by Imran H. Khan

Today is nearly the middle of Ramadan, a month of reflection and fasting for Muslims. It is also an appropriate time to reflect upon how Muslims are doing in America.  They are certainly getting more than their due share of attention in the media and in the political arena of this country.  One of the purpose of this post is to capture a snapshot of what is happening to American Muslims at this time for posterity. It is my intention to do this every year to gauge the trajectory of how this American group is doing.

While considerable progress has been made since 9/11 to educate the Americans in terms of Islam, the American public is still quite confused as to what Islam really is and Muslim practices like fasting in Ramadan.  With the upcoming mid year elections and strained economy, political leaders have found Islam and Muslims as a convenient scapegoat for furthering their chances of election. One of the positive change is that the current President understands Islam and has initiated different efforts to bring about harmony between the US and the Muslim world.

Even though American Muslims number in the order of nearly 7 million, they lack political and media clout to have their voices heard. 67% of adult Muslims are under 40 and a similar percentage has bachelors degree.  They are not only young and educated but also earn considerably more than the US average. American Muslims have done a very poor job in engaging with the society at large, though this is slowly changing. Our religious community center opened its doors to everyone during its 30th. year anniversary.  It was covered both by Boston Globe and MetroWest newspapers. Most visitors welcomed and encouraged more interaction of this type. On an individual basis Muslims are beginning to use opportunities to open up their homes. In a recent Iftar (breaking of fast) we opened our house to MetroWest journalist and his photographer that resulted in this story.

America by and large is one of the most Islamic countries in terms of values and laws.  I find it easier to remain true to Islamic injunctions than any other country in the world. Unlike Europe that has been Islamophobic for quite some time,  America has resisted such tendencies.  Nonetheless there are some recent tendencies, which if not nipped in the bud could move America in the same direction as Europe.

One of the issues dominating the air waves and press is the Park51 Mosque project a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan. Time magazine’s recent cover raised questions if America is Islamophobic.

A new TIME–Abt SRBI poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers. Only 37% know a Muslim American. Overall, 61% oppose the Park51 project, while just 26% are in favor of it. Just 23% say it would be a symbol of religious tolerance, while 44% say it would be an insult to those who died on 9/11.

President Obama compounded the issue by making somewhat conflicting statements. Sarah Palin had this to tweet about it “Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts”.  Newt Gingrich accused President Obama of “pandering to radical Islam” by expressing support for building an Islamic cultural center which includes a mosque two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, adding: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a sight next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

Mayor Bloomberg of New York has been a steadfast supporter of the Park51 Mosque project. A journalist wrote “Bloomberg is a former Wall Street Mogul with a passion for the rights of a private property owner. He is a Jew whose parents asked their Christian lawyer to buy a house and then sell it back to them to hide their identity in an unwelcoming Massachusetts suburb. And he is a politician who regards his independence as his greatest virtue.” He delivered a very eloquent defense of the mosque in a recent iftar that can be viewed below and is worth listening to.

Many American Muslims are also not comfortable with the choice of locating the mosque so close to Ground Zero. You can read a couple of relevant posts on this blog here and here reflecting multiplicity of opinions.

The more disturbing news for American Muslims is the Quran burning events initiated by a Florida Church.  Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmad points out the the outrage that this would create amongst Muslims. He reflects on how Islam was revered by the founding fathers of this country.

I have written a number of short posts on this blog titled “Ramadan Days ..” to better educate American and others about the message God is trying to convey in Quran. They are the result of my reading the Quran from the perspective of a non believer and trying to understand the essence of the message. For those wanting to delve deeper they should visit “Corpus Quran“; which is a search-able website and has translations by many renowned scholars.

Ramadan Mubarik to All of my American fellow citizens.

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8 Responses to “Ramadan 2010: State of American Muslims”

  1. Mario Moreira on August 25th, 2010 1:01 am

    With only 37% of Americans who actually know an America Muslim says two things.

