigan; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10. The most recent Pew estimate is also considerably lower than estimates commonly cited by Muslim American groups in the media. Of these higher estimates, two worth noting are the 2005 Britannica Book of the Year estimate of 4.7 million (1.5%) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations estimate of 6-7 million (2.1%). 5)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 11. The 2007 Pew Research Center survey is the most rigorous attempt to date to scientifically estimate the size of the American Muslim population, yet its estimate of 0.6%, as with all related polls, should be interpreted with caution.
Nativity, Immigration, and Citizenship
The majority of Muslim Americans are first-generation immigrants (65%) hailing from over 68 countries. 6)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 11. Second-generation individuals account for an additional 7% of the overall population. Of the foreign-born group, more than one-third emigrated from Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The second largest regional contingent consists of immigrants from South Asia, including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. European countries and non-Arabic speaking countries in Africa account for another 8% and 6 % respectively. Pakistan and Iran are the two most highly represented countries at 12% each of the total foreign-born population. India comes in at third (7%), followed by Lebanon and Yemen (6%), Bangladesh (5%), and Iraq and Bosnia & Herzegovina (4% each).
Education and Income
|U.S. Muslims||U.S. general public|
|Total||Foreign born||Native born|
|Not HS grad||21||24||16||16|
|Currently enrolled in college||22||22||20||n/a|
|Less than $30,000||35||35||35||33|
|Personal financial situation|
The foreign-born population consists largely of recent immigrants. Most foreign-born Muslim Americans arrived in the United States either in the 1990s (33%) or in this decade (28%). Immigrants from the 1980s account for an additional 23%, while immigrants from previous decades account for just 16% of the total foreign-born population. Successful naturalization of these groups is higher among earlier immigrants: more than three-quarters of the total Muslim American population have American citizenship. Of those who arrived before 1990, 92% are naturalized; those arriving during the 1990s, 70% are naturalized. Only 22% of more recent arrivals (2000 and later) have become citizens. 7)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 15-16.
Age and Gender
The Pew Research Center Poll indicates that 54% of adult Muslims in the U.S. are male and 46% are female, compared to 48% male and 52% female for the U.S. general population. Sixty percent (60%) of the survey’s respondents say they are married compared to 57% of the general population and nine percent (9%) report being divorced or separated, a figure that is slightly lower than that for the general population (13%). 8)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 16.
The Muslim American population is also quite young, especially in relation to the U.S. population as a whole. For example, thirty percent (30%) of Muslim Americans fall in the 18-29 age bracket, compared to 21 of the general public.” The distribution of the population otherwise includes: 30-39 year-olds (26%), 40-54 year-olds (31%), and those who are 55 and older (13%). 9)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 16.
Race and Ethnicity
The racial profile of Muslim Americans also reveals significant racial and ethnic diversity. No single racial group constitutes a majority. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Muslim Americans describe themselves as white, 26% black, 20% Asian, and 16% other or mixed race. Of the foreign-born population, 44% are white, 28% Asian, 18% mixed or other. Just 10% of foreign-born Muslims identify their racial group as black, which is a large contrast from the 56% majority of native-born Muslims who are black.
Religious affiliation is closely linked to country of origin. Among first- and second-generation immigrants from Arab countries, fifty-six percent (56%) are Sunni, while one-fifth each describe themselves as either Shia (19%) or just Muslim (23%). Pakistanis and South Asians are overwhelmingly Sunni (72% and 82% respectively), while most Iranians are Shia (91%).
Native-born African American Muslims represent a distinct group of worshippers. Representing twenty percent (20%) of the entire U.S. Muslim population, native-born African Americans are a sizeable minority, but one whose common history makes the group especially cohesive. Of this group, nearly half (48%) identify as Sunni, one-third (34%) describe themselves as just a Muslim, while 15% claim another affiliation, such as Shia and the Nation of Islam. 10)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 21.
The first Muslims to come to America were those who arrived as slaves during the sixteenth century. Though the religious beliefs of these individuals were never documented, much can be gleaned from information about the regions from which they hailed. At least half of the 500,000 slaves brought to North America in the 16th century were from areas where Islam was practiced by large portions of the population. Many examples of individual and collective worship have been documented, including evidence of prayer rooms, accommodations for fasting, and Quranic texts. 11)For more information, see the worship practices of three such individuals: Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, Omar ibn Said, and Bilali Muhammad.
The institution of slavery in America was antagonistic toward Islam; slave owners actively discouraged the religion from being passed on from one generation to the next. As a result, formal Islamic practice did not endure and most slaves took on the Christian worship of their owners. Even among those few slaves whose Islamic worship was documented, records indicate a process of adaptation that included a movement toward Christian texts. One of the best-documented practicing Muslim slaves, Omar Ibn Said (1770-1864), converted to Christianity on December 3, 1820, though he continued to write dedications to Muhammad on the margins of his Arabic translation of the Bible. Given this repressive environment, Islamic practice in orthodox form was unable to survive the institution of slavery and it can safely be estimated that within two generations of Congress eradicating the import of slaves in 1808, Islamic practice by slaves was all but eradicated. 12)Thomas A. Tweed, “ Islam in America: from African Slavery to Malcolm X,” The National Humanities Council. Available online: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/islam.htm.
The first major wave of voluntary immigration is that of individuals who came to the US between 1880 and 1924. These immigrants hailed for the most part from the Levant, but other regions were also represented. The main motivation for migration during this period was economic stability. Migrants from Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon for the most part lacked formal education and came seeking work as laborers. Given the economic hardships of this period, many faired poorly and returned to their homeland.
Those who stayed faced a climate of general intolerance which encouraged immigrant communities to cluster; these earlier cultural refuges included Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Ross, North Dakota; Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Michigan City, Indiana, almost all of which still host robust Muslim communities. This first wave ended abruptly in 1924 on account of the passage of two acts of legislation, the Asian Exclusion Act and the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, which put a halt to the entrance of non-Europeans, especially all those deemed “Asians”—as Arabs were designated.
The next wave of immigration was likewise affected by legislation; in 1952 the McCarran-Walter Act relaxed the 1924 quota system while the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 reversed many of the earlier constraints and was designed to encourage family reunification and the import of skilled labor; both acts resulted in a vast increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the United States. The new immigration practices allowed for an influx of immigrants fleeing political oppression as well as those seeking economic opportunity. The 1948 creation of Israel triggered a wave of Palestinian refugees, while oppressive regimes in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria were responsible for the migration of thousands of individuals to the United States during this same period. South Asian Muslims, including those from Pakistan, constituted a major immigrant bloc, although their purposes were largely economic. This second wave consisted of a significant influx of individuals with advanced professional degrees as well as those seeking higher education opportunities. 13)Thomas A. Tweed, “ Islam in America: from African Slavery to Malcolm X.”
African American Islamic movements have also made considerable contributions to American Islam. Though often marginalized in discussions of Islam in the United States on account of the unorthodox conception of Islam embraced by the Nation of Islam (NOI), NOI practices as well as the more recent movement of the African American Muslim community toward orthodox Sunni Islam is a revealing and valuable example of the vitality and adaptability that characterizes American religious life and American Islam in particular.
