WASHINGTON – Mosque-attending Muslims are very interested in participating in their community and in politics,according to a study released Tuesday.
About 93 percent of participants support community and political involvement,and 68 percent are registered to vote. The study,from the Institute for Policy Study and Understanding,surveyed leaders at 33 Detroit-area mosques and about 1,300 Muslims from the 12 largest.
“There is definitely a growing interest in the Muslims in America to become more involved in the political process,” said Jane Smith,a professor at Hartford Seminary's Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.
“Muslims are recognizing that if they can make their voices be heard and can agree on a political candidate,they can be very influential in American politics,” Smith said.
About 85 percent of survey participants disapprove of President George Bush's job in office,the study found.
The Council on American-Islamic Relation,an organization aimed at promoting a positive image of Muslims,estimates there are 7 million Muslims in the United States. Metro Detroit has the highest Arab population outside the Middle East,the group says.
“This is definitely a community that has a strong political clout,” said Rabiah Ahmed,a spokeswoman for the council.
The study was conducted in part to increase public awareness of Islam.
“There is a lack of information about this group,” said Farid Senzai,who is the research director at the institute,a Michigan-based think tank that focuses on Islamic issues.
Muslims are more likely to hold a flexible approach to Islam,rather than a strict,conservative view,the study found.
“The accusation that the Muslim community is radical … is unfortunately an accusation that is made regularly,” said Ihsan Bagby,the University of Kentucky professor who conducted the yearlong study.
Bagby – a converted Muslim and nationally recognized expert on Islam – said most Muslims hold moderate political and religious views.
According to the study,8 percent of participants follow a very conservative approach to Islam. The largest group,38 percent,prefers a flexible way of understanding their religion.
Two-thirds of Muslims think civil rights and education are the most important political issues,the study found. Foreign policy was third.
John Voll,a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University here,said surveys on Muslim politics are often agenda-driven,but that Bagby's findings are “not out of line with most opinion surveys.
“I would see the Bagby report as being less agenda-driven than most of the reports out there,” he said.