American Islam David Crumm Religion

American Islam

David Crumm, religion correspondent of the Detroit Free Press, has written a highly significant portrait of Sheikh Hasan Qazwini, a key Shiite cleric in Dearborn near Detroit. Qazwini comes across as a complex and innovative figure, struggling to mediate between his tradition (he was born in Karbala, Iraq) and contemporary Michigan modernity. Although he, like most Iraqi Shiites, supported Bush in getting rid of Saddam in 2003, his concerns about the Patriot Act and its severe curtailment of civil liberties has him rethinking that support this year. Muslim Americans and Arab Americans could be important swing votes in several midwestern states, including Michigan.

A CAIR poll (which sounds to me somewhat unscientific in methodology) finds that Muslims are leaning overwhelmingly to Kerry and Nader and that most planning to vote against Bush. In the past, both Muslims and Arabs in the US tended to be fairly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Concerns about the War on Terror turning into a war on ordinary Muslims, and fears of the Patriot Act, as well as the quagmire in Iraq, appear to have pushed them to the left.

Muqtader Khan reports preliminary findings of surveys being done among Michigan Muslims. He says that they tend to be progressive on economic issues, preferring government support of health care and community needs. But they are conservative on social issues, tending to oppose abortion, homosexuality, and libertine media. If this is true, it helps explain why they have previously been split with regard to the party they support. But it appears that the economic issues, and disaffection with Bush’s foreign policy, may be pushing them toward the Democrats. He writes of this survey of mosque-going Muslims, who are probably more conservative than most Michigan Muslims:

‘ The survey provided some scientific basis for a claim that moderate Americans have been making all along – that the vast percentage of American Muslims are liberal and their presence in America is economically, politically and culturally beneficial. Allegations that American Muslims may constitute a fifth column are beginning to look increasingly shallow . . .

The study provides an interesting profile of the active Muslim in the Detroit area. The average respondent is 34 and married with children, well educated, an immigrant or born of immigrants, and earns over $75,000 a year (while being a tad stingy when it comes to giving to mosques). He or she is either progressive (38 percent) or traditional (25 percent), rarely conservative (8 percent), politically conscious (68 percent are registered to vote), very discerning (85 percent disapprove of President George W. Bush’s performance), a bit ethnocentric (there is some evidence of clustering around mosques) and politically liberal (supporting affirmative action and universal healthcare), but also socially conservative (worrying about sexual promiscuity) . . .

The study’s most important contribution is the survey of attitudes toward Islam. According to the survey, 38 percent of Detroit Muslims adopt a flexible approach to understanding Islam . . . According to the study, only 8 percent identified themselves as Salafi – extreme conservatives who practice gender discrimination and segregation as divine law, and believe that all non-Muslims will go to hell unless they embrace Salafi Islam . . .

The combination of 28 percent traditionalists (a category many Salafis may be hiding in) and 8 percent Salafis make Detroit mosques equally as conservative as they are progressive. It is fair to assume that 36 percent conservative and 38 percent progressive Muslims could make Detroit mosques a battleground for the proverbial soul of Islam. The character of the mosques, therefore, will be determined by the influence exercised by those who are theological free lancers (25 percent). If they lean to the past, the conservatives dominate, and if they look to the future, the progressives will prevail.

Finally, Muslims who advocate participation in American mainstream society and politics achieved a decisive victory over anti-American Muslims, who advocate an isolated existence for Muslims in America. According to the survey, 93 percent of mosque-goers believe Muslims must engage in US politics. ‘

This kind of research demonstrates how insipid is the book mill about ‘radical Islam’ ‘in America.’ Only a handful of American Muslims can be categorized as radical. Most have political attitudes very little distinguishable from recent Catholic immigrants, e.g.

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