An Unheard Voice: The American Muslim Struggle for Political Inclusion


As a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans have been the target of negative stereotypes and a significant number of hate crimes. This paper sought to explore to what degree discrimination against American Muslims has affected their political participation. Although the conventional hypothesis was that increased levels of hate crimes may cause American Muslims to refrain from political activity, I hypothesized that such hostility actually increases their political participation as they fight for the protection of their civil rights. I also looked at the intervening variable of civic engagement resulting from participation in mosques. I conducted a multivariate regression analysis to compare an individual’s experience with discrimination and their political interest and voting behavior. I found that as American Muslims experienced discrimination, they were more likely to vote in a post-9/11 context. Additionally, I found that when American Muslims are exposed to imam teachings on political and community engagement in the mosque, they were 29% more likely to be interested in politics generally, which suggested that specific communities may help foster civic engagement.

Table of Contents: 


    It is often assumed that prejudice and racism have been eradicated with the introduction of civil rights acts and the presence of an African American president. Yet, racism and prejudice continue to pose challenges to religious and ethnic minority groups in the American Political System. Although, the United States has come a long way in terms of institutional discrimination, public opinion still influences the priorities and strategies of politicians who are ultimately trying to maximize their chances of reelection (Mayhew, 1974). Unequal treatment of minority groups may be settled on paper, but political attitudes still influence the policies that will help or harm the interests of minority groups. Negative perceptions of certain groups may also affect their willingness to participate in politics or make it more costly for them to run for public office, affecting in an indirect manner the political representation of the interests of these groups.

    American Muslims are one such group. In the post 9/11 context, American Muslims have been the victims of hate crimes in the last decade (CAIR, 2004). They have been labeled by the media as terrorists, disloyal citizens, and simply un-American. The negative portrayal of Muslims in the media, accompanied by a declaration of war against those who kill in the name of Islam, have created a scarring stigma for those who practice the religion. This is, however, not the first time that U.S foreign policy has led to a group’s violation of the key tenants of American democracy, such as religious freedom and freedom of speech. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union and communism were deemed “the enemy,” McCarthyism led to unsubstantiated attacks to the patriotism of American citizens that resulted in civil liberties violations. Similarly, Muslims have been deemed the “new enemy,” and Muslim Americans have fallen prey to religious profiling and have felt the harsh effects of counterterrorism initiatives.

    Previous literature has examined the levels of prejudice and its effects on the political exclusion of minority groups (Perlmutter, 2008; Schafer and Shaw, 2009). I would like to contribute to this literature by looking at the fastest growing religious minority group in the United States: American Muslims. The research question I investigate is how has discrimination in the post 9/11 context affected political participation of American Muslims?

    Literature Review

    Religion has often maintained a pluralistic position within society. While Americans may not entirely accept ideals of religious inclusivism, much tolerance does exist in a country where mosques sit on the same street as churches. The First Amendment is a testament to the forbearance of the federal government (Choper, 2000). “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (U.S. Const. amend. I).With this statement, the Constitution serves as a reminder for those who wish to impede upon the beliefs or practices of others. The principles founded by the first amendment which allow “free exercise” of religion, also place heavy burdens on the government to accommodate religion (Choper, 2000).

    Alfred Stepan addressed this accommodation or tolerance as “[actions] toward religious citizens…[which] requires that laws and officials must permit religious citizens, […] to freely express their views and values within civil society, and to freely take part in politics….”(Stepan, 2012, p. 90). He asserted that a democracy must have religion on its agenda as it attempts to accommodate the people to whom those beliefs belong. To embrace religion is to accept theocracy and liberal democracy (Stepan 2012). A secular nation can be understood as one in which religion does not take the lead in regard to government affairs (Kunzman, 2005). The United States, although founded on Christian values, does not govern with religion in mind. Although this solved the issue of ruling over a religiously pluralistic body, it created confusion on how to incorporate highly religious citizens into the political sphere (Kunzman, 2005).

    Groups that hold religion as their principle identification often find mobilization challenging. Religious groups seeking incorporation within a secular society are often minority groups characterized as “ethnic groups” (Olzak, 1983). When ethnic minority groups reach the point in which political participation is necessary for survival in the host society, ethnic mobilization occurs. This term refers to collective action based on markers such as language, religion, or other cultural practices (Olzak, 1983). An essential aspect of their mobilization is a claim making “a unit of strategic action in the public sphere” (Koopmans, 2005, 24). This includes public articulation of political demands and calls to action affecting the interests or integrity of the claimants or other actors. An ethnic group’s ability to organize around a political goal is contingent upon access and operation of resources (Olzak, 1983). Essential resources are not only thought of in monetary terms, but also in organization infrastructure, membership in social networks and political parties, and knowledge of lobbying and expertise in using communication media (Olzak, 1983).

    Most importantly, an ethnic group’s ability to be present in the political sphere is largely dependent on the structure of the host society (Bousetta, 2008). The majority group is the causal force that constrains and shapes political action of the minority. Such constraints have been deemed “political opportunity structures” which function as “filters” among mobilization of the movement and its ability to change the social environment that surrounds it (Kitschelt, 1986). The integral component of these political opportunity structures is the restrictiveness or looseness of states to incorporate non-established actors (Bousetta, 2008). When events occur that alters a group’s position within the national community, they begin to question their inclusion within political institutions (Schildkraut, 2011).

    Ethnic politics reside among a complex socio-political process consisting of both symbolic and material elements that create the politicization of identity and difference. In addition, political opportunity structures mold the collective identity of ethnic minorities because they address the individuals within the group’s ability to participate legally in the political processes (Bousetta, 2000). For ethnic minorities whose members are also immigrants, issues that constrict participation may affect their legal situation, or the citizenship and naturalization laws that govern them. As a result, political action for some groups can be dependent on the size of their immigrant population as well as the surrounding institutions.