The Nation of Islam owes itself to an earlier Black nationalist Islamic community, the Moorish Science Temple, which like the Nation of Islam, asserted the superiority of blacks and posited that the pre-enslavement religion of most black Americans was Islam (the Moorish Science Temple claimed descent from the Moors specifically). This MST, established by Noble Drew Ali in Newark, New Jersey in 1913, became factionalized after Noble Drew Ali’s death in 1929; one of these factions came under the leadership of the man who shortly thereafter established the Nation of Islam in 1931, Wallace Fard Muhammad. After Fard’s unexplained disappearance in 1934, Elijah Muhammad took control of the organization and declared that Fard had been Allah incarnate; thereinafter, the prophethood of Wallace Fard Muhammad was a core tenet of the Nation of Islam.
Elijah Muhammad was leader of the NOI from 1935-1975; in this time he developed the movement and articulated the black separatist platform for which it is known. The NOI era marked by EM’s leadership was one of high national visibility, thanks in large part to the conversion and celebrity of one Malcolm Little, who changed his name to Malcolm X following his conversion to indicate his stolen, unknown ancestry. He undertook a transformative pilgrimage in April 1964 that caused Malcolm to reexamine the NOI tenets of black superiority and racial hatred; the pilgrimage aggravated existing difficulties with NOI leadership, and shortly after his return, Malcolm X officially split from the movement. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965, under circumstances that have invited allegations of conspiracy on the part of the NOI and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which by its own account had been working to infiltrate and disrupt civil rights organizations during the 1950s and 1960s. Malcolm X is an important figure in both American history and American Islam because of his success in drawing on Islamic principles for the purposes of community engagement, social activism, and social change.
Elijah Muhammad continued to lead the NOI with a black separatist ideology until his death in 1975, at which point the movement became factionalized. The fifth son of Elijah Muhammed, Warith Deen Muhammad, took over formal leadership and disbanded the NOI, moving his community closer to the beliefs and practices of orthodox Islam. This group is the largest African-American Islamic movement; it was renamed several times: first, the World Community of al-Islam in the West (1976-81), then the American Muslim Mission (1981-85), and finally, the American Society of Muslims, the name it still bears.
Some NOI followers, including prominent figures in the movement, were not pleased with the change in direction following Elijah Muhammad’s death. Louis Farrakhan, an influential figure in the NOI under Elijah Muhammad, was one such individual. Frustrated with the new direction of Warith Deen Muhammad, Farrakhan split from Warith Deen Muhammad’s movement in 1977. Two years later he reestablished NOI entities that had been disbanded by Warith Deen Muhammad, including the NOI newspaper in 1979; in 1981, Farrakhan announced at the First Annual NOI Saviors’ Day conference the restoration of the NOI under Elijah Muhammad’s teachings. Farrakhan has been leading that movement ever since; his group maintained the NOI nomenclature, but it is important to note that most of the original NOI members followed Warith Deen Muhammad toward a more orthodox Sunni Islam.
Since 1977, Louis Farrakhan has made some steps to bring his movement more in line with the tenets of orthodox Islam. In 1997, he moved to adopt Friday worship, prayer posture, and fasting, steps that helped repair the rift with Warith Dean Muhammad, though they continued to maintain separate movements. The futures of both the Nation of Islam and Warith Deen Muhammad’s movement have become less certain in the past couple years on account of Warith Deen Muhammad’ resignation from the ASM in 2003 and later passing on September 9, 2008; as well as serious heath problems suffered by Louis Farrakhan since 2006, causing him to pull back considerably from his public work.
State and Religion
Generally speaking, freedom of religion and the separation of church and state are formally established in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” These two clauses have come to be known as the “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause”; together they offer a clear codification of religious tolerance in the United States referenced by federal courts in an ongoing process of navigating modern legal dilemmas, 14)“U.S. Constitution: First Amendment, Religion,” FindLaw.com. Available online: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/ (Accessed May 2, 2009) such as prayer in public schools and public funding of parochial schools. The general trajectory of case law has upheld the spirit of protection identified in the First Amendment, in spite of the ambiguities presented by contemporary legal dilemmas.
When reviewing legislation to determine its constitutionality according to the Establishment Clause, the courts have come to use the Lemon Test. 15)The Lemon Test got its name from Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) a case concerning state reimbursement of salaries, textbooks, and other materials to non-public schools, most of which were Catholic parochial schools. The Lemon Test evaluates the legality of government action in light of the Establishment Clause through three evaluative criteria:
Violation of any of these three terms deems the legislation unconstitutional. Two other tests, the Coercion Test and the Endorsement Test, are also used to determine to what extent, if any, pressure is applied to force or coerce individuals to participate in a religious activity and whether government action conveys “a message that religion is ‘favored,’ ‘preferred,’ or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs.
As for Free Exercise, the Court has interpreted this clause to mean that the freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act on those beliefs is not, thus allowing for restrictions on rituals such as human sacrifice, even if some religions allow it. The government’s ability to burden religious practice in such cases has been clarified through rulings in two commonly referenced cases, Sherbert v. Verner (1963) and Employment Division v. Smith (1990). The first established the liberal Sherbert test, which requires that states have a “compelling interest” in refusing to accommodate religiously motivated conduct. Under this test, the Court was willing to protect individuals by granting exemptions from government laws unless the government could prove that it was pursuing a compelling government interest by narrowly tailored means. The Employment Division, Oregon v. Smith (1990) ruling reshaped the former is a more conservative direction; the Court ruled that no religious exemptions can be allowed to government laws that have a secular purpose and that apply generally to the population. 16)Thomas R. Hensley, Kathleen Hale, Carl Snook, The Rehnquist Court: Justices, Rulings, Legacy (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 111.
Islam has a relatively low profile in general discussions of the separation of church and state entertained by the media and in courtrooms across the country. As the predominant religious tradition, Christianity has been the main preoccupation of courts entrusted to ensure neutrality. The case Summum v. Pleasant Grove City (2008) involved a small minority religion requesting to place a religious monument in a public park that already had a statue dedicated to the 10 Commandments. This case asks the court to balance interests which included: 1) the rights of speakers in a public forum, 2) the delineation of the government’s ability to control the content of its message, and 3) limits the Establishment Clause places on government favoritism toward certain religious messages. In general, such cases involve the intersection of several important and complex legal considerations. Another example is a specific controversy involving the refusal of cabbies in Minneapolic/St. Paul to carry passengers with alcohol or dogs, claiming religious reasons. As of July 2009, the case was never brought to court, but was handled by the area Metropolitan Airport Commission as a breach of contract by Muslim cabbies. 17)“Booze, Dogs too much for some Muslim Cabbies,” Associated Press (January 4, 2007). Available online: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16472393/ (Accessed July 7, 2009). Though Islam has had relatively low visibility in American case law, the decisions cited establish the Courts’ general attitude as one with an interest in protecting minority religions and ensuring free exercise.
A wide range of organizations have been established to promote the political, social, and religious interests of the Muslim community in the United States. The landscape of organizations has changed considerably following 9/11, as there has been an marked increase in the activities and advocacy of existing Muslim organizations and an increase in the number of organizations providing direct services, developing professional and community networks, and providing policy and public opinion advocacy on behalf of Muslim Americans to guarantee the civil rights of Muslim Americans and offset negative stereotypes. Organizations representing the immigrant Muslims are notably distant from those representing the African American Muslim population. There is little indication of collaboration or coordination between these immigrant and non-immigrant groups, although inter-organizational dialogue within these two respective communities is much more prolific.
