New report explores the identity of Latino Muslims in the United States

The Latino Muslims Survey (LMS), a social science oriented study of U.S. Latino Muslims, examined the religiosity of 560 Latino Muslims via an online, bilingual nationwide survey. The historic findings shed light on the intersection of religious beliefs and practices; spiritual, moral, social, and ethical views.  The study also examined the social, civic and political attitudes of the self-identified Latinos and Muslims.  The results of the study were published June 2017 in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion. 

According to, Dr. Gaston Espinosa, Arthur V. Stoughton Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College, one of the co-principals of the study, this research “is important because it is the largest survey ever conducted on the U.S. Latino Muslims and because it helps us to understand why Latinos are converting to Islam, what branches of Islam they are converting into, and their religious, social, gender, and political views.”

This comprehensive survey adds nuance to the understanding of Latino Muslims and reexamines the previously held notion that a majority of Latino Muslims coverts embraced Islam as a rejection of Catholicism.

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.

 

Unmosqued: Documentary exploring the future of the American mosque

A new documentary trains a critical eye on the mosque in America. Unmosqued trains a critical eye on the future of the mosque in America. Based on research compiled by Dr. Ihsan Baghby at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Unmosqued, is a look into the dynamic and future of the American mosque.

More information on the film and the research that led to the creation of the film can be found here.

Film poster advertising "Unmosqued: A film about the mosque in America." (Unmosqued)
Film poster advertising “Unmosqued: A film about the mosque in America.” (Unmosqued)

5 Things Bill Maher Got Wrong In Latest Islam Rant

As a liberal agnostic, I might better enjoy my time critiquing religion with fellow skeptics. But when skeptics single out a particular faith or group for unfair demonization, I do feel compelled to respond. It is, of course, old news that Bill Maher is one of the skeptics who, while feeling antipathy towards religion in general, holds exceptional hostility towards Islam. However, the segment on Islam (below) in last weekend’s episode of ‘Real Time’ went beyond typical antipathy and included 5 points that were simply dead wrong:

1. “Not a Few Bad Apples”

Bill Maher insists that extremism and intolerance are problems that afflict Muslims at large, and not just “a few bad apples.” Of course, if anyone compiled a list of violent acts by Muslim extremists, the list would undoubtedly be troublingly long. But the Muslim world is far too vast and diverse to collapse into Maher’s narrow perception of it. It is a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, so even thousands of extremists would be a fraction, and would in no way justify an indictment against Muslims in general. To think along analogous lines, there are more than 10,000 murders and 80,000 rapes every year in the U.S. The Ugandan fanatical Christian LRA group is responsible for the kidnapping of some 66,000 children (a lot more than Boko Haram). In the West Bank, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live on stolen Palestinian land, and many carry out acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinians. But just as none of these facts justify broad indictments of “The Americans,” “The Christians” or “The Jews” as being terrible people (that would be transparently bigoted), the same applies to Islam and Muslims. The acts of a relatively small group of extremists, even when they’re more frequent than we’d like them to be, should never taint entire societies.

2. Brandeis and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Maher, Matt Welch, and Dinesh D’Souza were all troubled by the fact that Brandeis University rescinded its invitation and offer of an honorary degree to anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. D’Souza complained that surely even the controversial Michael Moore would’ve been allowed to speak, while Welch noted that Tony Kushner received the same award a few years back despite having allegedly made derogatory comments about Israel’s supporters. This may sound like a reasonable point, but only until you think about it for more than 2 seconds and realize that these are ridiculous comparisons. Michael Moore and Tony Kushner never suggested that, for example, Judaism should be crushed, or claimed that all devout Jews support murder (I wonder what Welch and D’Souza would think of honoring such people). By contrast, Hirsi Ali didn’t just take controversial political positions; she actually did hate-monger against an entire faith group. She said that “we are at war with Islam,” that we have to “crush [it] in all forms,” and that “There is no moderate Islam.” She alsoinsisted that 9/11 was “the core of Islam,” and even claimed that “Every devout Muslim who aspired to practice genuine Islam” approved of the 9/11 attacks. Can anyone dispute that this foments hostility towards Muslims in general, and goes beyond merely holding a controversial opinion?

3. Female Genital mutilation (FGM)

In the course of explaining what’s supposedly wrong with Islam, Bill Maher noted that Ayaan Hirsi Ali “underwent genital mutilation, which almost all women do in [Somalia] and many other Muslim countries.” This seems to indicate that Maher is under the impression that FGM is a Muslim problem, which it absolutely is not. In the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries, the practice is virtually unheard of. If you look at the World Health Organization’s map of where FGM is prevalent, you’ll notice that all of the top countries (except Yemen) are in Africa, including Christian-majority countries. For example, Eritrea is a Christian-majority country, yet the FGM rate there is 89%. So if you insist on generalizing, you may be able to get away with saying FGM is an African problem, but it most certainly isn’t a “Muslim” one.