    Conversely, literature on the political opportunity structures often places too much emphasis on the state as a means of constricting political activity of ethnic groups (Bousetta, 2000). Glazer and Moynihan (1964) focused on ethnic groups as interest groups. Through this perspective, ethnicity was a means to mobilize a population behind issues regarding its position in society. In response to changing realities in both the host society and within the group, ethnic societies are constantly reinventing themselves (Rootes, 1999). Since they are heterogeneous groups that are divided by origin, dialect, or class, there is a struggle to achieve a cohesive, unifying group identity. However, if these groups are able to organize on the basis of one of these traits, solidarity may occur. If the group realizes that unification is necessary to obtain status, resources, or advance policies in their favor, they are more likely to mobilize (Rootes, 1999). Historically, immigrant groups used ethno-culture to find a place in society through illustrations of their congruence with the dominant group. In the case of Irish, Italian, and German immigrants, they aimed at presenting ethnic ideals in line with American principles (Rootes, 1999). In doing so, they were able to more easily dispel the stigma of being foreign in America.

    Weithman conjectured that places of worship or religious organizations are essential in helping minority groups participate in politics (Harris-Lacewell, 2004; Kunzman, 2005). Churches and other religious centers may encourage people to take part in politics as they foster civic skills through democratic processes. Weithman asserted that “[C]hurches make American politics more democratic by providing citizens with opportunities to participate in political life, by encouraging them to identify with their citizenship, and by contributing to civic argument and public political debate” (Kunzman, 2005, p.160). Studies suggest that this causal relationship may be true, especially in the African American communities where churches gave members the voice they needed to carry out policy initiatives (Harris-Lacewell, 2004; McKenzie, 2004). Can the same be said for other religious minority groups? Are American Muslims suffering under the same institutional constraints African Americans faced in the era of the civil rights movement? What entity is causing Muslims to be politically active and what barriers are holding them back?


    The purpose of this research was to evaluate the impact of backlash from 9/11 as it affected American Muslims’ political participation. I wanted to explore the result of misplaced blame and hate as they affected the political incorporation of this religious minority group. Although Muslims make up less than three percent of the total U.S population, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Currently, there are only two Muslims in Congress and few others holding office at the state or local level. Only 65% of American Muslims are registered to vote compared to 91% for Protestant Americans and Jewish Americans (Smith, Besheer, Connor, & Sahgal, 2011). How is it that such a large group lags behind in political activity and representation? I believed that the answer to this question was important because if Muslims are not being represented in government, the injuries they face as a result of 9/11 will persist. Although the U.S has indoctrinated the value of democracy within all facets of society, many citizens remain unheard and inactive. The struggle for inclusion in U.S politics among minority groups must be addressed. If underrepresentation of some groups continues, we fail to uphold the ideal of a true democracy.

    During times of political crisis or war, groups that share a common identifying affiliation with those named the “enemy” of the state are often the recipients of backlash (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005). Backlash may come in the form of scapegoating via acts of harassment, physical violence, intimidation, or verbal abuse. The most severe forms of such behavior are named by law as “hate crimes” (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005). In addition, the targeted group may suffer from heightened negative stereotypes fueled by the media or actions of the hatemongers. Subsequently the state usually “responds to perceived threats to the nation’s security and sovereignty by targeting members of the ethnic/religious group(s) for scrutiny and repression, allegedly because they constitute a fifth column” (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005, p.9). The U.S government’s history with reprisals includes surveillance, internment camps, deportation, and prosecution (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005). Such policies often send messages to citizens that spurn vigilante actions.

    The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was an event that forever changed the perception of Muslims in America. Because all nineteen terrorists called themselves Muslims, the American public became alerted to the presence of all those around them that practiced Islam (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005). The general public’s lack of knowledge of the history, culture and core values of Muslims, led many to act out in highly destructive manners. A CAIR poll showed reports of discrimination, violence, and harassment increased 70 % from 2002 to 2004. This is a three-fold increase from the year before the attacks (2006). In addition, the U.S government’s structural and material intrusion into Muslim groups—NGOs, charitable, civic and religious organizations—damaged Muslims’ confidence in the U.S political system. Damage can be seen in the drastic change in the number of Muslim candidates willing to run for public office since 9/11. In 2000, there were 700 Muslim candidates running for office at the federal, state and local levels, while only four years later, the number dropped to a mere 100 candidates (CAIR, 2006; Sinno, 2008).

    Despite the guarantees of “freedom from illegal search and prejudice, discrimination, and persecution based on race, national origin, or religion in the Constitution,” Muslims face hardships because of their religious identification (Sinno, 2008, p. 25). In response, Muslims have had to reexamine their identity. Many Muslims have either completely changed religions, as a result of the harsh environment, or simply withdrawn from the public arena (Cainkar, 2009). Reasons for such changes may stem from rational choice theories, which suggest that the costs associated with becoming politically active far outnumber those that benefit them directly. The necessary resources for Muslims to participate in political events may include money, time, and knowledge of beneficial types of political activity. Lack of these resources may cause Muslims to remain reclusive (Brady, Verba, & Scholzman, 1995). Lack of civic skills can be a great barrier to Muslim inclusion in politics. As many Muslims are immigrants, the ability to vote may be contingent upon their status for citizenship and lack of knowledge may prevent them from engaging in the political sphere in other ways. Most importantly, prejudice may have a crippling effect. The drop in representatives may be an obvious indication of the fear that people may feel.

    While some have taken extreme measures to disassociate themselves from Islam, others have rallied around their faith (Cainkar, 2009). The precepts of Islam emphasize importance of community. One cannot properly practice Islam without becoming part of the ummah or community. This idea of unity has forced Muslims to find support and shelter from the turbulent Islamophobic atmosphere through their community, especially from mosques or Islamic centers (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005). The mosques provide space for Muslims to find strength through activism. I argued that in an attempt to disseminate information and reconstruct the perception of Islam, as well as protect their civil rights, Muslims will need to be present in the political sphere (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005).

    Although the relatively small number of American Muslims willing to run for office at local, state and federal levels may seem to support the idea that Muslims are withdrawing into their communities rather than engaging in politics, we cannot discount the idea that American Muslims are becoming politically active in a variety of ways. The need to gain the attention of non-Muslim representatives to support their interests and accommodate their opinions is high. If Muslims feel like they are not being well represented in government, then they may seek to become more active. In the face of these new challenges, I conjectured that American Muslims have increased their political participation in order to have their concerns met and prejudices erased.

