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Even though the earliest Muslim immigrants did not plan on permanently settling down in their new host countries, by the 1980s, post-1960s Muslim migrants accepted the reality that they were in the West to stay, and they gave up all plans of returning to their countries of origin. Later, serious plans to form a new (i.e., American, Canadian) Muslim identity were in the making. Discussions amongst community leaders who were committed to the welfare of Muslims, to Islam, and to preserve their Muslim identity and culture. Therefore, Muslims became convinced that they were becoming permanent settlers in the West, that they were home, and that they needed to produce a modified version of Islam that suits their needs. As a manifestation of this reality, Muslim youth also started to distance themselves from their parents’ heritage and to move toward a more inclusive identity that contained both their Islamic and their Western heritage. Cesari refers to this as “cultural globalization,” which involves the “deterritorialization” of communities. In this context, Western Islamic identity becomes a powerful source of collective solidarity, recreating connections between groups otherwise separated by widely diverging doctrines, sects, histories, and cultures. Nonetheless, since the early 2000s, Western Muslims have faced significant levels of prejudice and discrimination in host countries—sometimes to an extent that threatens the orderly functioning of society.

Article

In many respects, the sizeable Muslim populations in the United States and Canada have integrated well into the social and political mainstream. Most of them are first-generation immigrants, and face Islamophobic prejudice based on race as well as religious affiliation. Still, they are a comparatively well-educated population, and identify strongly with the countries they now call home. Exploring the response of these communities to sexual diversity, and to growing claims for recognition by queer Muslims themselves, goes to the heart of questions about the place of this growing community in North American settings. This inevitably raises questions about gender relations within those communities, in part because discrimination against Muslims is often justified with reference to their adherence to what are thought to be unchanging patriarchal values. Doubts about social and cultural integration are easily intensified by the racialized “otherness” of Muslim populations in the West generally, and these two North American countries in particular. The Pew Research Center in the United States and the Environics Institute in Canada have conducted surveys of the Muslim populations in their countries, permitting a comparison of attitudes in those communities with those in the general population, and in some cases also providing a view of cross-country differences. What this polling reveals is that Muslims are on balance more politically progressive than non-Muslim populations, and are strongly averse to supporting conservative parties. However, it also reveals relatively negative views of homosexuality, and this is echoed in the public statements, or silence, of the largest Muslim advocacy groups. The strength of such views owes much to the fact that the majority of North American Muslims have emigrated from regions of the world where such opinions are deeply embedded in social and cultural life. Traditionalist views of gender and sexuality are also reinforced by high levels of religiosity, which in other faith currents is also associated with what might be called traditionalist views of family. In the case of Muslims, their religious leadership in Muslim communities remains almost unanimous in its condemnation of homosexuality as an example of “Western” permissiveness. Mosque life, too, retains important elements of gender inequity. There are, however, important indications of change, induced in part by the urban environments where the great majority of Muslims live, and the increasing willingness of queer Muslims to assert their presence within their ethno-religious communities as well as in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) networks. Younger Muslims are more inclined than their elders to hold inclusive attitudes, particularly if they have been educated in North America. In the United States, too, the latest of the Pew surveys has shown an important overall shift toward more LGBTQ-positive attitudes. This is in part a result of Muslims’ recognition that exclusionary attitudes on issues related to sexuality are often held by those who are also harbor Islamophobic views, and that policies designed to protect one community are also necessary to protect them.

Article

The quintessential foil to liberalism in the Western imagination continues to be Islam. Orientalist stereotypes of Muslims as uncivilized and savage justified European conquest that led to centuries of colonialism. The United States followed suit when it replaced Britain and France as the new “Great Power” in Muslim majority countries, but this time through political and military hegemony. International human rights, formally developed after World War II by Western nations, became a soft power tool that perpetuated Orientalist portrayals of Muslim societies as illiberal, misogynist, and violent on account of their Islamic values. As a result, some Western lawyers and scholars frame Islam as the cause of international human rights violations, thereby making military and political interventions necessary to protect Muslims’ human rights. That is, Islam is antithetical to universal human rights. Meanwhile, insufficient attention is paid to Western nation’s support for the despots that violate their Muslim citizens’ human rights. To the extent explorations of human rights and Islam are conducted in good faith, the lived experiences of Muslims offer more insights than abstract debates infected by Orientalist academic training. Accordingly, this article looks to Muslims in America as a case study to show how Islamic principles can and do inform Muslim leaders’ defense of human rights. Muslim elected officials, human rights lawyers, and religious leaders explicitly reference their Islamic beliefs as the basis for their social justice work in the United States. The political environment in which Muslims live, rather than their religion per se, is thus more predictive of compliance with international human rights norms.