4. Where are the Buddhist suicide bombers?

While making the case for the uniqueness of the threat we face from Muslims, Dinesh D’Souza said, to audience laughter, “you don’t see a whole lot of Buddhist suicide bombers.” Perhaps D’Souza is not aware that, to quote Human Rights Watch, “Burmese Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim communities” killing dozens and destroying property last year. Or maybe he’s not familiar with the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the radical Buddhist monk (also known as “the Burmese Bin Laden“) who stirred the violence. But if it was “suicide bombings” specifically he was concerned with, it certainly is worth noting that it was the Tamil Tigers, who happen to be Hindu, not Muslim, who were the “innovators” of suicide bombings, and were responsible for hundreds of them over the past few decades. But if it’s the threat to Americans in particular, it is also worth noting that since 9/11, right-wing extremistsclaimed more lives than “jihadists” have in America.

5. Islamophobia

Bill Maher quoted Sam Harris mis-attributing to the late Christopher Hitchens the silly description of ‘Islamophobia’ as “a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons.” This turned out not to be a Hitchens quote, but a slogancreated by a provocateur, and used by bigots to get cheap applause from idiots. You cannot be a sensible person and look at (a) the hike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after 9/11, (b) the hysteria that breaks out around the building of mosques in America, and (c) the use of anti-Muslim rhetoric in political campaigns and conclude that Islamophobia is manufactured. Islamophobia is real; it is destructive, and it should be confronted by all people of conscience.

Why All of This Matters

Ultimately, this isn’t about scoring points against Maher or his panel; this is about making this world a better place.

The Muslim world is incredibly diverse, and can by no means be reduced to a single cohesive unit. From Eastern Europe to the horn of Africa, and from Lebanon to Indonesia, we are talking about fundamentally different societies and cultures. Some of these societies are more socially progressive than others; but in all of these societies, there are Muslims who are fighting for women’s rights and against extremism and violence, and they deserve our support against their reactionary opponents. To lump them all together under an ugly stereotype that’s defined by the Muslim world’s worst elements only alienates our progressive allies in Muslim societies and makes their causes all the more difficult to advance.

If Bill Maher wants to take his progressivism seriously, he should really let go of reckless rhetoric and join the real fight to advance progressive causes within and without Muslim societies.

Debating Islam: Negotiating Religion, Europe, and the Self

Conspicuously, Islam has become a key issue in most European societies with respect to issues of immigration, integration, identity, values and inland security. As the mere presence of Muslim minorities fails to explain these debates convincingly, new questions need to be asked: how did Islam become a topic? Who takes part in the debates? How do these debates influence both individual as well as collective self-images and image of others? Introducing Switzerland as an under-researched object of study to the academic discourse on Islam in Europe, this volume offers a fresh perspective on the objective by putting recent case studies from diverse national contexts into comparative perspective.

Link to the book’s website and publisher: http://www.transcript-verlag.de/ts2249/ts2249.php

Report – Religion and Diasporas: Challenges of the Emigration Countries

Religion and Diasporas – Challenges of the Emigration Countries

Citation:

Jocelyne Cesari, Religion and Diasporas: Challenges of the Emigration Countries, INTERACT RR 2013/01, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI): European University Institute, 2013.

Abstract:

Using the theoretical framework of transnational studies and sociology of religion, this paper identifies  the most significant factors that influence the religious dimensions of the emigration countries: the majority or minority status of the migrant group in the receiving countries as well as the pre-existing level of politicization of religion in the sending countries. It shows that the interactions of sending and receiving countries take place in religious terms in a broader transnational space including deterritorialized religious and political actors.

New Book: Why the West Fears Islam – An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies

Why the West Fears Islam flyer finalWhy the West Fears Islam
An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies

Jocelyne Cesari

Paperback Aug 2013 – 9781403969538
Hardback Aug 2013 – 9781403969804

About the book
Are Muslims threatening the core values of the West?

Jocelyne Cesari responds to this question by presenting testimonies from Muslims in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her book is an unprecedented exploration of Muslim religious and political life based on several years of field work in Europe and in the United States. It provides original insights into the ways Muslims act as believers and citizens and into the specifics of western liberalism  and secularism, particularly after 9/11. It shows how the visibility of Islam in secular spaces triggers  western politics of fear. Its unique interdisciplinary scope allows for an in depth analysis of data polls, political discourses as well as first hand interviews, and focus groups with Muslims.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Shari’a, Burqa, and Minarets: What Is the Problem With Muslims in the West? An Exploration of Islam in Liberal