    Similar to African Americans, Muslims in the United States may foster an interest in participation in politics (Kunzman, 2005). “Churches make American politics more democratic …by encouraging them [attendees] to identify with their citizenship, and by contributing to civic argument and public political debate” (Weithman, 2002, cited in Kunzman, 2005, p. 161). Religious affiliation may be of great importance to minority groups as rhetoric encourages political and social change (Perry, 2003; Weithman, 2002). Particularly, the role of the imam or religious leader within mosques may be the key to generating a larger group of Muslim participants within the political sphere (Birt, 2006).


    I believed that American Muslims garnered more awareness to become politically active as a result of discrimination stemming from 9/11. This heightened awareness resulted from experiences with prejudice, and caused individuals to seek support, advocacy, and community in mosques where religious and community leaders are able to help mobilize American Muslims. This theory led to two hypotheses. The first of the hypotheses is as follows:

    Hypothesis 1: In the post-9/11 context, American Muslims will become more politically active (more likely to be interested in politics, vote and other acts of political participation) as a result of prejudice.

    Just as Michael Dawson theorized with respect to African Americans, I argue that American Muslims may be more likely to participate and organize politically because now their “fate” is linked to political participation (Dawson, 1994). Due to atrocities such as anti-Muslim murders and assaults and the violation of privacy by legislation like the Patriot Act, Muslim communities have worked to become more politically active. Recent studies suggest the post-9/11 context has caused a heterogeneous group to develop a shared identity. There is also anecdotal evidence that Muslim Americans’ organizations participate politically and show good citizenship (Bakalian & Bozorgmehr, 2005; CAIR, 2004; Sinno, 2008). In addition, several Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Circle of North America, the Council of American Islamic Relations, and the Muslim American Society have made progressive efforts to vocalize Muslim interests and eradicate stereotypes (Perry, 2010).

    My main hypothesis, Hypothesis 1, was that American Muslims garnered more awareness to become politically active as a result of discrimination stemming from 9/11. I argue that the increase in hate crimes, negative stereotypes in the media, and ethnic profiling legislation has led to an increase in American Muslims becoming more politically involved.

    My second hypothesis is as follows:

    Hypothesis 2: The increase in political participation was explained in some degree by the discussion of political and community involvement in mosques.

    I believed that the increase in political activity was a function of religious leaders encouraging American Muslims to mobilize and to advocate for their civic and political engagement when they experience discrimination and seek support. Since 9/11, there has been a push by Muslim organizations, mosques, and individuals to correct the misrepresentation of Islam worldwide (CAIR, 2006). Jonathan Birt examined British imams as pawns in facilitating non-extremist ideals (2006). In the United States, I believe imams foster ideals of community involvement and political participation. When Muslims attend lectures or weekly khutbas (sermons), they may hear discussion of these ideals, such as becoming more civically engaged, as a way to improve the image of Islam through education of the broader society. Although the topic may not directly get people to the polls, I hypothesize that these discussions raise awareness of American Muslims’ position in society.

    Data and Methods

    In order to examine whether or not discrimination has an effect on minority groups, specifically American Muslims, I used self-reported survey responses from the American Cities Survey distributed in New York City in summer 2012. The surveys yielded a total of 240 respondents. According to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR, 2006), New York has the largest number of mosques in the country, and, therefore, is estimated to have the greatest population of Muslims nationally. The American Cities survey is comprised of public opinion questions with control questions for age, income, sex and education. Refer to Appendix A: American Cities Survey and Appendix B: Coding for the American Cities Survey.

    As a supplement to the larger survey, I fielded my own original module of six survey questions called the Civil Rights Module. Refer to Appendix C: American Cities Survey—Civil Rights Module. The Civil Rights Module was distributed to a total 99 respondents. For question wording see Appendix D: Coding for the American Cities Survey—Civil Rights Module. Both the American Cities Survey and my module were approved by the Institutional Review Board at Columbia University. Although the number of cases (N) fluctuates between regressions, I had an average of 25 respondents per question. The number of cases in my analysis is substantially smaller than the number of respondents surveyed because in some instances questions did not apply directly to respondents, or respondents were uncomfortable answering questions. For example, immigrant respondents who were not in the United States during 9/11 or who were ineligible to vote, did not answer the questions pertaining to changes in voting habits as a result of 9/11. In addition, many reported that they had not heard the imam speak about politics or community involvement. A reason for this may have been because they feared reporting discussions within the mosque or subject matter about the imam. The specific number of respondents for each regression included in this analysis is reported in the regression tables.

    Surveys were distributed to randomly selected participants in ten New York City mosques. Four mosques were located in Manhattan, four in Queens, and two in Brooklyn. These mosques were selected randomly from a list of 150 mosques in New York City using a random sample generator in STATA.

    I chose specific times to go to each mosque in order to get the maximum number of respondents. Since Muslims pray five times a day, the mosque is open for most of the day with attendees trailing in and out. The greatest influx of people was at the time of a scheduled prayer, particularly the two prayers in the middle of the day. Although this may not be true in every mosque in every state, I observed from attending various prayers that a majority of people stopped in to pray at the prayer times of 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Participants I surveyed usually came to pray on their lunch break from work.

    At each mosque I waited until the prayer was over and caught the procession of attendees as they exited the mosques on the sidewalks. I randomly selected every second person as they left the mosque. I asked them several questions to gauge their political interest and behavior and whether or not they felt they had experienced discrimination.

    My dependent variable was political participation. Political participation was measured using several survey questions. The first asked, “In the upcoming [2012] Presidential election, what is the likelihood that you will vote?” This was a closed-ended probe with answer choices “definitely, probably yes, probably not, no, or don’t know.” The second measure for political participation was, “Do you participate in elections more, less, or about the same since 9/11?” This was also a closed-ended probe with the answer choices “more, less, or about the same.” These were valid and reliable measures because they determined (1) whether or not the respondent was participating in elections and (2) whether or not 9/11 had any effect on their political participation at the individual level. I dichotomized the variable for voting in the 2012 election by coding the categories for “definitely” and “probably yes” as high (1) and the choices “probably not” and “no” as low (0). I coded “don’t know” as missing. For the question on voting since 9/11, I coded this variable as 1 for “about the same or more” and 0 for those participating “less.”