Article

The history of Muslim populations in Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union is long and varied. In a Pew–Templeton poll conducted in Russia in 2010, 10 percent of respondents stated that their religion was Islam, while Muslims also make up a majority of the population in six post-Soviet republics: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Muslims have long lived in regions across Russia, with far-flung communities ranging from distant outposts of Siberia to western cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were more Muslims in the Russian Empire than there were in Iran or the Ottoman Empire, the two largest independent Muslim-majority states in the world at the time. Historically, the Muslim communities of Russia have been concentrated in four main regions: the Volga–Ural region in central Russia, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. While Muslim communities across former Soviet space share both differences and similarities with one another with regard to language and religious practices, their respective relations with the various Russian states that have existed over the years have varied. Moreover, Russian and Soviet policymaking toward all of these communities has shifted considerably from one era, and one ruler, to another. Throughout the imperial and Soviet eras, and extending into the post-Soviet era up to the present day, therefore, the existence of variations with regard to both era and region remains one of the most enduring legacies of Muslim–state interactions. Muslims in Russia vary by traditions, language, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and practices, and with respect to their historical interactions with the Russian state. The four historically Muslim-inhabited regions were incorporated into the Russian state at different points during its imperial history, often under quite sharply contrasting sets of conditions. Today most, but not all, Muslims in Russia and the rest of the former USSR are Sunni, although the manner and degree to which religion is practiced varies greatly among both communities and individuals. With respect to language, Muslim communities in Russia have traditionally been dominated demographically by Turkic speakers, although it should be noted that most Turkic languages are not mutually comprehensible in spoken form. In the North Caucasus and Tajikistan, the most widely spoken indigenous languages are not Turkic, although in these areas there are Turkic-speaking minorities. Another important feature of Muslim–state interactions in Russia is their connection to Muslims and Muslim-majority states beyond Russia’s borders. Throughout the imperial era, Russia’s foreign policymaking vis-à-vis the Ottoman Empire and Iran was often intimately connected to domestic policymaking toward Muslim communities inside Russia. While this was a less pronounced feature of Moscow’s foreign policymaking during the Soviet era, in the post-Soviet era, policymaking toward Muslims domestically has once again become more closely linked to Russia’s foreign policy goals.

Article

Khairudin Aljunied

Islam has maintained its presence in Southeast Asia for more than a millennium, dating back to as early as the 7th century. By the 21st century, the estimated total of Muslims surpassed 240 million, making Southeast Asia a site that is populated by one of the largest Muslim communities on the planet. Muslims are majorities in 21st-century Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In other Southeast Asian countries, namely Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam, they remain as minorities, experiencing varying levels of integration and assimilation with the majority non-Muslim Buddhist or Christian populations. The massive though gradual spread of Islam in the region can be attributed to the generally peaceful, multifaceted, and creative ways by which Islam was infused into the everyday life of local societies. Traders, Sufi missionaries, scholars, rulers, and even non-Muslims have all contributed to the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia. Most Muslims in Southeast Asia are Sunnis, adhering to the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence, Ash’ari theology, and Sufi ethics. Located within this cosmopolitan and diverse religious landscape are Muslims who belong to other schools of Islamic jurisprudence and theological leanings such as Hanafi, Ja’fari, Shi’ah, and Salafi. Viewed from the perspective of the longue durée (long duration), the venture of Islam in Southeast Asia can be divided into four successive phases: gradualist (7th–14th centuries), populist (15th–19th centuries), colonial-reformist (19th–mid-20th centuries), and assertive (mid-20th–21st centuries).

Article

Reuven Firestone

Muslim-Jewish relations began with the emergence of Islam in 7th-century Arabia, but contacts between pre-Jewish Israelites and pre-Muslim Arabs had been common for nearly two millennia previously. These interactions inform the earliest relations between Muslims and Jews and serve as precursors to the social, cultural, religious, political, and institutional relations between Muslims and Jews from the 7th century to the present. Areas and periods of particular importance are 7th-century Arabia with first contacts between Jews and the earliest Muslims, 8th–9th-century Middle East with the establishment of legal and social status of Jews in Islam, the 9th to 14th centuries in many parts of the Muslim world with the development of great Jewish intellectual advances under Islamic influence, the subsequent decline of the Muslim world and its negative impact on Jews and other minorities, the period under colonial powers with the rise of national movements and the subsequent transition to independent nation-states that includes the rise of both Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms, and the current status of Muslim-Jewish relations today. Common issues include language production; cultural production including literature, hermeneutics, and systematic thinking; legal developments, political relations, religious commonalities and differences, and economic relations and partnerships.