  1. Muslims As the Internal and External Enemy
  2. Islam: Between Personal and Social Identity Markers
  3. Multiple Communities of Allegiance: How Do Muslims Say ‘We’?
  4. Religiosity, Political Participation, and Civic Engagement
  5. Securitization of Islam in Europe: The Embodiment of Islam As an Exception
  6. How Islam Questions the Universalism of Western Secularism
  7. Salafization of Islamic Norms and Its Influence on the Externalization of Islam

Conclusion: Naked Public Spheres: Islam within Liberal and Secular Democracies

 

About the Author

Jocelyne Cesari, is a political scientist, specializing in contemporary Islamic societies,
globalization and democratization. She is Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center
for Peace, Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University. At Harvard University,
she directs the international research program called “Islam in the West.” She has written
numerous articles and books on Islam, Globalization, Democratization and Secularism in
Western and Muslim-majority contexts.
Her most recent publications include Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (2007),
Muslims in the West After 9/11: Religion, Politics and Law (2010), The Awakening of
Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity and the State (2013).

Praise for the book:

“This book is an eye-opener that denies all sides the luxury of willful ignorance or
unchallenged ideological projection. Bold, sophisticated and almost embarrassingly
informative, Jocelyne Cesari’s effort is certain to elevate the discourse around one of the
most important relationships of our time: that between Muslims and their Western
compatriots.” – Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, The
University of Southern California, and author of Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking
Towards the Third Resurrection

Dutch Social Affairs Minister Comments in Support of Freedom of Religion

July 12 2013

 

Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher has commented on the right to religious freedom in the Netherlands, stating that “The increasing visibility of Islam in our society, the different traditions and views, and the association with violence and radicalization have led to part of the people seeing Islam as a threat. This is a worrying development because this threatens the cohesion and stability in society”.

 

Asscher’s comments are in response to questions from Geert Wilders regarding a recent poll showing that a majority of Dutch support stopping further immigration from Islamic countries. The poll was commissioned by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) and conducted by Maurice de Hond. Canvassing 1900 respondents on their feelings about Islam and immigration from Islamic countries, the poll suggests that 68% of respondents believe that there is “now enough” Islam in the Netherlands. Respondents also suggested that the population would support a halt in building new mosques. Asscher rejects both proposals, and notes that the cabinet is not planning to block immigrants from Islamic countries.

 

Poll results also show that attitudes towards Islam and immigration in the country are predominantly negative, though a large discrepancy exists among demographics: the elderly population is much more negative than younger voters, and those with a relatively high education much less negative than those with a low education.

 

Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

pew restrictionsIVAt the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including fewer restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region’s already high overall level of restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – continued to increase in 2011.

 

Before the Arab Spring, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion were higher in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region of the world.1 Government restrictions in the region remained high in 2011, while social hostilities markedly increased. For instance, the number of countries in the region experiencing sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10. (See sidebar on the Middle East-North Africa region.)

The Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region all had increases in overall restrictions on religion in 2011. Government restrictions declined slightly in Europe, but social hostilities increased. Asia and the Pacific had the sharpest increase in government restrictions, though the level of social hostilities remained roughly the same. By contrast, social hostilities edged up in sub-Saharan Africa, but government restrictions stayed about the same. Both government restrictions and social hostilities increased slightly in the Americas.

The new study also finds that reports of harassment or intimidation of Muslims increased worldwide during 2011. Muslims were harassed by national, provincial or local governments or by individuals or groups in society in 101 countries, up from 90 countries the year before. Christians continued to be harassed in the largest number of countries (105), although this represented a decrease from the previous year (111 countries). Jews were harassed in 69 countries, about the same as the year before (68). (For details, see Number of Countries Where Religious Groups Were Harassed, by Year chart.)

The number of countries with overall increases in restrictions compared with the previous year outnumbered those with decreases. However, a larger share of countries (35%) had a decrease in at least one of the 20 types of government restrictions or 13 types of social hostilities measured by the study compared with the previous year (28%). Examples include a relaxation of registration requirements for religious groups in Austria; efforts to overturn a centuries-old law barring the British monarch from marrying a Catholic; and elimination of a requirement in Jordan that groups, including religious groups, obtain prior permission from the government before holding public meetings or demonstrations.6 (See sidebar on initiatives aimed at reducing religious restrictions.)

In the four countries with decreases of 1.0 to 1.9 points (Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United States), some hostilities that occurred in the year ending in mid-2010 did not reoccur in 2011. In the United States, for instance, multiple religion-related terrorist attacks occurred in the year ending in mid-2010, but none occurred in 2011.15

Among countries with small changes on the Social Hostilities Index (less than 1.0 point), 69 had increases (35%) and 59 had decreases (30%).

Considering all changes in social hostilities from mid-2010 to the end of 2011, regardless of magnitude, 49% of countries had increases and 32% of countries had decreases. The level of increase in social hostilities during the latest year studied remained unchanged from the previous year (from mid-2009 to mid-2010).

RestrictionsIV-web