Research from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) found that Muslims who indicate that their faith is important to them are more likely to emphasize their American identity as well. Muslims who are active in their practice are also more civically engaged; about half of regular mosque attendees have gotten involved with their neighborhoods and communities. No correlation was found between mosque attendance and extremism.
“Despite a too-common misconception of Muslim religiosity as at odds with an American identity, the two seem to go together; it correlates with civic engagement outside of the mosque as well,” Vox wrote. “Though mosques are sometimes portrayed as scary and alien—think of the protests against mosque construction in some areas in recent years—they are in fact harbingers of integration and engagement.”
While most American evangelicals worry about the application of Shari‘ah law in the US, according to a 2015 LifeWay Research poll, Muslims do not favor it. In the ISPU research, 55 percent opposed the use of Shari‘ah as a legal source, while 10 percent said it should play a role.
Though Muslim Americans are growing in number and prominence, a majority of white evangelicals do not know a single one. In a Pew survey released last month, just over a third (35%) say they have a personal connection to a Muslim, compared to about 40 percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics, 50 percent of unaffiliated Americans, and 73 percent of Jews.
The findings reflect broader divides between Christians and other faiths in North America. As CT reported earlier, 60 percent of adherents to non-Christian faiths do not have relationships with Christians. That means that most Muslims—as well as Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews—have no evangelical friends.
Bridging the divide takes more than symbolic gestures, wrote D. L. Mayfield, author of Assimilate or Go Home, who works with refugees and immigrants in Portland. “Have discussions about refugees (and Islam) with your people. Gently correct misinformation, every single time you see it. Be vigilant against hatred, specifically Islamophobia,” she advised her blog readers earlier this year. “Specifically ask Christians to live up to their beliefs when it comes to loving our neighbor (and our responsibility to them).”
Americans are more worried about Islamic extremism internationally, with three-quarters of white evangelicals saying they’re “very concerned” about the impact of these views around the world, Pew wrote.
“It has to do with the fact that the evangelical church is in touch with Christian churches in the Muslim world. More than any other religious group, they’re hearing the horror stories,” said Cashin, the CIU professor, who has seen three of his friends and colleagues martyred as they attempted to bring the gospel to Muslim-majority nations. “For that reason, they tend to respond more negatively to the faith of Islam.”
Many associate the violent acts of ISIS extremists, who target Christians and other religious minorities, with Islam itself. In a LifeWay Research survey, slightly more than half of evangelical pastors saw ISIS as a true indication of what Islamic society looks like. They also disagreed with the notion that “true Islam creates a peaceful society.”