The information below was gathered using information from the Task Force on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement’s report, “Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans” 18)“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” Task Force on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 2007. (these organizations are indicated with a “*”) and other sources; though we have made an effort to make the list comprehensive, it is by no means complete. Much of the information below was gathered from the organizations’ institutional websites, and as such should be evaluated accordingly.
The American Muslim Alliance (AMA) * is one of several organizations whose core mission is to promote Muslim participation in the American electoral system through encouraging potential candidates to run for office and organizing voter mobilization drives. The AMA, based in Newark California, with regional branches in New York and Washington, DC, has been a significant partner in several California-based civil rights coalitions such as the California Civil Rights Alliance (CCRA).
The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT)* is another such organization. The AMT was founded in 2004, succeeding the American Muslim Political Coordination Council. They are a coalition taskforce comprised of some of the largest and most active Muslim organizations in the United States. They publish election plans biannually.
The mission of the Islamic Supreme Council of America is to promote classical Islam in the modern world. They provide articles, commentary, and other legal resources on common and controversial topics that are relevant to the experiences of Muslims in the West.
Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights* is another organization that provides Islamic legal guidance. This organization is engaged in a range of advocacy activities grounded in classical Islamic jurisprudential tradition in service of the following goals: to educate Muslim women to be proficient in Islamic law and capable leaders within their communities; to aid in the development of the American Muslim community broadly, and women specifically, through educational, legal, and community outreach; and to serve as a resource for the American legal professionals on matters of Islamic Jurisprudence.
National Advocacy Organizations
The American Islamic Congress* is a 501(c)(3) committed to promoting responsible leadership and “two-way” interfaith understanding. The organization was founded by Iraqi American Zainab al-Suqaij, granddaughter of one of Iraq’s premier Shi’ite clerics, after September 11th. AIC leaders have contributed editorial pieces to leading news venues, testified before congress, been involved in sensitivity training for law enforcement professionals and members of the armed forces, run workshops on non-violence, and lectured at universities and civic organizations.
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD),* an online forum dedicated to promote an understanding of Islam in line with the separation of church and state and the principles of free market capitalism through providing news resources and commentary.
The Muslim American Society (MAS) was formed in 1992 by individuals involved in the ISNA and MSA who recognized a need for another organization committed to strengthening the American Muslim community and its relationship with mainstream America.
The American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA)* is dedicated to building bridges between Muslims and the American Public; the Free Muslims Coalition, which works with Muslims in the United States and abroad to address the concerning trend of recourse to violence by some Muslims; and the Islamic Information Center which does outreach on political, media, and interfaith fronts.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)*, the largest Islamic civil liberties group, focuses on media relations, government relations, education, and advocacy. They have over 32 chapters in 20 states across the country.
Muslim Advocates * is an organization committed to providing sophisticated and constructive legal and policy expertise to leaders in government and the Muslim American community.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)* founded in 1988, is one of the older groups working to promote the civil rights of Muslims, the integration of Islam into American pluralism, and a positive, constructive relationship between American Muslims and their representatives through both grassroots and national level advocacy.
Research Centers and Institutes
There is a diverse set of research organizations concerned with documenting and reporting national trends, almost all of which are concerned with the complexities of mediating American and Islamic values. The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)*studies the impact of US domestic and foreign policy on Muslim Americans. The Institute on Religion and Civic Values (IRCV)* also focuses on policy implications in the areas of faith, citizenship, and pluralism and use their findings to advocate for public policy that aligns with core common values. The International Strategy and Policy Institute (ISPI)* conducts and publishes research to promote better understanding of Muslims and Islam in the United States. Finally, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID)* is a membership-based nonprofit think tank made up of Muslim and non-Muslim academics, professionals, and activists dedicated formulating modern Islamic democratic discourse.
Founded in 1996, the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML)*, began as an informal discussion list for Muslim attorneys sponsored by Karamah (see above). Today, NAML membership includes over 500 Muslim legal professionals across the country. In 2005 NAML launched its sister charitable entity Muslim Advocates (see above).
Formed in April 2009, the American Muslim Chamber of Commerce (AMCC) is the newest professional development organization that provides professional resources and networking opportunities to its members. The Chamber also directs advocacy work toward government institutions for services and policies that will stimulate economic growth in the Muslim American community. The AMCC is joined by the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP)* which has fourteen chapters across the United States and Canada.
National and Regional Community Associations
In contrast to the organizations that do national advocacy, there are also many organizations with national impact, yet whose work is more concerned with fostering community cohesion and cooperation than with general political impact. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)*, a national association of Sunni Muslim organizations that caters to the immigrant Muslim community, is the largest of this group. The ISNA began as an offshoot of the Muslim Students Association. With headquarters based in Plainfield, Indiana, the ISNA does community work, education, and outreach. Regional organizations with similar missions include the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC)* and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH)*, and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC)*.
Grassroots Social Justice Organizations
Social justice advocacy in the Muslim community is undertaken by organizations that offer a broad range of services ranging from direct relief work and social services to education and job training programs that support and empower Muslims receiving services. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)* is one such organization. ICNA is an independent, non-ethnic grassroots organization whose mission is to support, educate, and empower Muslims throughout American in accordance with the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. The organization oversees the activities of Young Muslims (with Brothers and Sisters chapters). They conduct relief work in urban neighborhoods, publish a news magazine with a circulation of 10,000, and host an annual conference drawing thousands of members and their families. ICNA is also responsible for the toll-free hotline 1(877) WHY-ISLAM and www.whyislam.org designed to provide help for those with questions about Islam. The ICNA is also indirectly related to ICNA Relief*, a separate charitable organization that provides social services, documents civil rights cases, and provides case management services to members of the community.
Another notable grassroots organization is the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Formed in 1995, IMAN deliver a range of direct social services and runs programs to cultivate the arts in urban communities. They are based in Chicago. Other grassroots social justice organizations include American Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism (AMILA)*, and the Human Development Foundation of North America (HDF)*.
Student Associations are some of the most active Muslim organizations in the country. The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA)* is one of the oldest and most active Muslim associations in the United States. They have over 150 chapters across the country.
Another student group is the National Muslim Law Students Association, which was formed after 9/11 to foster professional growth and maintain solid educational and spiritual roots for Muslims in the legal profession. Recruitment began through a list-serve for designed to promote discussion, exchange resources related to legal career development, educational programs, general news such as updates on the international law crisis concerning Muslim Americans, and publicize mentorship opportunities and overall cohesive communication among Muslims studying the law and those interested in the law. They are now affiliated with the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML).
African American Muslim Organizations
The American Society of Muslims (ASM)* is the name of the organization created by Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Muhammad, upon inheriting and subsequently disbanding the Nation of Islam after his father’s death in 1975. The organization was led by Warith Deen Muhammad from 1975 until 2003 when he resigned on account of the organization’s imams’ resistance to his reforms and their own religious education.
