The election results have left millions of Americans shell-shocked and scrambling for cover. Muslim Americans aren’t the only group worried about their futures, but we are certainly extra vulnerable because many in this country don’t know very much about us. Where there is a lack of information — or even misinformation — there is bound to be distrust, fear and discrimination.
Since Donald Trump, our President-Elect, has campaigned against Muslims in this country and around the world, it may help him (and his supporters) to learn some facts about the Muslim population in America and perhaps even shatter some stereotypes. Others, whether his supporters or not, may also benefit from these facts:
1. Muslim Americans are more similar to other faith groups than they are different.
According to polls, Muslims attend religious services, care about their communities and find their faith important in ways that many other Christian denominations do. For example, 87 percent of Muslims say their religion is important to their daily lives, as opposed to 94 percent of Protestants and 96 percent of Catholics. Source: Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
2. What Muslims believe is often a source of distrust and misinformation.
Accusations of worshiping the sun god (we don’t) to Prophet Muhammad being a warmonger (he wasn’t) abound in media and personal narratives. The truth is that Islam is very similar to the other two Abrahamic religions: Christianity and Judaism. ING has perhaps the most comprehensive resource for understanding the beliefs of Muslims, from the nature of God to worship practices, gender issues and much more.
3. Muslims are often told to “go back home” because of an incorrect assumption that we are all immigrants.
However, the reality is very different. More than a third of all Muslim Americans are born in this country. Further, 81 percent are U.S. citizens. The group is also ethnically very diverse: 30 percent describe themselves as white, 23 percent as black, 21 percent as Asian, 6 percent as Hispanic and 19percent mixed-race or “other.” So you see, Muslims don’t come in any one color or ethnicity, and they certainly are not identifiable by their looks.
4. Muslim Americans are also accused of not assimilating.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Pew reports that a majority of Muslim Americans (56 percent) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Far fewer (20 percent) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society. However, the American public doesn’t seem to realize this truth: 51 percent think that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture. Where and how this disconnect between perceptions and reality comes from is important.
5. Hijab-wearing Muslim women face more discrimination.
With the current uptick in hate crimes against Muslims, women wearing the hijab (head cover) seem to be disproportionately targeted because of their obvious identification of their faith. The ACLU reports that Muslim women who wear headscarves are more likely than those who don’t to face discrimination: 69 percent of women who wore hijab reported at least one incident of discrimination compared to 29 percent of women who did not wear hijab. But the most interesting thing is that the majority of Muslim women don’t even wear the hijab. According to Pew, 36 percent of Muslim American women report always wearing the hijab whenever they are out in public, and an additional 24 percent say they wear the hijab most or some of the time. Forty percent say they never wear it.
6. Muslims are not leeching off the system or taking advantage of benefits.
In keeping with the tenets of our faith, we are involved in all manner of professional and volunteer work in our communities. For instance, even though Muslims make up less than 3 percent of the total population, we are an astonishing 10 percent of all physicians. Further, Muslims are involved — and have been since this country’s inception — in every aspect of politics, culture and community. A recent book entitled Muslims and the Making of America explains all the ways we all are more American because of Muslim Americans.
7. Muslims are vocal about denouncing terrorism.
So, President-Elect Trump, and all others who think they know Muslims based on media reports or stereotypical narratives: please do your homework about us. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with a rapidly increasing population full of hardworking, patriotic Americans who love their country. Rather than peddling fear and hatred, please get to know us. Please meet us to learn about our fears, hopes and dreams. America will be better for it.