America’s religious double standard

Americans profess religious tolerance, but are still skeptical of Islam.

by Abdul Malmi Kakkada - University student

In a recent Brookings Institute poll on the attitude of Americans towards freedom of faith and religious tolerance, nearly 90 percent of Americans agreed that America was built upon religious freedom and tolerance; 95 percent accept that books of faith must be given respect even by those who do not believe in them.

However, when it comes to the attitude towards Muslim-Americans, an entirely different picture emerges.

Despite supporting the freedom to exercise oneâÄôs faith, 48 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with Muslim women choosing to dress differently. As for the right to peacefully assemble, 46 percent of Americans are unwilling to have a mosque built near their homes. Moreover, 41 percent of Americans say that they are uncomfortable with Muslim elementary school teachers âÄî a sign of deep suspicion in American society.

It is clear from the Quran that âÄúthere should be no compulsion in matters of faith,âÄù and the Prophet Muhammad states, âÄúfaith is a restraint against all violence.âÄù

While the teachings of Islam conform to the ideals of freedom, of faith and of religious tolerance, attacks like Sept. 11 make most Americans think that a âÄúconflictâÄù exists between Islam and the American way of life. One can see why the American public has developed an attitude towards Islam that could be perceived as a double standard.

As a practicing Muslim-American youth, it is clear to me from personal experiences that Islamophobia in America stems from a misunderstanding of Islam. But according to the survey, 6 in 10 young Americans are comfortable with expressions of Muslim religious practice. Such an attitude towards Islam among the youth is an encouraging sign of what is to come. In the future, I am confident that Americans âÄî with the youth leading the way âÄî can overcome Islamophobia and work together with the Muslim-American community in establishing a peaceful society.