The ASM is quite large, by its own account the largest Muslim organization in the United States, with 55 chapters across the country in over 35 states. The organization’s declared mission is to present the message of Islam as one of peace through submission to the will of Allah, to promote better understanding and more cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims, and to encourage Muslims to take part in building a virtuous and moral society. The ASM Freedom Foundation (ASM FF)* is a spinoff of ASM, with the state mission to engage the ASM network around civil and policy issues and to build a broad coalition that will enhance the religious, political, and social strengths of the Muslim American Community.
Warith Deen Muhammad played a central role in ASM history and was a revolutionary figure in the black Muslim community until his death in September 2008. During his time as leader of the ASM, he prescribed a life of piety consistent with orthodox Sunni Islam and has been credited with bringing his father’s group in line with mainstream American and mainstream Islam. 19) “Faith and Beliefs: Warith Deen Mohammed, A Giant of Islam, Left a Legacy of Unity” KansasCity.com (September 18, 2008). Available online: http://pluralism.org/news/article.php?id=20817 courtesy of the Pluralism Project. He also founded and served as the CEO and President of the Collective Purchasing Conference (CPC), a limited liability company established in 1995 that acts as a buyers’ collective and thus helps provide economic dignity to members of the ASM extended community. For more information about the impact of the CPC and the experience of Islamic worship under the late Warith Deen Muhammad’s leadership, see Karen G. Berthiaume’s piece on the Chapel Hill Ar-Razzaq Islamic Center published here courtesy of the Harvard Pluralism Project.
Several competing black American organizations have since been formed, including the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).* MANA is a national network of mosques, Muslim organizations, and individuals working to address social and economic problems facing Muslim communities, especially those in inner cities. Compared to the landscape of immigrant organizations doing similar work, black Muslim American organizations are much smaller in number, although they nevertheless maintain an active presence in local urban communities.
The educational attainment levels of Muslim Americans as a whole are relatively similar to those of the U.S. general public. Slightly fewer Muslim Americans have not graduated high school (16% versus 21% for the general public) or have some college (23% versus 29% for the general public). The Pew Research Center polling reveals certain notable disparities, however, between native-born and foreign-born Muslim groups. Native-born Muslims are more likely to be high school graduates (40% and 28%) or have some college (31% and 19%), while foreign-born Muslims are more highly represented in the following groups: not HS grad (24% and 16%), college grad (16% and 10%), and graduate study (13% and 3%).
Rates of current college enrollment are similar among foreign-born (22%) and native-born (20%) Muslims; more than one-fifth of US Muslims are currently enrolled in college classes. 20)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 18.
The schooling options open to Muslim children are very similar in nature to those of other religious groups in the United States. The three religious education options available are full-time parochial schools, weekend or evening classes that supplement a secular education program, or home schooling.
As of January 2005, approximately 150 Islamic Schools in the United States were registered with the Islamic Foundation of North America, an organization that provides curriculum and religious education resources for the study of Islam, Arabic, and Muslim-themed literature. This list represents only a portion of the total number of schools that exist; for example, the catalogue indicates three MAS Sister Clara Schools in the state of Illinois, although nearly seventy-five are documented by the MAS records. Another organization that similarly serves this need is the Islamic Networks Group (ING)*, an entrepreneurial educational outreach organization with affiliates in 20 states. These Islamic Schools, as with other schools, are not subject to the same standards as public schools, although motivated by an interest in preparing pupils for higher education, these schools often meet and exceed public school standards. Generally, religious education is included in the curriculum through direct religious instruction and the tailoring of material in other general courses toward religious content. This characterization applies to private religious schools generally; specific data about the performance of Islamic Schools is not available.
The most common religious education option is weekend or evening coursework that supplements the otherwise secular public or private weekday education of students. Many of the estimated 1500 mosques in the United States run education programs of this sort for the children and young adults in their communities. 21) “Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” 39. Though these programs are often organized under the guidance of a mosque, it is also common for groups of parents in a community to create independent ad hoc programs. There are also dozens of summer school and summer camp opportunities for Muslim children, another example of community initiative that is modeled by other religious groups in the United States seeking to educate youth and foster community.
There are educational opportunities at the post-secondary level as well. The Al-Maghrib Institute, based in Texas, offers a bachelor’s program in Islamic Studies with both seminar style and online instruction. The Texas Dawah Convention is another educational opportunity for adult learners. Their annual meeting provides a chance for attendees to interface with scholars, subject matter experts and organizations that offer practical solutions to the dilemmas of modern life. The 2008 conference included lectures such as “Muslims Go Green” and “101: Volunteering Options.”
Family income of Muslim Americans is comparable to that of the U.S. general public. Most households make less than $30,000 (35%) or between $30,000-$49,999 (24%). In the $100,000+ and $30,000-$49,000 income brackets, there are some disparities between foreign-born and native-born groups: foreign-born Muslim Americans are more highly represented in the 100,000+ income bracket (19%) compared to native-born Muslims (11%); and native-born Muslim Americans were more likely to fall in the $30,000-$49,999 income bracket (30%) than foreign-born Muslim Americans.
|CASTILE AND LEON||No Data||No Data|
|CATALONIA||No Data||No Data|
Compared to the U.S. general public, Muslim Americans were slightly less likely to report their personal financial situation in the excellent/good bracket (42% versus 49% for the general public). More immigrant Muslims reported being satisfied with their financial situation (47%) than native-born Muslims (37%), while more than three-fifths (62%) of native-born Muslims reported their economic situation as Fair/Poor compared to just below half (49%) of the immigrant Muslim group, one point below the rate for the U.S. general public (50%).
Muslim Americans are less likely to be employed full-time and more likely to be employed part-time or not employed at all than the general public. The rate of full-time employment for Muslim Americans (41%) is comparable for both immigrant (40%) and native-born (41%) Muslims. Native-born Muslims are slightly more likely than their immigrant counterparts to be employed part-time (20% versus 14%) and less likely to not be employed (38% versus 46%). The percentage of Muslim American who are self-employed or small business owners (24%) is higher than the rate for the general population (21%). Native-born Muslims in particular are highly represented in this category (27%).
According to the Task Force on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement, there are an estimated 1500 mosques in the United States. 22)“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” 39. More precise data on the religious activity of Muslims Americans was published in the Pew Research Center’s 2008 report, “Muslim American: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” including stats on mosque attendance, prayer, the importance of specific religious practices, and the significance of religion in their lives compared to Christian Americans. That report is available here.
The Pew study found that two-thirds of Muslim Americans attended a mosque either once a week (40%) or occasionally (26%), with one-third (34%) reporting that they seldom or never attended. The two groups with the highest reported weekly mosque attendance were native-born African Americans (54%) and Pakistani immigrants (57%) who also stood out as the group with the smallest percent reporting that they “seldom/never” attend mosque (14%). Broadly speaking, native-born Muslims were more likely (45%) to attend weekly services than foreign-born Muslims (37%).
Daily prayer is observed by approximately 81% of the population; of this group, 41% perform all five salah, one-fifth perform some of the five salah (20%) or occasionally make salah (20%). An additional 6% only make Eid prayers and 12% report never having prayed.
As for the importance of specific Islamic practices, fasting during Ramadan (76%) and giving charity (76%) were most often identified as “very important,” with “taking pilgrimage to Mecca” (63%) and reading the Koran daily (58%) also identified as “very important,” though by a smaller percent of the sample. When data on self-reported mosque attendance, prayer, and importance of religion is combined, religious commitment is relatively higher among the following groups: young adults, men (marginally more so than women), Sunni (significantly more so than Shi’a), those born Muslim (versus converts), and the native-born population.