    My independent variable was discrimination. Experience with discrimination was measured using the closed-ended survey question, “Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace/school?” with the answer choices, “often, sometimes, rarely, no, don’t know.” This was a valid and reliable measure because it tested individual perceptions of prejudiced experiences either in school or work. It was specific enough to allow for detailed instances of discrimination that were often recurrent issues in the person’s place of work or educational institution. I also coded discrimination for both variables of work and school into dichotomous categories of having experienced discrimination in any form, coded as 1, or not, coded as 0.

    In addition, I measured the change in rhetoric of the imam in regard to topics of politics and community involvement. The question asked was, “Since 9/11, what are some of the things the Imam has talked about regarding politics and involvement within the community?” This open ended response was then coded into five categories: responses that indicated “civic/political engagement” coded as 1; “combat stereotypes/misconceptions” coded as 2; “spread ideas of peace,” 3; “talk about the religion,” 4; and “have good behavior,” 5.

    The controls I used were income and education. Income brackets were coded as tens of thousands of dollars. Education was coded as level of educational attainment by year from 1st through 12th grade, some college, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree. For specific question wordings and coding, please see Appendices A through D.

    To explore the relationship between prejudice and political participation, I used multivariate regression analysis with an ordinary least squares model. The regression equation used was as follows:

    Political participation = β0 +β1discrimination + β2income + β3education.


    I ran a cross tabulation on minority groups/races and levels of discrimination using the summer 2012 sample of the American Cities Survey (Table 1). The categories were “White, Black, Latino, Asian and Muslim.” My sample size for whites was small because the survey oversampled minority populations in summer 2012. The findings suggested that minority groups encountered varying levels of discrimination.

    Although the highest reported percentages of discrimination was from Blacks and Asians, the number of participants surveyed was small. The most interesting finding in this table was the comparison between Latinos (41%) and Muslims (41%). Latinos reported feeling the same levels of discrimination as Muslims and the sample size for each was much higher than the other categories due to the oversampling of these populations. This finding was extremely interesting because, although Hispanics have been largely discriminated against due to immigration concerns, Muslims reported facing an equal amount of hostility. This result implied that even in New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world, discrimination of certain minority groups still persists.

    Both groups are heavily covered in the media and face issues with government policies meant to restrict them in many ways. An example may be seen in the racial profiling of both groups—one that faces scrutiny of illegal residence and the other possible criminal charges of alleged terrorism. Muslims continue to suffer from the impact of 9/11. As U.S. intolerance for Muslims increased as a result of fear and insecurity, increased levels of hate crimes followed. The reported anti-Muslim hate violence skyrocketed some 1,600% after 9/11 (Potok, 2012). The results of that event continue to disrupt American Muslims in their everyday lives. This can be seen in the responses I received in the surveys. I received a significant amount of “often” and “sometimes” as many respondents indicated they felt discriminated against in either work or school. Many participants I interviewed even stated specific instances of abuse. One woman told me that she was forced to quit her job for wearing her hijab (head covering) in the workplace. Another man described his troubles as a graduate student when he was forced to change the subject of his papers from Islam to Judaism.

    Many people described feeling that they did not think anyone cared about their concerns or needs within the political sphere. I was led to believe that discrimination may increase voting behavior. I continued this analysis by examining the effect of discrimination on the likelihood of voting in the next election on different groups.

    I ran a cross tabulation on the dichotomous variable for voting in the upcoming Presidential election on all the minority groups/races of people identified within the American Cities Survey. Results are found in Table 2. I found that Muslims report that they are less likely to vote in the 2012 Presidential election than the rest of the population in the sample. The results found in Table 2 indicate 47% of Muslims surveyed will vote in 2012. Not only is this the least amount of affirmative responses of all the ethnic groups surveyed, but it is more than 10 percentage points lower than Hispanics, who reported the next lowest percent of affirmative responses. Other groups had much higher turnout rates according to the survey results, with Blacks reporting 77.8%; Whites, 69.44%; and Asians, 88.9%. While Latinos were the second lowest group to report likely participation in the next election (59.3%), Muslims were reportedly less than 50% likely to vote.

    The regression in Table 3 seems to substantiate the claim that Muslims were least likely to vote in the 2012 Presidential election compared with all other groups. The variable Muslim, is a dummy variable with Muslims coded as 1 and all other respondents coded as 0. It showed that Muslims are 56% less likely to vote in the next election even when controlled for income, education and gender. This is statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. There was a small positive effect of income, although gender, education and the dummy variables for other races/minority groups did not achieve statistical significance.

    The findings of Table 3 are noteworthy because they indicate that there is a lag in the number of American Muslims voting. In the months preceding the 2012 election, Muslims seemed to express the least amount of participation. That lag led us to question why. Is there a way to further explain the political behavior of American Muslims?

    In reference to Table 4, it appears that when American Muslims experience more discrimination, they are less likely to report a decline in electoral participation. There seemed to be some ambiguity regarding whether or not they are attending religious services more or about the same when they experienced increased discrimination. This ambiguity could be due to an uneven distribution of people across the categories of discrimination. To further assess this relationship, I ran a regression of school discrimination and voting after 9/11, controlling for education and income.

    I explored the relationship between prejudice and political engagement of Muslims after 9/11 with a multivariate regression analysis using an ordinary least squares model. I regressed political participation of Muslims after 9/11 on my variable for discrimination (which is an individual’s experiences with discrimination in school) and controlled for gender, education and income. Results are shown in Table 5.

    I found that when Muslims moved from not having experienced discrimination (coded as 0) to experiencing discrimination in school (coded as 1), they were 29% more likely to participate in elections in a post-9/11 context. These results are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level with an r-squared value of 0.27 after controlling for income, education, and gender. One of the persons I happened to interview in my data collection, was an imam and he reported in a very quick response that he did not speak about those topics. Whether he feared outside intrusion from the government, NYPD, or any unwanted repercussions from discussing his lecture topics remains unknown. The other reason for such a low sample size, is the fact that many participants were non-citizens and therefore either ineligible to vote or were not present before 9/11. Hence, many participants were not able to answer my question on the change in voting habit since 9/11.

