Do Muslim Americans need a Civil Rights Movement?

By Emily Cury | (The Conversation) | – –

The past year has been a difficult one for American Muslims.

According to a July 2017 Pew survey, 48 percent of Muslims report experiencing at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim advocacy organizations found these trends were particularly intense during the 2016 campaigns and the early months of the Trump presidency.

And while the survey shows that Americans report warmer feelings toward Muslims today than they did in 2014, Muslims continue to be the most negatively rated religious group – followed closely by atheists. In fact, about half of Americans (49 percent) believe that at least “some” Muslim Americans are anti-American.

As a scholar of religion and politics, I’ve studied how U.S. Muslim advocacy organizations have advanced their community’s integration in America. Their work reminds us that minorities in the U.S. are still struggling for civil rights.

Islamophobia in politics

Spikes in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes appear to correlate with elections cycles. This is not a coincidence. In recent years, politicians have increasingly relied on anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize voters. What was once considered unacceptable discourse by members of both parties has gradually been normalized, particularly among Republican candidates.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Ben Carson claimed that Islam was incompatible with the Constitution. And former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned that some immigrants were trying to “change our fundamental culture and values and set up their own.”

Then, candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Many critics consider that statement the basis for his January 27 executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries.

Muslim Americans are responding through organizations that represent their interests, and are increasingly visible, engaged and assertive. At the grassroots level, their presence is seen through the work of activists like Linda Sarsour, a co-sponsor of the 2017 Women’s March. At the policy level, Muslim advocacy organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations also work to advance the community’s legislative agenda.

Advocating for Muslim Americans

There are an estimated 3.35 million Muslims in the U.S. A majority of them, 58 percent, are first-generation Americans who arrived in the U.S. after the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. As these immigrants began to settle in the U.S., they established institutions. In fact, most Muslim advocacy groups were founded in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but gained prominence in the post-9/11 era.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the more recently established U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations are among the largest at the national level.

By working on behalf of one of the most stigmatized religious minority groups, Muslim advocacy organizations aspire to uphold the most cherished of American ideals and values: liberty, equality and the inalienable rights of all citizens. They aim to make U.S. Muslims agents of their own narratives, fostering their civic engagement and strengthening the social fabric of our nation.

Muslim American advocacy today

For years, these organizations have encouraged and registered Muslim citizens to vote. More recently, they’ve begun encouraging them to run for office. These efforts are significant because many Muslims are not registered to vote, and only 44 percent of those who are voted during the 2016 elections.

Muslim advocacy organizations are also actively bringing their community’s concerns to the attention of elected officials. Some of their most recent lobbying efforts include calling on the House and Senate to support two bills. The No Religious Registry Act of 2017 (H.R. 489) would protect the constitutional rights of American Muslims. And Senate Bill 248 would block Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries.

They’ve also lobbied for the protection of immigrant communities and the cessation of religious and racial profiling. In particular, they have focused on building support for the BRIDGE Act, which would protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, and the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 (S.411), which would protect all Americans from discriminatory profiling by law enforcement.

The ConversationU.S. Muslims face serious challenges, but they are also increasingly motivated to confront them. Their efforts show how minority groups in America work to secure their collective interests and continue the process of building an inclusive democracy.

Emily Cury, Research Fellow in International Affairs and Middle East Studies, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CGTN: “Muslim American Faces: Telling ‘real stories’ of US Muslims on social media”

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5 Responses

  1. What chance do Muslims have in the US to make their case and feel safe? With Trump setting the standards, and tone in this country, the anti Muslim rhetoric we keep hearing, from him, and from right wing media, trolls on many websites, and the Islamaphobes like Gaffney, Geller, and others, financed by pro Israel Americans like Nina Rosenwald, Muslims will need more than a civil rights movement to fight this demon.

  2. if Muslims in American do not form a national Civil Rights Movement things will only get worse. United Muslims may stand a chance, but if not united, we know how that ends. The U.S.A. in my opinion has a nasty anti Muslim President along with a lot of his base and fellow Republicans. They also are anti Latino, anti Dreamer, just about anything anti except themselves.

