Race, Religion, and Immigration in 2016

How the Debate over American Identity Shaped the Election and What It Means for a Trump Presidency

Key Findings

  • Even before the 2016 election, there was increasing alignment between race and partisanship, with white voters without a college education shifting sharply toward the Republican Party.
  • Attitudes related to immigration, religion, and race were more salient to voter decision-making in 2016 than in 2012. Other attitudes do not show this pattern.
  • There are serious partisan cleavages in how Americans feel about immigrants and Muslims.
  • Large majorities agree on certain criteria for “being American,” but Democrats and Republicans disagree about whether being Christian is an important criterion.
  • Americans see both positive and negative consequences to the demographic changes that are projected to make the U.S. a majority-minority nation.

 

Omar Mateen, Twice Scrutinized by F.B.I., Shows Threat of Lone Terrorists

The son of Afghan immigrants, Mr. Mateen was born in New York in 1986, moved to Florida with his family in 1991 and spent his early years there in the Port St. Lucie area near the state’s east coast. He made friends as a child at a local mosque, and built friendships during slumber parties and basketball games, and playing video games. He bounced between jobs in high school and college. In court documents connected to a 2006 name change — from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen — he said he had held eight jobs in about four years, including work as a grocer and as a salesman at a computer store.
He came to the F.B.I.’s attention in 2013, when some of his co-workers reported that he had made inflammatory comments claiming connections to overseas terrorists, and saying he hoped that the F.B.I. would raid his family’s home so that he could become a martyr.
The F.B.I. opened an investigation and put Mr. Mateen on a terrorist watch list for nearly a year.
James Comey, the F.B.I. director, said during a news conference on Monday that agents used various methods to investigate Mr. Mateen, including sending an undercover informant who made contact with the suspect, wiretapping his conversations and scrutinizing his personal and financial records.
They also sought help from Saudi intelligence officials to learn more about his trips to the kingdom in 2011 and 2012 for the Umrah, a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca made by Muslims. More than 11,000 Americans make pilgrimages to Mecca each year, and Mr. Comey said the F.B.I. found no “derogatory” information about his trips.
“Why did he do this?” his father asked. “He was born in America. He went to school in America. He went to college — why did he do that?”
“I am as puzzled as you are.”
NY Times: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/orlando-shooting-omar-mateen.html

‘Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity’ by Shabana Mir

March 7, 2014

 

It should come as no surprise that being a Muslim American woman on an American college campus, surrounded by social pressures involving drinking and dating, makes for a complex young-adult experience. What’s surprising is that these conflicts are not much discussed.

Shabana Mir, who teaches global studies and anthropology at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., spent 10 months in Washington during 2002-03. She interviewed 26 Muslim American women at Georgetown and George Washington universities about how their choices concerning dating, alcohol and clothing made them feel around their non-Muslim peers. Each woman had her own way of melding her two modifiers into a “third space” that is “neither stereotypically American, nor stereotypically Muslim.”

One theme of the book is a subtle current of dismay on the part of non-Muslim students, who tended to be misinformed at best and fearful at worst about interacting with Mir’s subjects. Here is the author’s summation of what one young woman experienced after deciding to go to parties where there was drinking but not indulge in it herself: “Though Fatima optimistically assumed that her peers would respond to her compromise and ‘just accept’ her teetotalism, the tolerance proffered by her peers was far shallower than the acceptance they received from Fatima because of the cultural power differential.”

The book may leave readers feeling confused about what it is young Muslim American women are seeking or needing from those peers. In any case, the reticence Mir found on both campuses is unfortunate in a university setting, where dialogue and mutual understanding should be the norm.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2014/03/07/6c3058b4-844c-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html

Fraternity Life, Islamic Style

February 9, 2014

 

SHORTLY BEFORE SUNUP, a dozen or so students at the University of California, San Diego, stumbled dutifully out of bed. They ironed their collared shirts, knotted their ties and piled into their cars. Their destination was the Islamic Center of San Diego, where they were to be initiated into the country’s first Muslim fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu, named for three letters that start several chapters of the Quran: Alif Laam Meem.

Alpha Lambda Mu was founded just a year ago by Ali Mahmoud, a junior biology and sociology major at the University of Texas, Dallas, as a national fraternity for Muslim college students. Mr. Mahmoud, who is seeking university recognition and a house for his chapter, hosted the first formal rush this fall: 40 students showed up, and half were offered bids. A total of 24 members now make up the Texas chapter.

The directive is for spiritual students to have more fun, and convivial ones to incorporate more spirituality in their lives. Mr. Mahmoud’s guidebook stipulates that chapters organize events every semester. Some are to be purely social, others to teach life skills, encourage volunteer work and enrich members with Islamic culture.

