Muslims in America Gerry OShea
The four current Muslim members of congress are all Democrats. Last year, one of them, Ilhan Omar, unwisely engaged in antisemitic tropes while legitimately lambasting the Israeli Government for its maltreatment of Palestinians, a position with wide support among Americans concerned with human rights.
Democrats immediately condemned her flirtation with antisemitism, and she quickly backed down and apologized unreservedly. Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders rightly excoriated her for her extreme views and tried to portray her opinions as typical of a far-left coterie of Democratic members of congress, without providing any evidence for that contention.
Amazingly, Republican leaders have shown no outrage at their many members who openly identify with the Christian nationalist movement which, in blatant contradiction to the American constitution, would consign members of non-Christian religions to second-class status in America.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 induced a high level of interest in Muslim beliefs with an unprecedented focus on American adherents of that religion. Since then, Islamophobia, defined as unfounded hostility towards Muslims, has become much more prevalent throughout the country.
The president at the time of the attack, George W Bush, pleaded for tolerance: “The acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. Islam means peace.”
A few years later, President Obama spoke glowingly of Muslim contributions to America. “They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught in our universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel prizes and lit the Olympic torch.”
The Pew Research Center designed a study which asked where Muslims were rated in comparison with eight other religions in America. They scored at the bottom, edging out atheists in the coldest corner of the results.
Most Americans are poorly educated about what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible. They are mostly unaware that Islam with Judaism and Christianity, the three monotheistic religions, follow the same Abrahamic tradition, claiming that Abraham was the first of God’s prophets.
All three religions were started in the Middle East and have strong connections to each other. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam draws from both, proclaiming itself as the final divine revelation in the monotheistic tradition.
The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians by naming them as “people of the Book”, validating their beliefs as sister religions, bowing to the same deity.
Islam recognizes as prophets not only Abraham but many others including Moses and Jesus. Muhammad is not a divine being – only Christians make that claim about their founder. Instead, he is revered as the Great Prophet chosen by God and a virtuous man to be emulated.
Many readers will be surprised to hear that Muhammad is only mentioned four times in the Quran while Jesus’ name can be found in 25 places, well below Moses at 136. The Quran dedicates a whole chapter to Jesus’ mother, Mary, who is the only woman named in the Muslim sacred book.
Jesus is spoken of as the “Spirit from God”, the “Messiah” who will come back on the Day of Judgement to destroy the Antichrist.
Like Christians, Muslims believe that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary. Endorsing the Bethlehem story in the New Testament, their sacred book asserts that Mary was in shock when Archangel Gabriel informed her of her special mission.
She said: How shall I have a son when no man has ever touched me and I am not unchaste? The Quran story continues with Gabriel’s reply: Your Lord says that is easy for Me; and we wish to appoint him (Jesus) as a sign unto men and a mercy from Us.
Of course, there are theological differences between Muslims and Christians about Jesus and the road to holiness, but the similarities are far more pronounced. These should surely be emphasized to show the common ground between the two faiths which together count approximately 4.2 billion followers worldwide – more than half the population of the planet.
Prior to the mayhem of 9/11, 2001, Muslims tended to vote Republican mainly because they tend to adhere to traditional family values. That voting pattern has changed especially since Donald Trump openly demeaned them by banning immigration from Muslim countries.
In 2015 candidate Trump promised “the complete and total shutdown of Muslims coming into the United States”. As president, he fulfilled that promise by ordering a travel ban from most Muslim countries.
President Biden reversed that discriminatory ban shortly after coming into office. One would surely expect that Muslims would vote en masse against Mr. Trump. Not so! Associated Press exit polls revealed that 35% of Muslims voted for Trump and 64% for Joe Biden in November 2020.
Race is a salient issue. 50% of Muslims who voted for Trump identified as white while among Arabs, Asians and Latinos who also claim allegiance to Islam the percentage dropped to the 20s and the Black Muslim vote for Trump collapsed to single figures.
Muslims have a growing population mainly because, like many traditional tribal groups, they tend to have larger families than the wider population.
Ironically, Democrats’ commitment to a pluralistic society where minority needs are respected does not resonate with many adherents of Islam. Very few mosques welcome LGBTQ activists! Also, in interviews substantial numbers of Muslims profess that Trump’s economic instincts cohere with their own.
In 2020 Biden won Michigan where there is a substantial Muslim community by 155,000 votes while Trump carried the state by a mere 11,000 four years earlier. This is a vital state for both parties. The Muslim vote will be closely scrutinized there as well as in Pennsylvania and Florida in the lead-up to November 2024, and I doubt that Trump will be talking about immigration bans this time around.