    The first is that American Muslims need to continue to open their centers and interact more with the average American. With that being said, many Islamic centers have engaged regularly in interfaith events so that American Muslims and their diverse way of live is more understood.

    The second thing however, is I suggest that if only 37% actually know an American Muslim in this day in age, there must certainly be some percentage of Americans who have little or no interest in making an effort to meet an American Muslim and some probably will purposefully never do so. With a minister wanting to burn the Quran, this is indicative of the bigotry out there from someone who is supposed to be a follower of Jesus the messager of love. If a Christian is so hateful and most assuredly having followers with the same mindset, then this highlights a bigotry that will be hard to overcome. Add to this the purposeful and ignorant misinformation from Fox News and politicians. They appear to be against the 2nd Amendment and what America has always stood for (freedom of religion) and promoting the opposite of a tolerant and truly American America.

    With that being said, the true Americans out there who believe in our Constitution and the amendments (specifically the 2nd Amendment), need to speak out against this hatred and bigotry. Our freedoms made America great. Let’s not let bigotry and hatred and those that preach it rule America and destroy everything our founding Fathers built to help make us great!

    Imran Reply:

    As you aptly put it if you are against the US Constitution you are essentially Un-American.

  2. imran on August 26th, 2010 1:50 pm

    Two opposing but interesting opinions.

    Mahmoud Haddad, a history professor at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, said that “the Muslim community should take the high moral and political ground” and agree to move the center, even though it has every right to build near ground zero.

    “They should show they are more concerned about the general good of all Americans,” said Mr. Haddad, who studied and taught in the United States for two decades. “American society refuses to accept Muslims, even of the Westernized type, and consider them as a potential risk at best.”

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the project leader, has been speaking about his Cordoba Initiative on a two-week tour of the Persian Gulf sponsored by the State Department, although he has gingerly avoided discussing the Park51 location.

    “What’s happening in America is very healthy,” said Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Bahraini anthropologist, after spending an evening with the imam.

    The United States, he said, was still assimilating historical influences, including Islam, into its inaccurate self-image as a solely Judeo-Christian nation. The construction of Park51, Mr. Zekri believes, will help shape that.

    “We pray for the people of New York, for peace,” Mr. Zekri said solemnly. “And if it matters, we apologize for what those people have done on 9/11.”

  3. Salahuddin on September 6th, 2010 12:22 pm

    Though we’re completing perhaps the most trying and turbulent decade for America/ Islam relations, the notion that Americans now have a heightened understanding of Islam since 9/11 is actually not borne out as in the large Gallup study about Muslim opinion worldwide, there was actually a decline between 2002 and 2007 in the number of Americans who thought they “understood” Islam. UPF’s wonderful production called “Inside Islam : What a billion Muslims really think” is a revealing commentary on where we stand today, and if anything, things have deteriorated since 2007.

    Imran Reply:

    CBS News Poll of 2006 and Gallup poll of 2002 reveal that 65 percent of Americans know more about Islam than they did five years ago. But understanding does not translate into a favorable impression. In fact the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of Islam has dropped from 30 percent in 2002 to 19 percent in April 2006.

  4. Salahuddin on September 7th, 2010 1:36 pm

    I was comparing Gallup 2002 and Gallup 2007. As for favorable, that’s not surprising. Meanwhile, it’s worth checking out a psychological phenomenon of “priming”

  5. Imran on September 16th, 2010 12:51 am

    It took Obama aquite while to say the right thing, but in the end he did finally say it.

  6. Bettie on November 5th, 2010 9:40 am

    I am an American who accepts Muslims…as long as they live in Muslim countries (hint: not the USA) (also not Australia, Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden, etc…).
    And yes, I’ve read the Quran, Hadith, all about Muhammed, I’ve met Muslims…all of that. Education and experience have caused me to come to this conclusion: Islam does not belong in the civilized, free world.