Sometimes referred to as the post-9/11 generation, Muslim-American college students say they have long struggled with the prejudices and suspicions that have come with the West’s unsettled relationship with the Arab world. This has led them to explore more thoroughly their dual identity, and to strive to show the world who they are and how they want to be perceived, said Lori Peek, the author of “Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11.” “The formation of a fraternity represents a really thoughtful reflection on their part,” Dr. Peek said. “It moves these students out of the private sphere and into a more public space where they are effectively spanning two cultures.”

Two reports by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies indicate that an evolution has indeed occurred. In 2009, 40 percent of Muslim Americans ages 18 to 29 said they were thriving, the lowest percentage in that age group. By 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attacks, that number had risen to 65 percent.

Only 1.4 percent of American college freshmen are Muslim, according to a Higher Education Research Institute survey in 2012, up from 0.9 percent in 2005. But with growing interest in Islam, more campuses are providing prayer spaces and cultural centers. In 1999, Georgetown became the first university to hire a full-time imam. In recent years, Yale, Princeton and Northwestern have brought in Muslim chaplains.

The Muslim Student Association, founded in 1963, is the voice of this movement and now has more than 200 affiliated chapters in the United States. It has pushed for greater awareness about Islamic culture and helps members procure scholarships and internships. The group has generated controversy as well. The chapter at the University of California, Irvine, was suspended for the 2010 fall semester after members protested a campus speech by the ambassador to Israel. And in 2012 the organization made headlines, and elicited sympathy, amid reports that the New York City Police Department had surreptitiously monitored chapters at Yale, Columbia and other East Coast campuses.

 

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/education/edlife/greek-life-islamic-style.html?_r=0

Muslim students pray in the rain after Queen Mary University denies them access to facilities

November 1, 2013

 

Hundreds of students at Queen Mary University in London, braved the rain today to pray outside, in protest against what they claim is inadequate resources for Muslims on their Mile End campus. It was their second ‘prayer protest’ in two weeks, with the student union counting 350 demonstrators last Friday.

Previously, the college’s 20-year-old Islamic Society had been able to book several large communal spaces for congregational Friday prayers. But from the start of this academic year, students have been told the rooms are unavailable. Principal Professor Simon Gaskell suggested students attend local mosques for the mass prayer, and denied any change in policy adding that the facilities are unavailable due to demand.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/muslim-students-pray-in-the-rain-after-queen-mary-university-denies-them-access-to-facilities-8918293.html

Bible College Helps Some at Louisiana Prison Find Peace

ANGOLA, La. — Like most of his fellow inmates, Daryl Walters, 45, can expect to spend the rest of his days in the infamous prison on a former slave plantation here. Yet there he was on a recent evening, preaching the Gospel to 200 men in a spired church in the heart of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, talking salvation and joy to murderers and rapists and robbers who waved their arms to an inmate band’s Christian worship music.

Mr. Walters is a graduate of one of the most unusual prison programs in the country: a Southern Baptist Bible college inside this sprawling facility, offering bachelor’s degrees in a rigorous four-year course that includes study of Greek and Hebrew as well as techniques for “sidewalk ministry” that inmates can practice in their dorms and meal lines.

There are 241 graduates so far, nearly all lifers who live and work among their peers. Dozens of graduates have even moved as missionaries to counsel or preach in other prisons.

Beyond the bachelor’s degrees, the college has granted hundreds more certificates or associate degrees, producing a cadre of men who lead churches, provide informal counseling in their dorms and take on what many describe as their hardest task — informing fellow inmates when a loved one on the outside has died.

The graduates include 15 Muslims, who took the same Bible-based courses but minister to the 250 Islamic inmates.

Some 2,500 inmates attend church regularly, according to Cathy Fontenot, assistant warden — mostly Protestant or Roman Catholic but also Muslim, Jewish and Mormon services. The prison population is 75 percent black, with a small number of Latinos.

The prison college has received growing outside attention. A similar collaboration with a Southern Baptist seminary has started in Texas, where inmates with sentences of at least 10 years are eligible. In-prison Bible colleges have also been started or are under discussion in California, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi and other states.

The American Civil Liberties Union has watched for signs that the seminary or the prison has crossed constitutional lines by using state money or coercion to promote religion. In the past, the group has sued Angola to force the removal of a biblical citation at the entrance and to give a Muslim graduate of the seminary access to materials from the Nation of Islam, the American Muslim group that is more entrenched in northern prisons.

Still, the seminary appears to be legal because it is paid for privately, is voluntary and admits non-Christians, said Marjorie R. Esman, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. in Louisiana.

Demand for US-born imams up as mosques struggle to retain new generation of American Muslims

Mustafa UmarANAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.

Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.

That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.

