Religious affiliation is not to blame for anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States. Islamophobia rather is most characteristic of those who do not have personal relationships with Muslims, or who are ignorant about Islam.
Those are the findings of the annual American Muslim Poll, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in Washington, D.C. Now in its fourth year, the poll reveals that personal relationships, knowledge and understanding are key contributors to a person’s having a favorable opinion toward Muslims. Having a good friend who is Muslim, or simply knowing somehow who is Muslim, can make a world of difference.
Jews, the group most likely to know a Muslim personally, scored highest (more than 50 percent) for favorable views, while only 20 percent of white evangelicals had favorable views.
The Georgetown University-based Bridge Initiative, an Islamophobia research project, partnered with ISPU to produce this year’s Islamophobia Index.
The above findings suggest a golden opportunity for faith groups, which are in many ways ideally suited to encourage greater knowledge and friendship across faith lines. The opportunity is two-fold: to discourage Islamophobia, and to exhibit values of diversity and inclusivity that particularly young people prize in the communities—social, work, worship—with which they choose to affiliate.
Churches, no less than businesses and prospective employers, are judged by millennials on their lived values. Following is a small sampler of excerpts from recent articles detailing this in the world of commerce.
So what can faith communities do? Practice as well as preach diversity, inclusivity, and understanding.
“Despite the unflattering statistics on entitlement, self-centeredness, and laziness, the millennial generation is composed of idealists and dreamers. My peers and I are earnest and optimistic and more accepting of differences than the generations that came before us,” writes Jessica Zimanski (“What Millennials Want,” Franciscan Media, undated post). “The Catholic Church cannot change this technology-driven and ambitious generation. Nor should it. It’s we, the millennials, who can—and, given the chance, will—change the Church through our quick adoption of social media and our expectation of inclusive communities.”
On a strictly practical level, parishes might convey and build communities that demonstrate they value inclusivity and diversity by
Other ideas? Want to share what your parish is doing? We’d love to hear from you, or post comments in the space below.
Jerry Ruff, Senior Writer and Editor
Saint Mary’s Research
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