Political Participation and Muslims in the Legislature
The political views and participation of Muslims Americans has been transformed radically in response to the domestic and foreign policies that followed September 11, including the passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001 and the war in Iraq.
In 2004, Zogby International and Project MAPS conducted a survey that reveals a dramatic change in the political allegiances of Muslim Americans. Compared to the 2000 election in which most Muslims supported Republican candidate George W. Bush over Democratic candidate Al Gore, by 2004 76% if Muslim Americans supported Democratic candidate John Kerry and only 7% supported Bush. 23)Georgetown News Service, “Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll,” Zogby International and Project MAPS, October 19, 2004. Available online http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=1310 (Accessed May 2, 2009). Between the 2000 and 2004, it is also estimated that the number of registered Muslim American voters who cast ballots doubled. 24)Muslim American Political Action Committee 2005 Survey; cited in “Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.” By 2004, 53% of Muslim Americans favored voting as a block, 81% support the agenda of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (a US-wide coalition of the ten largest Muslim American orgs) and 69% reported that an American Muslim Taskforce endorsement would affect whom they voted for in the 2004 Presidential election. 25)“Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.”
The 2004 support for John Kerry as a candidate was influenced in part by disapproval of the armed intervention in Iraq and disappointment in President Bush’s approach to foreign policy and counter-terrorism matters. Only 13% of Muslim Americans supported intervention in Iraq, while only 15% approved of President Bush’s performance in office; 26)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.” broadly speaking, a higher percentage of Muslim Americans, in comparison to other subgroups, believe the United States is not moving in the right direction. 27)“Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.” Seventy-six percent (76%) wanted to see change in US foreign policy in order to effectively fight terrorism; thirty-eight percent (38%) of American Muslims believe the US is fighting a war on Islam (38%). Most Muslims indicated a desire in seeing broad changes in US foreign policy: Eighty-seven percent (87%) felt there was a need to deal with social, economic, and political inequalities to fight terrorism; eighty-nine percent (89%) supported US policy in support of a Palestinian state; eighty percent (80%) wished to see a reduction in US support for Israel; and sixty-six percent (66%) want the United States to reduce its support of undemocratic regimes in the Muslim world. 28)“Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.” Muslim Americans also reported concern for the handling of the war in Afghanistan.
Many Muslims successfully run for state and national office, including Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Iowa State Representative); Saqib Ali (D—Maryland House of Delegates); André Carson (D—US Representative); Keith Maurice Ellison (D–US Congress, Minnesota); Larry Shaw (D—North Carolina General Assembly); Saghir Tahir (R—New Hampshire State Representative), the only elected Muslim in the Republican Party; and Rashida Tlaib (D—Michigan House of Representatives). North Carolina General Assemblyman Larry Shaw was the highest ranking elected official in the United States until Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress in 2006. The appointment in April 2009 of Dalia Mogahed to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, also received positive attention from the Muslim community. Mogahed had served as a senior executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies prior to the appointment. 29)“Muslim Woman’s Appointment as Obama Advisor Draws Optimism in US-Muslim Relations,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (April 22, 2009).
Though the Muslim immigrant community has grown exponentially over the past couple years, successful naturalization has become less common. Muslims are more highly represented as naturalization applicants than in the general population; and within the Muslim community, first-generation immigrants represent the majority. Non-Judeo-Christians, the statistical category assigned to Muslims, accounts for 17% of the naturalization applicant pool, this is more than 4 times larger than within the general population. 30)Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Janie I. Smith, and John L. Esposito (eds.), “Religion and Immigration: Christian Jewish, and Muslim Experiences in the United States,” (Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press, 2003), 296. Presumably, Muslims are highly represented in this non-Judeo-Christian immigrant group. As mentioned earlier, the Muslim American population as a whole is majority first-generation immigrants (65%), 28% of which arrived in this decade, 33% in the 1990s, and another 23% in the 1980s. The successful naturalization of these immigrants, however, has decreased over the past couple decades: only 22% of arrivals since 2000 have been naturalized, compared to 92% of pre-1990 arrivals and 70% of those arriving in the 1990s.
The naturalization process in the United States has received much criticism in the past decade for delays that disproportionately affect Muslim applicants. The total application process itself involves a paper application, extensive security checks, an in-person interview, and either an oath ceremony for approved applications or an appeal option for denied applications.
Naturalization Application Process
Complete Applications (forms, collect docs, get photos)
Send forms, docs and photos to Service center
– Interagency Border Inspection System name checks (IBIS)
– FBI Fingerprint Check
– FBI National Name Check Program
– Questions about application and background
– English and civics test
Wait for decision (if no in 120 days, can seek order to compel government action)
Take action based on USCIS decision
– Denial: can request a hearing with an immigration officer and later review by District Court
– Granted: wait for letter with date of oath ceremony
Receive oath letter
Oath Ceremony 31)“Americans on Hold,” 15.
A 2007 report by NYU School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice found that most delays are the result of “invidious and ineffective policies,” particularly in the Security Check Stage of the Naturalization Application Process above, that create a name check dragnet that unfairly discriminates against applicants with Muslim backgrounds.
These discriminatory concerns have heightened since 9/11, which marked the beginning of a series of significant changes to the governmental institutions that oversee immigration and naturalization. Most notably, in 2003, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was disbanded. Its services and responsibilities were transferred to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department for Homeland Security (DHS). This shift has allowed the immigration law to become a mechanism for targeting individuals who fit a racialized construction of a terror suspect, particularly men perceived to Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) is one documented cause of systemic discrimination; the main consequence of these dragnets are discriminatory naturalization delays for eligible candidates from Muslim backgrounds. The NSEERS, instituted in 2002, requires non-citizen males from countries designated as threats to national security to formally register with the government. Of the 25 countries on this list, 24 have predominantly Muslim or Arab populations. The NSEERS program documents the names, nationalities, and movements of all registered individuals which become part of a government record available to immigration authorities for purposes of profiling applicants. One consequence of the NSEERS programs is that it renders a significant number of Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian men vulnerable to having their names flagged in profiling systems that run their names and derivations of their names, such as the recently expanded Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) name check system. 32)“Americans on Hold,” 8.
According to figures provided by the Department of Homeland Security in December 2006 in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) and CAIR-Chicago on September 7, 2005, the USCIS is failing to meet the 180-day target identified by Congress and affirmed by USCIS itself. 33)“Americans on Hold,” 13-14.
In the period between April 1, 2001 and November 17, 2006, two-thirds of the 3.4 million naturalization applications were not decided within 180 days, 776,000 applicants had no decision within a year, 158,000 no decision in 2 years, while more than 41,000 applicants waited over three years for a decision. According to a Washington Post article, the average wait times have been improving over the past several years: down from 14-months in October 2003, the average wait time in February 2003 was 8 months. 34)“Americans on Hold,” 14.
Figures are also available on the wait time between the in-person interview and a decision; in this area, the USCIS is required by law to grant or deny citizenship within 120 days. Approximately 348,000 applicants had no decision by the 120 day deadline, 175,000 applicants waited more than twice that time, while approximately 33,000 waited more than 720 days. 35)“Americans on Hold,” 14.