“The demand for American-born imams is an articulation of something much deeper,” said Timur Yuskaev, director of the Islamic chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, which educates Islamic faith leaders.

“It’s a realization that assimilation is happening and it’s going to happen. Now, how do we control it, how do we channel it?” he said. “These congregations, if they do not provide the services that the congregants expect, then they will not survive.”

Abdel Rahman Murphy, a 25-year-old assistant imam in Knoxville, Tenn., is striking that balance with his newly founded Muslim youth group called Roots. Kids play sports, battle it out in video-game playing contests or strut in a girls’ Muslim fashion show with the tongue-in-cheek title “Cover Girl.”

Murphy, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and an Irish-American convert, was kicked out of a private Islamic middle school and strayed from the faith in high school — an experience he always keeps in mind.

“We can’t change what’s inside the package, but we can repackage it,” said Murphy, who tweets about college basketball and his faith.

Birmingham college bans the burka

Religious veils have been banned at Birmingham Metropolitan College for ‘security’ reasons, provoking anger among Muslim students and staff. As the niqab veil leaves only a small gap for the eyes, college management has deemed it a risk, stating that individuals should be ‘easily identifiable at all times’ so that all students can study in a ‘safe and welcoming learning environment’. Other clothing to be removed on the college grounds includes hoodies, hats and caps.

 

The ban has sent shockwaves around the Muslim community, with one 17-year-old girl calling the decision ‘discriminatory’ and ‘disgusting’. Another student explained that she and her Muslim peers had offered to show their faces to security men so that their IDs could be checked, but that her suggestion had been rejected.

 

“We have a very robust Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy at Birmingham Metropolitan College, but to ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe,” principal and chief-executive Dame Christine Braddock told the Birmingham Mail.

 

A protest against the ban, due to take place on Friday at 2.30pm, has been organised on Facebook with a statement reading: “Muslim women already face many challenges in society leading to marginalisation and discrimination. We are under-represented in education and subsequently in public life and in the workforce.

Nick Clegg ‘uneasy’ about ban on Muslim veils in school

Deputy PM says he understands teachers feeling uncomfortable about pupils wearing veil, but does not back ‘blanket prohibition’ Nick Clegg was asked about a ban on face coverings at Birmingham Metropolitan college during his LBC radio phone-in. Nick Clegg has backed teachers who feel uncomfortable about pupils wearing full-face Muslim veils, but says he is “uneasy” about a college that has brought in a blanket ban. The deputy prime minister said he could “totally understand” teachers who did not want full-face veils in the classroom as they needed to make “eye contact and face contact with pupils”. However, Clegg said these were “exceptional circumstances” and he generally supported people’s right to wear whatever religious clothing they liked.

 

“I’m really quite uneasy about anyone being told what they have to wear,” he said on LBC 97.3. “I think I’ve set the bar very high to justify something like that because one of the things that is great about our country is that we are diverse, we are tolerant.” People do dress differently, people do have different faiths, people do have different convictions and that is reflected in what they wear, in how they present themselves.”

Birmingham college reverses decision to ban Muslim face veils after protests

A college has abandoned its ban on Muslim face veils after a storm of local protest, a planned demonstration and the involvement of the prime minister. Birmingham Metropolitan College climbed down late on Thursday despite David Cameron and the Department for Education endorsing its right to have such a policy. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, had said he was “uneasy” about the move. A Muslim women’s group called the original ban “disproportionate” and challenged the college to justify why it had considered it.

The college had originally said students must remove all hoodies, hats, caps and veils to ensure individuals were “easily identifiable” as part of keeping a “safe and welcoming learning environment”.

 

The multi-campus college, which teaches more than 9,000 16- to 19-year-olds as well as thousands of adult learners, said media attention caused by the protests might detract “from our core mission of providing high quality education”. A petition against the policy had gathered 8,000 signatures and hundreds of students had planned to demonstrate against the policy on Friday. City councillors and MPs had also protested.

 

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: “This change in policy is enormously welcome. The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced.”

 

Aaron Kiely, national black students’ officer for the NUS, said: “I’m delighted that the petition attracted so many signatures in such a short amount of time, which affirms just how outrageous the decision to enact this policy was.”

 

Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said: “The complete ban of the face veil on campus by the Birmingham Metropolitan College was a disproportionate response because female students who wear the veil are not only very small in number but were also willing to show their face when required so their identity could be verified.

 

Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, will introduce his private member’s bill to ban the wearing of face coverings in public for a second reading in February next year.

Three years ago he told the Independent: “I just take what I regard as a common sense view. If you want to engage in normal, daily interactive dialogue with your fellow human beings, you can only really do this properly by seeing each other’s face.”

 

Jack Straw, then leader of the Commons, suggested in 2006 that wearing a veil might hinder community relations.