    The findings suggest that discrimination has great implications for the participation of minorities. This has been the case for other groups as well. In the case of African Americans who fought for civil rights in the 1960s, they gathered behind their “linked fate” and gathered resources as one cohesive group (Dawson, 1995). For Hispanics, the idea of rallying around identity to advocate for change was part of the Chicano movement in the 1960s and is once again growing due to immigration policies (Melendez, 2003). The same mobilization due to identity also appears to be happening within American Muslim communities. Counter to what one may initially assume, high levels of discrimination may actually cause Muslims to vote more. Table 5 demonstrates the idea of mobilization. A possible source for this push for change may have come from within the Muslim community; more specifically, it may have come from within the place of worship—the mosque. Table 6 shows that for those who reported not hearing the imam speak about politics or community involvement, 64% reported that they are not interested in politics. When Muslims reported hearing rhetoric about civic engagement, 80% were interested in politics compared to 20% who were not.

    Table 7 reports a regression analysis of political interest and the imam discussing politics and/or community involvement. The imamsays variable is a dichotomous variable derived from my open-ended question “Since 9/11, what are some of the things the imam has talked about regarding politics and involvement within the community?” Responses that included topics of political or community involvement were coded as 1, with all other topics coded as zero. A complete description of the coding for this variable can be found in Appendix B.

    A change in what the “imam says” corresponded with a .52 increase in an individual’s interest in politics. This change meant that when participants reported not hearing the imam talk about politics/community involvement compared to the imam speaking about such activity, they became 52% more likely to vote in elections since 9/11 (see Table 7). Even controlled for income, gender and education, participants expressed that they were more interested in politics if they heard rhetoric in the mosque advocating for civic engagement. Mosques act as centers of support for those harmed by the results of 9/11 and thus they are encouraged to seek change by getting more involved in community affairs and politics. In order to dispel anti-Muslim initiatives and beliefs held within society, Muslims are being reminded to exhibit good citizenship and become more acculturated.

    Many of those surveyed stated that they were told to show good behavior to their neighbors and all whom they encountered in the city. The results (especially Table 5 and Table 7) support this idea of seeking relief from government and societal strains by showing loyalty, patriotism, and good citizenship by exercising their Fifteenth Amendment right to vote.

    When I asked respondents about the rhetoric of the imam in the mosque regarding community and political involvement, many people cited examples of things the mosque focused on in order to promote civic engagement. Several subjects said not much was said within the mosques regarding which candidate or party to support; however, others said there was a push for more people to get involved in interfaith activities or community affairs. An example was the mosque having dinners and open houses in which they invited the mayor and chief of police to discuss community affairs in a friendly atmosphere. One man remarked that “the Muslim community feels abandoned; if you don’t participate in politics you will never be heard.” He was particularly adamant in his interview about communicating the importance of civic participation if American Muslims want to find a voice within the larger community.

    There were other respondents who spoke of initiatives to promote peaceful developments between Muslims and the New York Police Department (NYPD) which the mosque promoted. The woman I spoke to said that this was needed because in times of hate crimes, the Muslims may find policemen that are more sympathetic to their complaints and cases instead of feeling that the NYPD shows hostility towards the Muslim community. The most important rhetoric was that of correcting misconceptions about Islam held by the general U.S population. Several suggested that most imams preached the importance of relating the basic tenets of Islam by denouncing and disassociating American Muslims from those who were involved in the 9/11 attacks.


    The research presented in this paper adds to the limited literature on Muslim mobilization. It presented a puzzle regarding how the United States, one of the leading democratic nations, continues to struggle with political incorporation of minority groups. The findings showed that many ethnic groups are underrepresented due to discrimination created by the media or federal policies; these findings offer a clear contradiction to this nation’s ideal of a true democracy. My findings presented compelling evidence to support my theory of discrimination impacting political participation. For Muslims who felt discriminated against, the likelihood that they would become politically active to combat misconception and negative stereotypes of Muslims greatly increased. The linear regression equation provided evidence that 24% of Muslims were more likely to vote after experiencing discrimination. Due to the increased negative environment surrounding Islam, Muslims have found the need to reemerge into the political sphere. In order to regain lost civil rights through profiling and surveillance, they must advocate for more representation. By participating in interfaith activities, showing compassion to neighbors and sharing information about Islam’s true tenants which denounce terrorist dogma, Muslims have begun to show that they are peaceful, religious Americans.

    If Muslims continue to be civically involved, they may be able to garner more representation from non-Muslim representatives who may find it difficult to lobby in their favor because of the anti-Islam stigma penetrating society. Gaining advocates or representatives that will put forth the effort to address their needs within society, Muslims may be more likely to achieve policy goals in their favor that help their community and improve their civil rights.

    This study is especially important as the 2012 election season approaches. Politicians are increasing their anti-Islamic rhetoric to gain votes. This increase was commented on by journalist, Michael Scott Moore, during the 2010 midterm elections: “Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes,” (Senzai, 2012). As many Muslims reside in key swing vote states, their vote remains in high demand. In states like Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida there are significant concentrations of Muslims. If these communities vote in a bloc, as occurred during the 2000 election in Florida, they could have a significant effect on the outcome of the election (Senzai, 2012). For those politicians who can filter through the Islamophobic atmosphere to gain the Muslim vote, great rewards during election time may be in store. For Muslims seeking change, the upcoming election could be an important determinant on the next four years of policy that will either be helpful to retrieving lost civil rights or impeding the further infringement of such rights. Further studies must be done to determine whether or not Muslims increased political activity will actually allow them to change the direction of the counter terrorism initiatives.