The “Americans on Hold” report notes that these delays have prompted both legal and legislative action. Long-delayed citizenship applicants who bring suit have generated substantial media attention and have been generally successful in getting their applications decided and approved. 36)“Americans on Hold,” 14.
On the legislative side, these delays brought about the proposed Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007. Introduced on March 7, 2007 to the House of Rep and senate to “Assist aliens who have been lawfully admitted in becoming citizens of the U.S., and for other purposes.” This act proposed reforms in the following areas: immigration service fees, the administration of naturalization tests, the electronic filing of naturalization applications and other reforms to reduce the delays caused by the existing background check system. The bill never became a law and as is standard, was cleared from the books having failed move forward within two years. 37)“Americans on Hold,” 14.
Counter-Terrorism and Radicalization
Compared to Europe, the United States has been much less vulnerable to attacks by homegrown terrorists. In general, Muslim Americans are more successfully integrated socially, politically, and culturally than their European counterparts and are thus less vulnerable to the process of radicalization. Since the September 11 attacks, the US has not experienced an act of Islamic-based terrorism and the number of plots that have been prevented are dwarfed by those in Europe. Additionally, American intelligence experts have observed that where radicalism does take hold among the American population, these “would-be terrorists” are much more likely to travel abroad for training and armed conflict as a mujahedeed fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan than to carry out an attack on US soil. Homegrown threats are still a concern, however. Two examples include the New York City 2004 Subway Plot and the 2007 Fort Dix plot, described below in more detail. 38)Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department (2007).
The nature of these threats has taken nearly a decade to come into focus for law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the policymakers and politicians who have been under unparalleled political pressure since the September 11 attacks to respond to such threats and develop the institutional flexibility and tools to effectively protect the American public from an constantly evolving and largely unknown enemy. Political pressure allowed for a massive overhaul of United States security policy and practice in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks; in an effort to adapt to the changing landscape of security threats, laws were enacted that gave the government much more leeway in monitoring and tracking suspected terrorists, at the cost of protecting civil liberties according to critics. It is possible to distinguish two phases over this period, the first defined by the USA PATRIOT Act and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security while the second phase is distinguishable as a period of refinement and policy reversals aimed at achieving a more responsible balance between civil liberties and security concerns. Approximately 54% of Muslim American believe the US’s anti-terrorism efforts single out Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring. 39)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 36.
The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) was signed into Law on October 26, 2001. The Act enhances the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, especially those involving foreign individuals; it expands the authority of law enforcement and immigration authorities to detain and deport immigrants suspected of terrorism; and it increases law enforcement’s ability to search e-mail communications, telephone, financial, medical and other records. Another facet of the Act is that it expands the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus bringing US citizens into the domain of expanded law enforcement latitudes.
Civil Rights activists have been outraged by this legislation, which passed within one month of the September 11 attacks by wide margins in both the House and Senate with the support of both parties. The American Civil Liberties Union has actively opposed the law, citing the following concerns: the Act enables the imprisonment, deportation, and denial of re-admission of non-citizens based on mere suspicion; allows that suspects may be detained indefinitely without substantive judicial review in six month increments; grants the FBI power to investigate American citizens without probable cause in the interest of “intelligence purposes”; and expands the ability of law enforcement to conduct surveillance, secret searches, and gain access to highly personal records with minimal judicial oversight. The ACLU also blames the USA PATRIOT Act for the interrogation of approximately 8,000 Arab and South Asian immigrants on account of their religious and ethnic backgrounds; the secretive detainment of thousands of men, mostly Arab and South Asian, and the government’s refusal to publish their names and whereabouts, even under court order; and the destruction of attorney-client privilege and threats to the right to counsel made possible by provisions that allow intelligence agencies to monitor attorney-client communications. The Act also permits the FBI to conduct surveillance on religious and political organizations and individuals without probable cause, another change the ACLU deems unconstitutional. 40)“The USA PATRIOT ACT and Government Actions that Threaten Our Civil Liberties,” ACLU. Available online: http://www.aclu.org/FilesPDFs/patriot%20act%20flyer.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009).
Around the same time that the original USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law, the Department of Homeland Security was taking shape. On October 8, 2001, Tom Ridge became the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security, which was a precursor to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security on November 25, 2002. Concerned the security in the civilian sphere, the Department distinguishes itself from the Department of Defense, which undertakes military action abroad. In this sense, the Department dovetails the USA PATRIOT and its measures concerning domestic and civilian terrorist threats. Another landmark in the early history of the Department of Homeland Security is its absorption of the Immigration and Naturalization Service on March 1, 2003. This infrastructural reform symbolizes the Bush administration’s general attitude toward security and immigration, particularly the assumed risk of immigrants as modern security threats and the subordination of immigration policy and civil liberties issues to security and foreign policy interests.
Many provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act were set to expire on December 31, 2005. In July 2005, the US Senate revisited the legislation and approved it with significant changed that addressed at least some of the Civil Liberties concerns. The House of Representatives approved the bill also, having made few changes to the 2001 legislation. The reconciled version, which rejected most of the Senate’s proposed changes, garnered much criticism from Republican and Democratic Senators, yet it nevertheless passed Congress on March 2, 2006 and was signed into law by George W. Bush on March 6, 2006.
Radicalization in the United States
As the intelligence and law enforcement communities develop a deeper understanding of the process of radicalization, new insights into the factors that contribute to radicalization and risks to the American public have come to the fore. Since the September 11 attacks, law enforcement agencies have successfully prevented any new attacks on the continental United States. This low number of planned attacks, however, does not mean that the process of radicalization is similarly contained. In fact, law enforcement officials have observed that radicalized individuals from America are more likely to pursue armed conflict abroad as jihadis than plot an attack on US soil.
United States law enforcement officials have identified and deterred two known plots to attack on US soil. The first was that of Shaharawar Matin Siraj, 23, who was arrested for plotting to place a bomb in the subway station near Macy’s at 34th Street one week before the Republican National Convention began on August 30, 2004. 41)Joseph Goldstein, “Siraj is Guilty in a Victory for the City,” The Sun (New York) (May 25, 2006). Available online: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/siraj-is-guilty-in-a-victory-for-the-city/33332/ (Accessed May 2, 2009). The defense claimed that Siraj was entrapped by law enforcement, that the paid police informant worked to coax Siraj into the plot in spite of serious reservations by Siraj who was recorded on videotape saying, “Wait. I better not do this. I have to check with my parents to see if I really want to go through with this.” The defense claimed that Siraj ws not terribly bright, confused, and easily impressionable, especially by the informer who was twice his age and presented himself as an Islamic scholar. 42)“Police Entrapment in Terror Case? NYC Subway Bomb Plotter Says He Was Setup By Paid NYPD Informant,” Democracy Now (January 10, 2007). Available online: http://www.democracynow.org/2007/1/10/police_entrapment_in_terror_case_nyc (Accessed May 2, 2009); An interview with the defendants lawyer, Martin Stoler, is available from Democracy Now at (http://www.democracynow.org/2007/1/10/police_entrapment_in_terror_case_nyc). Siraj was found guilty of a four-count conspiracy to place the bomb and on January 8, 2007, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 43)William Rashbaum, “Guilty Verdict in Plot to Bomb Subway,” The New York Times (May 25, 2006). Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/25/nyregion/25herald.html?ex=1306209600&en=d2ad540d25f2b2af&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss (Accessed May 2, 2009). Within 12 hours of Siraj’s sentencing, his mother, father, and sister were arrested for immigration violations. The mother and daughter were released on January 25, while Siraj’s father remained in custody. Immigrant and civil liberties groups protested the arrests as an act by Homeland Security to silence the family.
