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Islam in America

Muslims move to the mainstream

by David Johnson

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During Dec. 2000 a crescent symbolizing Islam stood along with the Christmas tree and the Hanukkah candelabra on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. In 2001 the postal service issued a stamp for the Muslim feast of Eid-al-Fitr at the request of thousands of Muslim school children.

According to the Washington Times, the stamp is one indication that the more than six million American Muslims have arrived as a political and social force.

Mosques Dot the Country

Once confined to the nation's biggest cities, mosques, Islamic houses of worship, are rapidly becoming a familiar site on Main Streets across the country. There are some 3,000 mosques in the U.S.

Fueled by immigration and conversions, Islam is the fastest growing religion in America. (It is also the fastest growing faith in the world.) It is on the verge of surpassing Judaism as the largest non-Christian faith in the country.

Many People Confuse Terms

Many people mistakenly assume 'Muslim' and 'Arab' are interchangeable. Many Arabs are Christian. There are two million Christian Arabs—mainly Orthodox and Roman Catholic—living the U.S.

The majority of Muslims in the world are not Arab. In fact, Indonesia, in Southeast Asia, is the largest Islamic country in the world. Millions of Muslims live in such non-Arab areas as India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Diverse Origins

The American Muslim Council (AMC) in Washington, DC states that American Muslims have the following origins: Middle Eastern Arabs, 26.2%; South Asian (countries from Iran to Bangladesh), 24.7%; American blacks, 23.8%; non-Arabs from the Middle East (mostly Turkish), 10.3%; East Asia (Indonesia, China, etc.), 6.4%; other, (white American converts, Europeans, sub-Saharan Aricans, 11.6%.

More Muslims Favored Bush

According to Neveen Salem, director of communications and media at the AMC, 70% of all U.S. Mulsims voted for George Bush. The remainder of the vote was split between Albert Gore and Ralph Nader.

However, 46% of American Muslims are registered Democrats, 15.8% are Republicans, and 26.4% are independents, according to the AMC.

A Zogby poll of Muslims of Arab origin only, commissioned by Abu Dhabi Television, and released in the U.S. by the Arab American Institute, states that 58.5% of Arab Muslims voted for Bush, while 22.5% supported Gore, and 16.5% chose Nader, who is of Lebanese Christian heritage.

One reason for Bush's support was his criticism of "secret evidence," which is used to hold a person suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization, but which is not shown to the suspect for fear of compromising intelligence sources. The law is used almost exclusively against Arabs.

In 1996, 57% of Arab Muslims voted for Clinton and 22% for Republican candidate Bob Dole.

Senator Abraham Defeated

Yet, Republican Spencer Abraham, of Michigan the only Arab American in the U.S. senate, was defeated in the 2000 elections, despite large concentrations of Muslims and of Arabs in Michigan.




Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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