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    Table 1: Crosstabulation of Experience with Discrimination by Race or Minority Group

    Race/Minority Group No Yes Total
    Black 44.4% 55.6% 100%
    White 61.1 38.9 100%
    Latino 58.6 41.4 100%
    Asian 44.4 55.6 100%
    Muslim 58.6 41.4 100%
    Total 53.6 46.4 100%

    Table 2: Crosstabulation of Experience with Discrimination by Race or Minority Group

    Race/Minority Group No Yes Total
    Black 22.2% 77.8% 100%
    White 30.56 69.44 100%
    Latino 40.7 59.3 100%
    Asian 11.1 88.9 100%
    Muslim 52.5 47.5 100%
    Total 39.22 60.78 100%

    Table 3: Probability of Voting in 2012 for Muslims 2012

    Vote Coef. Std. Err. t p > | t |
    Muslim -.56* .24 -2.35 .020
    Black -.16 .35 -.46 .65
    White -.09 .28 -.30 .76
    Latino -.28 .25 -1.17 .24
    Asian .03 .45 -.08 .93
    Income .05* .02 1.99 .05
    Education .04 .03 1.42 .01
    Sex -.27 .18 -1.54 -.63
    Constant 2.25 .45 4.98 1.36

    * Significant at 95% Confidence level. N=235 R2=.05

    Table 4: Cross Tabulation of Attending Elections Since 9/11 and Experiences with Discrimination in Schools

    School disc Attend Less Attend the Same Attend More Total
    Never 18.18% 68.18% 13.64% 100%
    Rarely 16.67 33.33 50 100
    Sometimes 0 0 100 100
    Often 0 0 100 100
    Total 15.15 60.61 24.24 100

    Table 5: Experience with Discrimination and Attending Elections after 9/11

    Election 9/11 Coef Std. Err. T P > | t |
    School Discrimination .29 .12 2.41 .03
    Education .01 .05 .16 .87
    Income -.02 .03 -.48 .64
    Sex -.43 .23 -1.88 .07
    Constant -.12 .69 -.17 .86

    * Significant at 95% Confidence level. N=25 R2=.27

    Table 6: Cross Tabulation of Political Interest and Imam Rhetoric

    Imam Says No Political
    Political Interest Total
    No Political/Civic Engagement Topics 64.52 35.48 100
    Civic/Political Engagement Topics 20 80 100
    Total 50 50 100

    Table 7: Political Interest and Rhetoric of the Imam

      Coef Std. Err. T P > | t |
    Imam says .52 .17 3.06 .00
    Income .05 .08 .56 .54
    Sex .06 .16 .36 .73
    Education -.04 .12 -.35 .67
    Constant .28 .30 .96 .23

    * Significant at 95% Confidence level. N=36 R2=.24

    Figure 1: Conceptual Variables

    Figure 1. Conceptual Variables

    Figure 2: All Variables

    Figure 2. All Variables

    Appendix A: American Cities Survey

    Section 1: Politics. First we’re going to ask a few questions about your political views and actions during the most recent Presidential and local elections. Please CIRCLE your answers.

    Q1. Are you interested in politics?
    No [If this is your answer please SKIP Question 2]

    Q2. [If YES to Q1] Please describe briefly as best you can when and how you first became interested in politics. (Was it during childhood? Was it due to some specific social or political event? Did a political candidate inspire this interest?)

    Q3. [IF NO to Q1] Why do you think you are NOT interested in politics?

    Q4. During the last Presidential or Mayoral elections did you go to any political meetings, rallies, speeches, dinners, or things like that in support of a particular candidate?
    Yes, both for Presidential and Mayoral elections
    Yes, for Presidential only
    Yes, for Mayoral only
    No, I didn’t go to any of those

    Q5. In the upcoming Presidential election, what is the likelihood that you will vote?
    Probably yes
    Probably no
    Not sure

    Q6. Do you feel that your Congressman does a good job representing the interests of your community in Congress?
    Not sure

    Why do you feel this way?

    Q7. Do you think your Congressman should have certain characteristics (ideology, race, religion) in common with the majority of the community he or she represents?
    Probably yes
    Probably not
    Not at all
    Not sure

    Q6. How do you rate U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America?
    Not Sure
    Don’t know

    Q7. In your view, immigration into the United States should be:
    Kept at its present level


    Section 2: Community Life. These questions are about living in your neighborhood and about different groups in your community and the US. THESE ANSWERS ARE CONFIDENTIAL.

    Q9. Some people experience discrimination due to their religious or cultural practices.
    Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace?
    Don’t know

    Q10. Have you ever experienced discrimination at school?
    Don’t know

    [IF YES TO ANY OF THE ABOVE] Do you remember when these hostile events took place?

    Section 3: Background Information. It is VERY important you answer these questions, they are all confidential. When you finish, put the survey in the envelope and seal it!

    Q12. How many years have you lived in the city where you live now? __________________

    Q13. What is your 5 digit ZIP code? ____________________

    Q14. Which best describes you?
    Other (specify) ________

    Q15. How old are you (in years)? __________

    Q16. In which of these groups did your total household income, from all sources, fall last year BEFORE TAXES? (Your household includes all the people that usually live in the same home.) (CIRCLE ONE):
    Less than $10,000
    More than $250,000

    Q17. What is the highest grade in school that you finished? ___________________________

    Q18. What is your religious/spiritual preference? Please be specific (i.e. denomination)

    How often do you attend temple/church or other religious or spiritual services?
    Once a year
    About once a month
    Almost every week
    At least once a week

    Q19. What is your sex?

    Q20. In what country were you born? Inside the US Outside the US? (Please specify) _____

    Q21. If you were born OUTSIDE the US territory, how old were you when you permanently moved to the US? ________________________

    Q22. Where was your MOTHER born?
    Country______________ City and State __________________________

    Q23. Where was your FATHER born?
    Country_______________ City and State ____________________________

    Appendix B: Coding for American Cities Survey

    Q1. Are you interested in politics?
    tab upolint, miss
    gen polint =.
    replace polint = 0 if upolint == “no” replace polint = 1 if upolint == “yes/no”
    replace polint = 1 if upolint == “yes” replace polint = 1 if upolint == “Yes”

    Q5. In the upcoming presidential election, what is the likelihood that you will vote?
    tab unq5, miss
    gen nq5 =.
    replace nq5 = 0 if unq5 == “not sure” replace nq5 = 1 if unq5 == “no”
    replace nq5 = 2 if unq5 == “probably no” replace nq5 = 3 if unq5 == “probably yes”
    replace nq5 = 4 if unq5 == “definitely”