Another plot involved five radicalized individuals who plotted to kill US soldiers in an attack at Fort Dix. The plot was discovered when members of the group took a videotape of the group training with automatic weapons at a firing range to a video store for copies. All men were foreign-born Muslims in their 20s. The FBI was able to infiltrate the cell with two paid informants. As with most radicalized individuals, they were not directly linked to a specific organization, but they were indeed inspired by international terrorist groups. 44)“Official: Radicals wanted to create carnage at Fort Dix,” CNN (May 9, 2007). Available online: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/08/fortdix.plot/index.html (Accessed May 2, 2009). The prosecutor of the case, Deputy U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick, argued, “Their motive was to defend Islam. Their inspiration was al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Their intent was to kill members of the United States armed services.” 45)“Government releases videotapes of alleged Fort Dix terror plot” MSNBC (October 22, 3008). Available online: http://deepbackground.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/10/22/1582004.aspx (Access May 2, 2009). The group was arrested on May 7, 2007; the trial began on October 20, 2008 and they were found guilty on December 22, 2008 on charges of conspiracy to harm US military personnel. They were acquitted on the charge of attempted murder.
A 2007 New York Policy Department report titled, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” is one example of law enforcement’s efforts to deconstruct and understand the process of radicalization in order to prevent and successfully intervene with at risk individuals. Across the cases the report examines, the process of radicalization involved four phases including Pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrinization, and jihadization. Pre-Radicalization refers to the individuals world before the individual starts down the path to radicalization. Self-Identification refers to a period in which the individual begins to explore Salafi Islam, while moving away from a previous identity. This phase is often triggered by some personal, economic, political, or social crisis that causes the individual to question an existing worldview and thus be open or vulnerable to new messages and perspectives. Indoctrinization is when an individual’s beliefs intensify, the commitment to jihadi-Salafi ideology is made without reservation, and the individual identifies militant jihad as the action required to further the Salafi cause. In general, this is when the individual embraces the jihadi-Salafi worldview as his or her own. Finally, jihadization is when these indoctrinized individuals cluster with other like-minded individuals and designate themselves holy warriors or mujahedeen. This stage is when group dynamics become much more powerful in leading individuals toward action; group think is a “force multiplier for radicalization and invariably paves the way for action.” While the previous phases can take place gradually, sometimes over the course of many years, the jihadization phase often can occur quickly and abruptly. 46)Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department (2007), 43.
Funding of Terrorist Organizations
Counter-terrorism energies have also been directed toward identifying financial pipelines between US Muslim organizations and international terrorism activities. The most notable organization targeted by these efforts was the Holy Land Foundation; at the time its assets were frozen in 2001 for suspicion of funding Hamas, the Holy Land Foundation was the largest Islamic charity in the United States. The Holy Land criminal trial began in July 2007, but ended in a mistrial in October the same year on account of jury deadlock. The mistrial was seen as a major setback for the US government, since it was unable to present clear evidence to convict the Foundation and justify its forced closure. The government did not allege that the money funded suicide bombings, but rather that it was funneled to charitable organizations, zakat committees responsible for building hospitals and feeding the poor and thus helped spread Hamas’ ideology and build support; these actions were illegal according to legislation passed in 1995 under the Clinton Administration banning any dealings with a terrorist organization. The retrial ended with guilty verdicts against the Holy Land Foundation and its founders, who were fiving life sentences for their role in funneling approximately $12 million to Hamas.
This case and the FBI’s methods of gathering intelligence created strain between federal agencies and other Muslims organizations, most notably CAIR which was labeled an “unindicted coconspirator” by the FBI during the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation. In response, the American Muslim Taskforce, one of the largest Muslim coalition groups, issued statement condemning the FBI’s “McCarthy-era tactics” and encouraging Muslims not to participant as FBI informants. 47)Eliott C. McLaughlin, “FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques, Muslim group says,” CNN (March 20, 2009). Available online: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/20/fbi.muslim.groups/ (Access July 7, 2009).
In addition to public opinion polls, another barometer of Anti-Islamic voices in public discourse is the visibility of anti-Muslim attitudes in the media. There are hundreds of blogs and other democratic media outlets that represent less than tolerant views of Islam and Muslims, as are there representation of these views in mainstream media, although most such voices have been censored for being offensive and in poor taste. For example, CAIR successfully pressured WMAL, a DC radio station, to fire conservative talk-show host Michael Graham for repeatedly declaring on the air “Islam is a terrorist organization.” A handful of controversial evangelical Christian leaders are also reported to have issued inflammatory comments: Pat Robertson called the Prophet Muhammad “an absolutely wild-eyed fanatic,” the Reverend Jerry Vines, past President of the Southern Baptist Convention, referred to Islam’s founder a “demon-possessed pedophile” and Preacher Franklin Graham branded Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.” 48)Paul M. Barrett, “American Muslims and the Question of Assimilation,” in Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States, Steffen Angenendt et al. (Eds.), The Center for Strategic and International Studies and The Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism (September 2007). Available online: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/070920_muslimintegration.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009). While these attitudes clearly resonates with certain congregations, the general traction of these attitudes in the mainstream public should not be overstated.
Bias and Discrimination
Public prejudice against Muslims is relatively high, but the surveys responsible for data on these views also indicate trends in these beliefs that suggest such attitudes are far less prevalent in younger generations. The more concerning statistics reveal that thirty-nine percent (39%) of respondents report having “at least some prejudice” against Muslims, thirty-three percent (33%) believe Muslims are sympathetic to al-Qaeda and that Muslims ought to be required to carry special ID papers, and twenty-two percent (22%) would prefer not to have Muslim neighbors. 49)Barrett, “American Muslims and the Question of Assimilation.”
This survey also found that age and personal contact with individual Muslims were two factors that significantly affected one’s attitude toward Muslims. For example, Anti-Muslim bias decreases significantly when respondents personally know a Muslim: compared to the 31% of those who do not know Muslim, only 10% of those who do still would not want a Muslim as a neighbor. Younger respondents as well report a far lower level of anxiety about Muslim neighbors. 50)Barrett, 81.
Most Muslim Americans have had either direct or indirect experience with bias and discrimination. The majority of Muslim Americans (59%) have not directly experienced anti-Muslim discrimination since the 9/11 attacks; but most (57%) know someone who has. The majority of these incidents have occurred in a work, school, or neighborhood setting. One-quarter (26%) of Muslim Americans report having been victims of racial profiling since the attacks. 51)“Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.” The 2007 Pew Research Center study found that discrimination was the most dominant concern of Muslim Americans, while being viewed as a terrorist (15%), ignorance about Islam (14%), and stereotyping (12%) were also cited as important problems. 52)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 36.