Article

Religion is front and center in the early 21st century. The United States not only has experienced an explosion of religious diversity on its own shores in the past five decades, but also is functioning in a world where the 20th century’s duel of political theories has given way to political and social movements driven by or making use of expressly religious identities and themes. All the while, the United States is trying the perfect the experiment in religious pluralism started by the framers of the US Constitution more than two centuries ago. Today, most people would say we have “freedom of religion,” guaranteed by the First Amendment. In reality, religious freedom and religious pluralism are something we have been struggling with since the inception of this country for a variety of reasons, including the presence of white and Christian normativity that is enshrined in our laws and policies and extends religious liberties haltingly, belatedly, and incompletely. The experiences of three immigrant cohorts that are both racial and religious minorities in the United States (South Asian American Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus) illustrate the dynamic nature of religion in public life, and the unfulfilled promise of complete equality. By illustrating the complexities of how racial status and religious background have impacted the perception and reception of these immigrant communities, it offers untold stories and discusses the lessons they offer for those who aspire to a genuinely equal and pluralistic America.

Article

Islam in North America is an incredibly diverse phenomenon with a long history and a range of different perspectives on what “American/Canadian Islam” is or should be. While the presence of Islam in the United States dates back to the transatlantic slave trade, Muslim identity in the region is often linked to an immigrant presence and became synonymous with a sense of violent foreignness after the 9/11 attacks. Mainstream Western media has played a fundamental role in the configuration of Islam as the ultimate cultural “other,” leaving Muslims who strongly identify as Muslim and American or Canadian in a precarious position. Representation and debates around Muslim identity have recently shifted to online platforms. Social media has not only impacted how Islam is practiced in the United States and Canada but has also influenced self-presentation, community building, and activism among Muslims across ethnicity, race, generation, and class. From Quranic websites and Muslim dating apps to blogs, Instagram influencers, and Snapchat fatwas, North American Islam has developed a burgeoning presence across the digital landscape. Furthermore, social media provides a central space through which national politics and policies play out, and Muslims in particular have faced challenges ranging from Islamophobia and religious persecution to digital surveillance and censorship. Such phenomena have impacted the online activities of Muslims and deeply inform the day-to-day lives of Muslim communities across the region. Through exploring the various ways in which Muslims in these minority contexts experience the growing interrelationship between their on- and offline lives, we approach the digital as a space where culture is continually produced, performed, and contested.

Article

The long history of Islam in the United States is not well understood. The first Muslims to come to this country were African slaves followed by Muslims from the Ottoman Empire. As time went by, other Muslims from different parts of the world followed suit. Today, Muslims form part of the sociocultural and religious diversity of US society. A unique feature of this community is its diversity, a function of different schools of thought as well as different migration trajectories in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, class, and countries of origin. Its diversity has generated a rich body of knowledge on health care that can enrich the American biomedical model. Yet, this knowledge has been subjugated and remains unrecognized owing to structural exclusion of Muslims exacerbated by 9/11. The aim of this article is to highlight health beliefs and practices of American Muslims with the view to recognizing their contribution to American society, leading to greater acceptance of this community. In sum, beyond addressing systemic exclusion, it is important to recognize that American Muslims have a long history and richness in understanding health in diverse sociocultural milieus in Islam that can and should be recognized in clinical care.

Article

Vincent F. Biondo III

The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the premier civil rights organization for Muslims in the United States. Founded in Washington, DC, in 1994 with an emphasis on public relations and media communications, over two decades it has expanded to about two hundred employees at thirty-two offices in major US cities in nineteen states, according to its official website. The organization emphasizes that it is structured so that these offices operate independently. In addition to tracking hate crimes, these offices provide or arrange for legal services in areas such as civil rights, immigration, and homeland security. The story of the organization’s growth and success reveals key issues for American Muslim involvement in politics, including those surrounding the First Amendment and the intersection of religion and race. In 2016, the National Board named its first female Chair, Roula Allouch, a lawyer from Cincinnati, who in the University of Kentucky’s Law School alumni magazine was described as “the only Muslim in her class,” and a person who “knows how to put people at ease . . . to break down misconceptions [and] seek peace.” The CAIR Board has become more diverse and representative since its founding and has ventured into defending non-Muslims from civil rights violations. Today CAIR describes its mission on its national website and in many state office annual reports as follows: “To enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” While it is primarily a civil rights organization, since its founding the organization’s leaders have found it necessary to counter misinformation by introducing educational information about Islam. Key civil rights efforts it has engaged in include support for thousands of immigration and religious discrimination cases every year, documenting hate crimes in annual reports, and challenging anti-shari’ah legislation. CAIR further leads educational efforts by coordinating diversity training sessions, a public library project, and media appearances.