Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Campaign to Discredit Islam? Time for American Muslims to Wake Up

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Campaign to Discredit Islam? Time for American Muslims to Wake Up

Article excerpt

A Campaign to Discredit Islam? Time for American Muslims to Wake Up

Muslims constitute the second largest religious group in the United States, but they get little notice in American periodicals.

In fact, at times there is no notice at all. At other times, the mention is blurred, confusing, and unfair. For example, note the listings of the religious population of the United States as set forth in the 1985 and 1991 editions of Worm Almanac, a reference book first published in 1868 that is the nation's best-seller in the field.

The 1991 edition reports 145,384 million Americans affiliated with religious organizations as follows: Christians 139,152,000; Jews 5,935,000; Buddhists 100,000; miscellaneous 197,000. Muslims are not listed, although elsewhere in the almanac under "religious information," "Moslems" are cited as numbering six million-plus in the United States. A footnote shows that this estimate dates "from 1980 or before." The source given for the listing which omits Muslims entirely is the 1990 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

It is interesting to note that the 1986 edition of the almanac used the correct word "Muslims" and placed the total at two million plus, an estimate dating from 1976, ten years before.

Why are Muslims omitted from the 1991 list of Americans affilitated with religious organizations? Why are they identified as "Moslems" one year and "Muslims" the next?

Can the omission be explained because the source is concerned with churches, not mosques, the Muslim places of worship? This explanation would suffice were it not for the fact that the listing includes Jews. The synagogue, not the church is, of course, the place of worship for Jews.

The omission may be either intentional or an oversight. Either way it suggests a problem in communication and human relations.

If intentional, it would fit the needs of the campaign to discredit Islam that now seems to be underway vigorously in the United States. The campaign seeks to present Islam as an evil, foreign influence that is hostile to Western civilization and to the United States and its ally, Israel, in particular. A decision to suppress information about the extent of the U.S. Muslim population would serve that interest. So would the confusing interchange of the terms "Moslems" and "Muslims."

If an oversight, it suggests that Muslims are not doing nearly enough to make neighbors aware of their presence.

Either way, a problem exists that deserves attention. For whatever reasons, the relative prominence and influence of Muslims and Jews are badly out of balance in the United States. Active supporters of Israel, mostly Jews, dominate the making of Mideast policy in the United States. Although such policy is often to their great disadvantage, Muslims generally remain silent and, publicly at least, uncomplaining. By contrast, if anything appears in the public domain, whether it becomes policy or not, that is even mildly critical of Israel or Judaism, the outcry is immediate and determined.

A Few Instructive Statistics

Here are a few highly instructive statistics. Worldwide, Jews number about 17 million, a minuscule portion -- one-third of one percent -- of the world's population. Muslims total nearly one billion -- 18 percent of the world total.

Thirty-five percent of the world's Jews live in the United States, which, now that the Soviet Union is dismembered, emerges as the world's only superpower. Over 20 percent live in Israel. Because of the Jewish state's intimate relationship with the U.S., this means that nearly one-half of the world's Jews are under the protective umbrella of the lone surviving superpower.

Expressed another way, the six million Jews who live in the United States comprise only 2.4 percent of its population, but they exert influence on its public policy far beyond the level their numbers alone would justify.

Through their leaders, lobbies and political action committees, they exert a powerful influence, especially on policy toward the Mideast. …

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