Most Muslim Americans also claim that, since the September 11 attacks, it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States (53%); these rates are much higher for those who have attended graduate school (65%) and those with a household income of $100,000 or more (68%); additionally, highly religious Muslims are more likely to report a change (57%) than less religious Muslim Americans (46%). 53)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 35.
Approximately 51% of all US Muslims report being very or somewhat worried that women wearing hijab will be treated poorly. 54)“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 37. CAIR has compiled some figures on hate crimes directed toward Muslims that indicate an increase in the number of incidents. They report approximately 40 incidents in 2002, approximately 140 in 2004, and 153 incidents in 2005. Over this time, CAIR’s documentation system became more sophisticated, which likely accounts for some, though presumably not all of the increase in reported incidents. The Justice Department also maintains its own statistics on incidents of violence. Between September 11, 2001 and mid-2005, they reported 630 backlash incidents of threats and violence against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. 55)Barrett, 81.
[Return to top]
American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
“Americans on Hold: Profiling, Citizenship, and the ‘War on Terror’,” Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law, April 2007.Available Online: http://www.chrgj.org/docs/AOH/AmericansonHoldReport.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009)
Cesari, Jocelyne (ed.), Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007
Georgetown News Service, “Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll,” Zogby International and Project MAPS, October 19, 2004. Available online: http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=1310 (Accessed May 2, 2009).
Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, Smith, Jane I., and Moore, Kathleen M., Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Kaplan, Hasan. Psychology of New Muslim Identity in America. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag, 2009.
Karim, Jamillah. American Muslim Women. New York: NYU Press, 2008.
“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” Pew Research Center, May 22, 2007.
“Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007.
“Presumption of Guilt: The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States,” Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2007. Available Online: http://www.cair.com/pdf/2007-Civil-Rights-Report.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009).
Silber, Mitchell D. and Bhatt, Arvin. “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department, 2007.
Angenendt, Steffen et al., “Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States,” The Center for Strategic and International Studies and The Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism, March 2007. Available online: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/070920_muslimintegration.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009).
“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” Task Force on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 2007.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Compiled Pew Research Center national surveys from 2000 through 2007; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” Pew Research Center (May 22, 2007), 10.|
|2.||↑||General Social Surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10.|
|3.||↑||American Religious Identification Study, conducted by Barry A. Kosmin and Egon Mayer of the City University of New York Graduate Center; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10.|
|4.||↑||National Election Study conducted by the University of Michigan; cited in “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 10.|
|5, 6.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 11.|
|7.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 15-16.|
|8, 9.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 16.|
|10.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 21.|
|11.||↑||For more information, see the worship practices of three such individuals: Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, Omar ibn Said, and Bilali Muhammad.|
|12.||↑||Thomas A. Tweed, “ Islam in America: from African Slavery to Malcolm X,” The National Humanities Council. Available online: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/islam.htm.|
|13.||↑||Thomas A. Tweed, “ Islam in America: from African Slavery to Malcolm X.”|
|14.||↑||“U.S. Constitution: First Amendment, Religion,” FindLaw.com. Available online: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/ (Accessed May 2, 2009|
|15.||↑||The Lemon Test got its name from Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) a case concerning state reimbursement of salaries, textbooks, and other materials to non-public schools, most of which were Catholic parochial schools.|
|16.||↑||Thomas R. Hensley, Kathleen Hale, Carl Snook, The Rehnquist Court: Justices, Rulings, Legacy (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006), 111.|
|17.||↑||“Booze, Dogs too much for some Muslim Cabbies,” Associated Press (January 4, 2007). Available online: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16472393/ (Accessed July 7, 2009).|
|18.||↑||“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” Task Force on Muslim American Civic and Political Engagement, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 2007.|
|19.||↑||“Faith and Beliefs: Warith Deen Mohammed, A Giant of Islam, Left a Legacy of Unity” KansasCity.com (September 18, 2008). Available online: http://pluralism.org/news/article.php?id=20817 courtesy of the Pluralism Project.|
|20.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 18.|
|21.||↑||“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” 39.|
|22.||↑||“Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans,” 39.|
|23.||↑||Georgetown News Service, “Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll,” Zogby International and Project MAPS, October 19, 2004. Available online http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=1310 (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|24.||↑||Muslim American Political Action Committee 2005 Survey; cited in “Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.”|
|25, 27, 28, 51.||↑||“Georgetown Announces Release of 2004 American Muslim Poll.”|
|26.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.”|
|29.||↑||“Muslim Woman’s Appointment as Obama Advisor Draws Optimism in US-Muslim Relations,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (April 22, 2009).|
|30.||↑||Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Janie I. Smith, and John L. Esposito (eds.), “Religion and Immigration: Christian Jewish, and Muslim Experiences in the United States,” (Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press, 2003), 296.|
|31.||↑||“Americans on Hold,” 15.|
|32.||↑||“Americans on Hold,” 8.|
|33.||↑||“Americans on Hold,” 13-14.|
|34, 35, 36, 37.||↑||“Americans on Hold,” 14.|
|38.||↑||Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department (2007).|
|39, 52.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 36.|
|40.||↑||“The USA PATRIOT ACT and Government Actions that Threaten Our Civil Liberties,” ACLU. Available online: http://www.aclu.org/FilesPDFs/patriot%20act%20flyer.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|41.||↑||Joseph Goldstein, “Siraj is Guilty in a Victory for the City,” The Sun (New York) (May 25, 2006). Available online: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/siraj-is-guilty-in-a-victory-for-the-city/33332/ (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|42.||↑||“Police Entrapment in Terror Case? NYC Subway Bomb Plotter Says He Was Setup By Paid NYPD Informant,” Democracy Now (January 10, 2007). Available online: http://www.democracynow.org/2007/1/10/police_entrapment_in_terror_case_nyc (Accessed May 2, 2009); An interview with the defendants lawyer, Martin Stoler, is available from Democracy Now at (http://www.democracynow.org/2007/1/10/police_entrapment_in_terror_case_nyc).|
|43.||↑||William Rashbaum, “Guilty Verdict in Plot to Bomb Subway,” The New York Times (May 25, 2006). Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/25/nyregion/25herald.html?ex=1306209600&en=d2ad540d25f2b2af&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|44.||↑||“Official: Radicals wanted to create carnage at Fort Dix,” CNN (May 9, 2007). Available online: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/08/fortdix.plot/index.html (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|45.||↑||“Government releases videotapes of alleged Fort Dix terror plot” MSNBC (October 22, 3008). Available online: http://deepbackground.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/10/22/1582004.aspx (Access May 2, 2009).|
|46.||↑||Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” New York City Police Department (2007), 43.|
|47.||↑||Eliott C. McLaughlin, “FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques, Muslim group says,” CNN (March 20, 2009). Available online: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/20/fbi.muslim.groups/ (Access July 7, 2009).|
|48.||↑||Paul M. Barrett, “American Muslims and the Question of Assimilation,” in Muslim Integration: Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Europe and the United States, Steffen Angenendt et al. (Eds.), The Center for Strategic and International Studies and The Transatlantic Dialogue on Terrorism (September 2007). Available online: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/070920_muslimintegration.pdf (Accessed May 2, 2009).|
|49.||↑||Barrett, “American Muslims and the Question of Assimilation.”|
|50, 55.||↑||Barrett, 81.|
|53.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 35.|
|54.||↑||“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 37.|