Muslim in America and Its Complexity

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014, 09:36 WIB


Despite the fact that Muslim is a religious minority in America (less than1% of the total population), there are estimated to be 6-7 million Muslims living in America. Moreover, there are over 2,100 mosques in the USA. Interestingly, the number is growing significantly through immigration, conversion, and the birth of a new generation. Approximately 70% of Muslim Americans are immigrants from different places, so that they are very diverse in terms of racial, national, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Accordingly, Muslim Americans are complex community. Life has become more challenging for many after the 9/11 Attacks, especially women for whom it has sometimes been uneasy to show their religious appearances consistently in different circles of in-group and out-group members due to Islamophobia.

Jaye Starr, presented this interesting topic on CRCS-ICRS Wednesday Forum on March 26th, 2014. The Wednesday Forum was conducted in the Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW). Jaye is a visiting Henry Luce Exchange Student with the ICRS/CRCS programs. She is an American Muslim pursuing her Master's degree in Islamic Studies & Christian-Muslim Relations and a Graduate Certificate in Chaplaincy through Hartford Seminary. While here in Indonesia, she is especially interested to learn about the Muslim women’s movement, different approaches to building peace between Christians and Muslims, and some of the Islamic tools used for healing individuals and communities in the aftermath of disasters and violence. Then, she hopes to do peace-building work with refugee resettlement populations living in the Untied States.

During this Wednesday Forum, Jaye brilliantly provided an overview of American Muslim demographics and history with a look at the rapidly expanding institutions and cultural contributions. In this regard, she explained that most of Muslims in America are first generation immigrants and there are the growing of younger generations among them. They come from different countries consisting of 33% South-Central Asian, 30% African American, 25% Arab, 2% European, 2% Asian, and 2% other. This fact is interesting because it shows that Muslims are important potential for the country. Many Muslims come as slaves from Africa to colonial America. In the late 1800's-1920s there was large Arabs immigration to America. Then, many highly skilled Muslim immigrants came after 1965 as a result of a change in immigration law that allowed more educated immigrants to come. Academic exchanges and conversion also account for a portion of the Muslim community.

In her enlightening presentation, Jaye also paid special attention to the experiences of Muslim women in America and the impact of September 11. While many Muslim women represent American Muslims in interfaith programs, some are challenged when speaking publicly among Muslims and confronted with the claim that their voice is 'awra. She also spoke about the well-funded and strategic anti-Muslim/Islam campaign. Jaye showed how this campaign has impacted Muslims through case studies such as the Cordoba Initiative/Park 51 project, inaccurately dubbed the "Ground Zero Mega Mosque," but she also showed how there has been a tremendous outpouring of inter-faith support that rarely gets the same media coverage. She emphasized that there is serious effort towards maintaining peaceful coexistence among multi-religious communities in America. (admin,che)