    Q9a. Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace?
    tab unq9a, miss
    gen nq9a =.
    replace nq9a = 0 if unq9a == “don’t know” replace nq9a = 1 if unq9a == “no”
    replace nq9a = 2 if unq9a == “rarely” replace nq9a = 3 if unq9a == “sometimes”
    replace nq9a = 4 if unq9a == “often”
    label define nq9a 0 “0. Don’t know” 1 “1. No” 2 “2. Rarely” 3 “3. Sometimes” 4 “4. Often”

    Q9b. Have you ever experienced discrimination at school?
    replace nq9b = 0 if unq9b == “don’t know” replace nq9b = 1 if unq9b == “no”
    replace nq9b = 2 if unq9b == “rarely” replace nq9b = 3 if unq9b == “sometimes”
    replace nq9b = 4 if unq9b == “often”
    label define nq9b 0 “0. Don’t know” 1 “1. No” 2 “2. Rarely” 3 “3. Sometimes” 4 “4. Often”

    *Q14. Which best describes you?
    replace raceth = 1 if uraceth3 == “black” |uraceth3==”Black”
    replace raceth = 2 if uraceth3 == “white” |uraceth3==”White”
    replace raceth = 3 if uraceth3 == “Hispanic/Latino”
    replace raceth = 4 if uraceth3 == “Asian”
    replace raceth = 5 if uraceth3 == “Native American”
    replace raceth = 5 if uraceth3 == “Pacific Islander”
    replace raceth = 6 if uraceth3==”Black (1,2,2.5 Immigrant, African or Caribean)”
    replace raceth = 7 if uraceth3==”Birracial (AW, HW, BW, BH)”
    replace raceth = 7 if uraceth3==”More than 2 race/eth”
    replace raceth = 9 if uraceth3== “Other” |uraceth3==”other”

    *Q15. How old are you (in years)?
    replace age=”45″ if uage==”40s-50s” replace age=”65″ if uage==”60+”
    replace age=”" if uage==”na” destring age, replace force
    replace age=58 if age<59 & age>58 replace age=91 if age<92 & age>91
    replace age=50 if age<51 & age>51

    *Q16. In which of these groups did your total household income, from all sources, fall last year BEFORE TAXES?
    *(Your household includes all the people that usually live in the same home.) (CIRCLE ONE):
    tab uincome, miss
    gen income=.
    replace income=1 if uincome==”less than 10k” | uincome==”Less than 10K”
    replace income=99 if uincome==”na” | uincome==”None”
    replace income=2 if uincome==”10k-20k” replace income=3 if uincome==”20k-30k”
    replace income=4 if uincome==”30k-40k” replace income=5 if uincome==”40k-50k”
    replace income=6 if uincome==”50k-60k” replace income=7 if uincome==”60k-70k”
    replace income=8 if uincome==”70k-80k” replace income=9 if uincome==”80k-90k”
    replace income=10 if uincome==”90k-100k” replace income=12 if uincome==”100k-125k”
    replace income=15 if uincome==”125k-175k” replace income=20 if uincome==”175k-250k”
    replace income=25 if uincome==”more than 250k”

    Q17. What is the highest grade in school that you finished? (CIRCLE ONE):
    tab ueduc, miss
    gen educ=.
    replace educ=0 if ueduc==”did not attend school” |ueduc==”never attended school”
    replace educ=1 if ueduc==”1st grade” replace educ=1 if ueduc==”1st or 2nd grade”
    replace educ=2 if ueduc==”2nd grade” replace educ=3 if ueduc==”3rd grade”
    replace educ=4 if ueduc==”4th grade” replace educ=5 if ueduc==”5th grade”
    replace educ=6 if ueduc==”6th grade” replace educ=7 if ueduc==”7th grade”
    replace educ=8 if ueduc==”8th grade” replace educ=9 if ueduc==”9th grade”
    replace educ=10 if ueduc==”10th grade” replace educ=11 if ueduc==”11th grade”
    replace educ=12 if ueduc==”12th grade” replace educ=13 if ueduc==”Some College”
    replace educ=14 if ueduc==”associate’s” replace educ=16 if ueduc==”bachelor’s”
    replace educ=18 if ueduc==”graduate degree”

    *Q18b. How often do you attend temple/church or other religious or spiritual services?
    gen attend =.
    replace attend = 0 if uattend == “never”
    replace attend = 1 if uattend == “once a year”
    replace attend = 2 if uattend == “less often than once a month”
    replace attend = 3 if uattend == “about once a month”
    replace attend = 4 if uattend == “almost every week”
    replace attend = 4 if uattend == “almost once a week”
    replace attend = 5 if uattend == “at least once a week”
    label define attend 0 “0. Never” 1 “1. Once a year” 2 “2. Less than once a month” 3 “3. About once a month” 4 “4. Almost every week” 5 “5. At least once a week”
    label values attend attend
    tab attend, miss
    tab uattend, miss

    *Q19. What is your sex?
    tab usex, miss
    gen sex=.
    replace sex=1 if usex==”male”
    replace sex=0 if usex==”female”
    replace sex=. if usex==”na”
    label define sex 1 “1.Male” 0 “0.Female”
    label values sex sex
    tab sex, miss
    tab usex, miss

    Appendix C: American Cities Survey-Civil Rights Module

    Q1. Since 9/11, what are some of the things the Imam has talked about regarding politics and involvement within the community?

