Muslim American Integration Vital to National Interest

Chicago Council on Global Affairs, June 26, 2007

Greater Muslim American civic and political engagement is urgently needed to prevent alienation in a community that is vital to U.S. security and relations with the Muslim World. This is the main conclusion of an independent Task Force sponsored by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Task Force, led by Farooq Kathwari, CEO of the Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., and former Secretary of Labor and Illinois Congresswoman, Lynn Martin, brought together a group of 32 distinguished Muslim and non-Muslim Americans to examine the Muslim American experience and provide a roadmap for accelerating Muslim American engagement in civic affairs and U.S. political life.

The report found that although Muslim Americans are a well-educated, diverse group that can make greater contributions to the nation, they lack strong institutions and sufficient recognizable public or political voices to gain regular access to government and media circles.

“There is a great need and opportunity for Muslim Americans to fully participate in American society and politics,” stated Mr. Kathwari. “The recommendations of the Task Force provide sensible and implementable ways to achieve this objective.”

Many Muslim Americans responded helpfully to September 11 and condemned other terrorist acts. Despite this response, many Americans continue to view Muslim Americans with suspicion in the post September 11 environment. The present climate of mistrust and the lack of engagement threaten to marginalize and potentially alienate some elements among Muslim Americans.

To combat this trend it is critical that Muslim American leaders and institutions continue and amplify their condemnations of extremism and terrorism and continue to strengthen efforts to prevent radical activity within the community. National leaders and the media in turn need to communicate these endeavors to the public.

“The continued isolation and mistrust of Muslim Americans since 9/11 is a recipe for a national crisis,” stated Secretary Martin. “It is in the interest of all Americans to build trust and rapidly bring Muslim Americans into the social and political mainstream to strengthen our democratic institutions and to improve homeland security”

To accelerate Muslim Americans’ civic and political engagement, the Task Force recommends:

* Muslim American leaders continue to take the lead in encouraging greater civic participation, leadership development, and institution building within their community.

* Non-Muslim groups and government leaders work to better recognize Muslim American contributions to national security, improve collaborations with Muslim American institutions, and provide greater opportunities for young Muslim Americans in government service.

* Media organizations and Muslim American groups jointly sponsor seminars to address concerns and deepen relationships and understanding.

* Leading research and policy institutes deepen their work on Islam and Muslim communities and create partnerships with Muslim American institutions.

* An American Diversity Dialogue be established among Muslim and non-Muslim leaders to examine critical issues in Muslim American integration.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.

[Editor’s Note: The full text and executive report of “Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans, 2007” can be read or downloaded here.]

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