    Muslims need a national advocacy group which can work with other groups, to become more of a political force.

    What Trump and his ilk are doing to Muslims and Latinos is not much different from what Hitler and his Nazi’s did to the Jews, Gypsies, gays, labour leaders, etc

    it just never ends and people need to get organized to save themselves because no one else will. We have seen that often ought through out history.

  3. I think the challenge muslim Americans confront is similar to the challenge confronted by Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, Azerbaijani Americans, Armenian Americans, Asian Americans. Being successful minorities with higher academic, income, wealth, marriage, and other indicator of social performance outcomes than most Americans on an average and median basis. This leads to jealousy, backlash, bigotry, fear, anger and attacks.

    Sometimes organizing and increasing political representation increases the jealousy, backlash and attacks. Examples include the Jewish Germans in the 1930s. Their high degree of organization and political representation if anything increased the level of attack against German Jews. Similarly currently America is a hotbed of anti Jewish bigotry and attacks; despite organization and political representation. For example Jewish Americans are subject to more hate crimes than any other group of Americans on a per capita basis:

    link to ucr.fbi.gov

    I am not sure what the best response is. Perhaps look at how immigrants in LA responded to the anti immigrant riots in 1992. In 1992, 45% of all businesses attacked were owned by Korean Americans. Almost all the businesses attacked were owned by Asian Americans or Latino Americans. Most of the people killed were Asian Americans or Latino Americans (about 30% of the people killed were Latino Americans). It is important to note that many local African Americans tried hard to protect immigrant Americans and their businesses and saved hundreds of lives.

    The Asian American and Latino American community responded with loving kindness towards those that attacked them. Many African Americans who lived in LA quickly expressed their heartfelt sorrow for the riots and begged immigrants to stay in LA and conduct business in LA.

    Within a year LA elected a Republican Caucasian mayor who was openly pro immigrant and pro business. LA in 1993 was overwhelmingly Democrat. This is how far the people of LA went to reassure their immigrant brothers and sisters.

    Perhaps a good response by muslim Americans would be to respond with loving kindness. Donate billions of dollars and millions of hours towards helping poor Americans. Reaching out to fellow Americans and participating in American civil society much the way Korean Americans did after 1992.

    I don’t know the best way to respond.

  4. In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected and Bella Abzug said, “We’re all Niggers now.”

    That remark has now been fulfilled. We’re all going to need civil rights movements (rather than the patriarchy privileges movement now in charge) in the next few years. How we will get these movements to work together to create a cohesive, principled new republic is sure beyond me.

  5. Bella was right and its been down hill all the way since then. and before any one thinks Clinton was O,.K. he really gave dismantling support for children and families by changing how people collected welfare. He played to those who opposed some sort of government support for those who needed it. They played off of the same script, scape goating African Americans.

    As to donating and “being nice”, it doesn’t work in this environment. This time, once again the fascist/Nazi’s are in charge. They hated the Jews in Germany because they were Jewish, just like they hated the Gypsies because they were Roma. ‘they all went to the death camps and it wasn’t just Germany. When they invaded other countries, they rounded up the Jews in those countries also. Hitler needed a group to use as scape goats and the Jews fit the bill just as Muslims and Latinos do today. He stole their assets and murdered them.
    When the brown shirts had their marches in the streets of Germany, had they been treated as they treated others, who knows how things might have ended. As an old quote goes, if every Jew had met the SS at the door with a gun, there might not have been a holocaust. This time the ones doing the rounding up are doing it in a foot at a time manner, but in the end Trump and his racist buddies will remove just about every one and any one they can.

    I found it interesting that the newly released document in England about how they plan to treat those entering the country may only stay for 2 years to work and will have their finger prints taken.

    Being more than a tad familiar with what went on in Europe, WW II era,I can see the day Trump and his ilk will finger print and register Muslims also. Just look at history. remove the word Jew and replace it with the word Muslim and you will see the future. Muslims must organize. (me I’m an atheist)

    Genocide has always been with us. We have only to look a the news for the past oh so many decades. Look at the refugees trying to get into Bangladesh/

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