    Q2. How often has the Imam spoken about this since 9/11?
    Did not attend Mosque before 9/11

    Q3. Do you remember if the Imam spoke about this before 9/11?
    Did not attend Mosque before 9/11

    Q4. Do you participate in elections more, less or about the same since 9/11?
    About the same

    Q5. What is your specific religious preference/denomination? (i.e.: Shiite denomination)

    Q6. How often do you attend Mosque?
    Once a year
    About once a month
    Almost every week
    At least once a week

    Appendix D: Coding for American Cities Survey-Civil Rights Module

    * Q1. Since 9/11, what are some of the things the Imam has talked about
    * regarding politics and involvement within the community?
    * Q2. How often has the Imam spoken about this since 9/11?
    gen imam2 =.
    replace imam2 = 0 if uimam2 == “did not attend”
    replace imam2 = 1 if uimam2 == “rarely”
    replace imam2 = 2 if uimam2 == “soemtimes”
    replace imam2 = 2 if uimam2 == “sometimes”
    replace imam2 = 3 if uimam2 == “often”
    replace imam2 = 4 if uimam2 == “frequently”
    label define imam2 0 “0. Did not attend mosque before 9/11″ 1 “1. Rarely” 2 “2. Sometimes” 3 “3. Often” 4 “4. Frequently”

    * Q3. Do you remember if the Imam spoke about this before 9/11?
    tab uimam3, miss
    gen imam3 =.
    replace imam3 = 0 if uimam3 == “did not attend”
    replace imam3 = 1 if uimam3 == “rarely”
    replace imam3 = 2 if uimam3 == “soemtimes”
    replace imam3 = 3 if uimam3 == “often”
    replace imam3 = 4 if uimam3 == “frequently”
    label define imam3 0 “0. Did not attend mosque before 9/11″ 1 “1. Rarely” 2 “2. Sometimes” 3 “3. Often” 4 “4. Frequently”

    * Q4. Do you participate in elections more, less or about the same since 9/11?
    replace elec911 = -1 if uelec911 == “less”
    replace elec911 = 0 if uelec911 == “about the same”
    replace elec911 = 1 if uelec911 == “more”
    label define elec911 -1 “-1. Attend less” 0 “0. Attend the same” 1 “1. Attend more”
    label values elec911 elec911

    * Q6. How often do you attend mosque?
    replace mosque = 1 if umosque == “once a year”
    replace mosque = 2 if umosque == “about once a month”
    replace mosque = 3 if umosque == “almost every week”
    replace mosque = 4 if umosque == “at least once a week”
    replace mosque = 5 if umosque == “daily”
    label define mosque 1 “1. Once a year” 2 “2. About once a month” 3 “3. Almost every week” 4 “4. At least once a week” 5 “Daily”
    * Muslim Dummy
    gen musdum = 0
    replace musdum = 1 if urelig == “muslim” replace musdum = 1 if urelig == “Muslim”
    replace musdum = 1 if urelig == “Islamic” replace musdum = 1 if urelig == “Muslim- Shiah”
    replace musdum = .if urelig == ” ”
    * Muslim Race Variable
    * Discrimination Dummy Variables
    gen workdiscdum = . replace workdiscdum = 1 if unq9a == “rarely”
    replace workdiscdum = 1 if unq9a == “sometimes”
    replace workdiscdum = 1 if unq9a == “often” replace workdiscdum = 0 if unq9a == “don’t know”
    replace workdiscdum = 0 if unq9a == “no” label define workdiscdum 0 “0. No” 1 “1. Yes”
    replace schooldiscdum = 1if unq9b == “rarely” replace schooldiscdum = 1if unq9b == “sometimes”
    replace schooldiscdum = 1if unq9b == “often” replace schooldiscdum = 0if unq9b == “don’t know”
    replace schooldiscdum = 0if unq9b == “no” label define schooldiscdum 0 “0. No” 1 “1. Yes”
    replace polintdum = 0 if upolint == “no” replace polintdum = 0 if upolint == “yes/no”
    replace polintdum = 1 if upolint == “yes” replace polintdum = 1 if upolint == “Yes”
    replace votedum = 0 if unq5 == “not sure” replace votedum = 0 if unq5 == “no”
    replace votedum = 0 if unq5 == “probably no” replace votedum = 1 if unq5 == “probably yes”
    replace votedum = 1 if unq5 == “definitely” replace disc = 0 if workdiscdum == 0
    replace disc = 0 if schooldiscdum == 0 replace disc = 1 if workdiscdum == 1
    replace disc = 1 if schooldiscdum == 1 label define disc 0 “0. No” 1 “1. Yes”
    * Educ Recode
    gen educgrp =.
    * replace educgrp = 0 if educ == “.” * replace educgrp = 0 if educ == “never”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “2nd grade” replace educgrp = 1 if ueduc == “3rd grade”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “4th grade” replace educgrp = 1 if ueduc == “5th grade”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “6th grade” replace educgrp = 1 if ueduc == “7th grade”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “8th grade” replace educgrp = 1 if ueduc == “9th grade”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “10th grade” replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “11th grade”
    replace educgrp = 1if ueduc == “12th grade” replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “Some College”
    replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “associate degree” replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “associate’s”
    replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “associate’s degree” replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “bachelor’s”
    replace educgrp = 3if ueduc == “graduate degree” replace educgrp = 2if ueduc == “some college”
    * Income Group
    replace income = 0 if uincome == “na” | uincome==”None”
    replace incomegrp = 1 if uincome == “less than 10k” | uincome==”Less than 10K”
    replace incomegrp = 1 if uincome == “10k-20k”
    replace incomegrp = 1 if uincome == “20k-30k”
    replace incomegrp = 1 if uincome == “30k-40k”
    replace incomegrp = 2 if uincome == “40k-50k”
    replace incomegrp = 2 if uincome == “50k-60k”
    replace incomegrp = 2 if uincome == “60k-70k”
    replace incomegrp = 3 if uincome == “70k-80k”
    replace incomegrp = 3 if uincome == “80k-90k”
    replace incomegrp = 3 if uincome == “90k-100k”
    replace incomegrp = 4 if uincome == “100k-125k”
    replace incomegrp = 4 if uincome == “125k-175k”
    replace incomegrp = 4 if uincome == “175k-250k”
    replace incomegrp = 4 if uincome == “more than 250k”
    replace elec911dum = 1 if uelec911 == “about the same”
    replace elec911dum = 1 if uelec911 == “more”
    replace imam2dum = 0 if uimam2 == “did not attend”
    replace imam2dum = 1 if uimam2 == “rarely”
    replace imam2dum = 2 if uimam2 == “soemtimes”
    replace imam2dum = 2 if uimam2 == “sometimes”
    replace imam2dum = 3 if uimam2 == “often”
    replace imam2dum = 4 if uimam2 == “frequently”
    replace imamsays = 1 if responses == 1 replace imamsays = 0 if responses == 2
    replace imamsays = 0 if responses == 3 replace imamsays = 0 if responses == 4
    replace imamsays = 0 if responses == 5