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The Role of Mosques in the Civic and
Amaney Jamal, Ph.D.
Project Description | Powerpoint presentation
Muslim Americans have become a highly scrutinized population since the 9-11 attacks. Both media pundits and some scholars question the civic and political allegiance of Muslim Americans. Islamic communities worldwide are seen as undemocratic, and the religious discourse of Islam is deemed incompatible with Western liberal democracy. Much skepticism has arisen surrounding the role of Islam and Muslim Life in America. Today, the Muslim American community, and its mosques, are facing suspicion, and concerns have mounted about the quality of its ‘American citizenship’.
Mosques in the US today are key sites for Muslim religious participation. Unlike the Middle East where mosques are strictly sites for worship, mosques in the US play the multi-faceted roles of religious institutions, community centers, welfare organizations, schools, arenas for social gatherings, locations for voter registration drives, and sites frequented by local political candidates. Whereas the mosque, to some observers, might appear as hotbeds for the dissemination of an Islamic discourse that it is incompatible with Western values and practices, the mosque as other religious institutions in the US can serve as key places for American civic and political incorporation.
Many social scientists assume that citizenship is necessary for establishing and maintaining benevolent communities that are useful; citizenship, as a practice and a discourse, renders democratic institutions more effective. Good citizenship is the foundation of democratic political theory. Only the active, responsible political participation of “engaged citizens” can sustain competent democratic institutions. Do Muslim Americans possess qualities of citizenship comparable to other non-Muslim Americans? What role do mosques play in structuring patterns of civic engagement and social capital among Muslim Americans in New York City? Are mosque participants more likely to have higher levels of inter-personal trust, more confidence in local political institutions, and more likely to take interest and participate in local political affairs in New York?
Research Methods, Design, and Findings
This study will shed important light on the institutional roles of mosques on Muslim American civic engagement and participation. The data from this project will serve as a useful model for further studies on the role of mosques in Muslim American civic life. The findings of this research project will be timely and important especially since the events in the post 9-11 period, where mosques are potentially considered as shady and dubious and are easy vandalism targets. By examining the heart of Muslim American communal life and worship, this study will reveal important insights about the nature of the role of the mosque in bridging Muslims to mainstream American Civic life. Through careful participant observation and ethnographic documentation of mosque leadership and institutional characteristics, this project will contribute to our understanding of factors that shape patterns of Muslim American attitudes and behavior. Further, this research will be important to many fields of the social sciences. Including the role of mosques, as agents that directly structure and influence the civic and political life of American Muslims, will contribute to the literature on the role religious institutions, as churches and synagogues, play in American civic life today. Further, the findings of this project will serve the goals and add to the research already conducted by the “Muslims in New York Project” at Columbia University.
ABOUT Professor Amaney Jamal
Amaney Jamal is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Princeton University. Professor Jamal studies the politics of the Middle East and has done extensive research in the Middle East and on the Arab American community in the Detroit, Michigan metro area. Her dissertation, Democratic Citizens in non-Democratic Nations, examines the political and civic attitudes of Palestinian associational members, comparing them to the attitudes of the larger Palestinian population. Professor Jamal is also a research scholar with Columbia University's Muslims in New York City Project, for which she has recently completed a pilot study examining the role of mosques in the civic and political incorporation of American Muslims.