The United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with a population of around 327 million people as of 2018. Within this mosaic of humanity, Muslims occupy a significant place. In this article, we’ll start by discussing this diversity and then delve into the Muslim population in the United States, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, examining how different communities are actively fighting these issues in various regions.
In the U.S., the most prevalent religion is Christianity, accounting for about 70% of the population. Among Christians, approximately 46.6% are Protestants, with Evangelicals being the largest group among them. The Jewish population is about 1.9%, Buddhists make up 0.7%, and 4% identify as Agnostic, while 22% identify as unaffiliated with any religious group.
The American Muslim Population
According to a study by the Pew Research Center in 2015, there are approximately 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States. The states with the highest Muslim populations are New Jersey and New York. Pew’s demographic studies suggest that by 2040, the Muslim population in America may surpass the Jewish population, and by 2050, it could reach 8 million.
The Impact of 9/11 on Rising Islamophobia
It’s impossible to discuss the subject of Islamophobia without acknowledging the significant impact of events like the 9/11 attacks. The perception of an “Islamic threat,” particularly propagated through the internet and a surge in fake news, has led to an atmosphere of fear and prejudice against Muslims in the U.S.
So, how are people and organizations pushing back against the ongoing psychological pressures from the media and the divisive rhetoric of politicians? Now, let’s introduce you to those who stand firmly against the Islamophobia industry, sharing the truth of Islam through the language of love.
Valley Ranch Islamic Center
Based in Texas, this Islamic center not only provides religious education and a peaceful environment for the Muslim community but has also gained recognition among non-Muslims through a variety of activities. One of their initiatives focuses on “Muslim-Non-Muslim Neighbor Gatherings.” This project aims to raise awareness about the importance of neighborly relations and the rights of neighbors, frequently mentioned in the Quran.
One of the most beautiful ways to connect with another person is through the act of giving, and for a Muslim, giving a gift is like hitting three birds with one stone. It brings smiles to faces, revives a prophetic tradition, and lays the foundation for a strong connection with others. In this spirit, the Muslim community in Texas initiated a “Gift Exchange” campaign with their neighbors. They even offered decorative, holiday-themed items at nominal prices. Through these efforts, the center encourages Muslim families to open their doors to non-Muslims, sharing the spirit and excitement of holidays with their neighbors.
Members of the center host an annual event called “Sharing Bread, Building Bridges.” It welcomes people of all backgrounds—diverse in color, race, and religion—to their center. After a shared meal, a general presentation about Islam takes place. Following this, guided tours of the mosque are organized, allowing non-Muslims to familiarize themselves with the mosque they may pass by daily but hesitate to enter. Many attendees also witness the Islamic prayer (Salat) for the first time. A question-and-answer session at the end of the event provides answers to any lingering questions and clears any misconceptions.
Council on American – Islamic Relations
For 15 years, this council has been a voice for American Muslims and a force in the fight against Islamophobia. It has regional offices in cities with significant Muslim populations, such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Let’s briefly discuss their activities and how they are combatting discrimination and injustices.
Living as a minority in a country like the United States, known for its cultural diversity, is undoubtedly challenging. The psychological pressure emanating from the media and politics can escalate into physical violence. In such an environment, social media becomes the primary platform for Muslims to defend their rights and amplify their voices. The Council prepares reports to educate Americans on the rights of Muslims. On their websites, sections are dedicated to reporting psychological or physical abuse, and they share media research on Islam and Muslims.
Meet a Muslim Every Monday
Many of us carry preconceived notions about different groups. How do we break free from these biases? Getting to know people is undoubtedly the most straightforward solution. However, taking that first step and having the courage to do so is often challenging. The Islamic Council has introduced a new way to combat religious and xenophobic prejudices. They provide an opportunity for people to interview Muslims and share their stories on their Instagram accounts. These interviews allow individuals to talk about their challenges and experiences as Muslims living in America. They also share their childhoods and interests, helping others see them first as individuals.
Diyanet Center of America
The name of this center might sound familiar to many. Yes, we are indeed referring to the Diyanet Center of America located in Lanham, Maryland. The foundation of the Turkish-American Community Center was laid in 1993, and it was fully opened in 2016. The center offers much more than just mosque services. It’s a large complex that houses classrooms for women and children’s education, a wedding hall, conference rooms, and even a sports complex. In this respect, it can be aptly called an Islamic center. The center warmly welcomes Muslims and non-Muslims from all around the world.
One of the most effective ways to combat Islamophobia is to demonstrate the true essence of Islam: compassion, solidarity, and love for the sake of God. While media and politicians play their roles, individual efforts in this fight are like dominos falling one by one, creating a positive impact. One significant endeavor we’d like to highlight is the Diyanet Center’s “Neighbor’s Kitchen Project.”
He is not one of us who goes to bed full while his neighbor goes to bed hungry.
In this project, the Diyanet Center calls on people to come together to provide meals for the homeless. This project, which has been active for two years, involves preparing sandwiches and snacks and distributing them to those in need. It brings local residents together for a noble cause, helping them connect on a human level.
These efforts remind us that the fight against Islamophobia is not just an issue for Muslims but a collective responsibility for all who believe in tolerance, understanding, and love for humanity. By sharing the true spirit of Islam, these communities and organizations are fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society, where neighbors of all backgrounds can come together in friendship and solidarity.