Who’s optimistic about America’s future? American Muslims

I’m off for the next two weeks but will return around Aug. 22 with my annual report on religious elements in my beach reading.

I think I’m starting with “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” which I’ve been trying to get to for years.

Come fall, I’ll try to post a bit more often than I’ve done of late. It’s tough, being that I’m mostly covering education these days, we have a lot of 9/11 anniversary stuff in the works, and there are plenty of other demands on our small, but committed-as-ever staff.

One interesting note: A new study from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a partnership with Gallup polling machine, finds that American Muslims are more satisfied with their American lives that members of other faith groups.

They say they face discrimination, but that they are thriving in general.

According to the Washington Post:

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…almost two in three Muslims said their standard of living is improving, up 18 percentage points from 2008 and higher than any other faith group surveyed. This is the same period that Muslim leaders say has been the most oppressive for Muslims in this country, with rhetoric against their faith group appearing to rise.

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An LA Times write-up includes this:

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The polling also indicates significant common ground between Muslims in America and their Jewish counterparts. The two groups largely share similar views on resolving the decades-long conflict in the Middle East. Eighty-one percent of Muslim Americans and 78% of Jewish Americans support the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. A majority of Jewish Americans, 70%, also said they didn’t believe American Muslims sympathized with Al Qaeda. The only respondents more likely to agree were Muslim Americans themselves.

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The Forward also notes the similarities between Muslim and Jewish thinking:

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What may be surprising is the Gallup poll’s finding that in many respects, Muslim Americans most resemble… Jews. Sixty percent of Muslims say they are thriving here; ditto, American Jews. Almost all (93%) of the Muslims in Gallup’s survey believe that other Muslims are loyal to America; Jews (80%) are the religious group most likely to agree with that statement. Jews are also among the least likely religious groups to think that Muslim Americans sympathize with al Qaeda, and both groups consider the war with Iraq a big mistake.

There’s more. Muslim Americans are the most likely of any major religious group (80%) to approve of President Obama’s job performance. And who is next on that list? Yep, the Jews.

A public Muslim service in Peekskill

I just got back from Pugsley Park in Peekskill, where the Islamic Center of Peekskill held a very public celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan.

The group held their prayers and celebration outdoors so their non-Muslim neighbors could see them.

Several senior members and the groups’ imam, a 45-year-old fellow from Senegal, told me that public perceptions of Muslims will only change when non-Muslims see how Muslims act and live.

During his sermon, Imam Papa Sall repeatedly said that Muslims have to be true to themselves by living honorable, honest lives that will influence the way non-Muslims understand their faith. Words won’t do, he said.

It was a quiet morning on Main Street in Peekskill. Many people were at work, of course. A good number of people slowed down in their cars to see what was happening, but then went off to continue their day.

It was interesting, at least to me, that the Islamic Center of Peekskill chose to have this first public celebration just as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is FINALLY making the media rounds to talk about himself and the plans for the downtown Islamic center.

Maybe it’s time for a Muslim public relations firm to get off the ground and to help Muslim groups in the U.S. figure out how to better communicate with all those Americans who still know nada about Islam and are unlikely to ever pick up a Quran.

The Muslim community in the U.S. is growing by the day. Its leaders must be more visible and must do a better job of communicating.

At Pugsley Park, the Islamic Center set up a table of pamphlets. I saw many of the same pamphlets I’ve seen at various mosques and Islamic events over the years.

But “Islam: The True Religion of God” and “Who Invented the Trinity” won’t cut it anymore. They’re proselytizing tracts that might have been enough when no one was paying attention to Islam. Today, they’re liking to offend passers-by.

The American Muslim community has to do better.