At Canaan’s Edge : America in the King Years, 1965-68

This is the last book on the trilogy about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement by Taylor Branch. The whole trilogy is a must-read.

At Canaan’s Edge is the last book in Taylor Branch’s trilogy about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. I read Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire some time ago.

At Canaan’s Edge covers the years the Voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama in 1965 to King’s assassination in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. It also covers the Vietnam War and the protests against it during that timeframe.

The book is very engrossing and the history of that era very turbulent. It starts on the high note of the passage of Voting Rights Act but then things become more difficult when Dr. King tries to work for the betterment of African Americans in the north. Also, the nonviolence of the times covered by the previous two books is overtaken here by riots all over the US.

Reading this whole series, I was amazed at the very human but still heroic people who made so much progress on the civil rights front in a decade. One can see how far they have gone but at the same time I could sense that there was still a lot left to be done and that was the difficult task of changing social attitudes.

Taylor Branch is a great author and he knits together a great history in this trilogy. Despite the length of these books, they never bore you. He is also good at presenting an unvarnished picture of the real world, where the heroes are flawed like regular human beings.

I would highly recommend the trilogy to anyone interested in United States history or the Civil Rights Movement.

American Muslims Poll

This is the first comprehensive poll of Muslim Americans. It has a wealth of data about their demographics and their opinions. While Muslims in the United States are conservative, they are closer to mainstream America than many thought.

Recently Pew Research Center conducted the first ever detailed opinion survey of Muslims in the United States. The detailed report (in PDF format) is worth reading.

Overall, I found the survey results to be mixed. Pew put the subtitle “Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream” on its report. This is generally true. However, there are still causes of concern, but mostly due to the social conservatism of Muslims.

The first question is how many Muslims are there in the United States. This has been fairly controversial with Muslim organizations claiming more than 6 million. The Pew survey estimates adult Muslims to be about 0.6% of the total adult population. Adding children, they arrive at an estimate of the total Muslim population to be 2.35 million.

As for demographics, two-thirds (65%) of Muslims in America were born elsewhere. Of the foreign-born Muslims, about 37% were born in the Arab world and 27% in South Asia. Looking at individual countries of origin, the top countries are: Pakistan, Iran, India, Lebanon, Yemen, Bangladesh, Iraq and Bosnia. Among the foreign-born, about two-thirds are US citizens, hence only 23% of all American Muslims are not citizens. Muslim population is more weighted towards youth as compared to the general US population, a consequence of the predominance of immigrants. The racial breakdown of Muslim Americans is: 38% white (Arab and Iranians I guess!), 26% black (dominated by African Americans with a few African immigrants), 20% Asian and 16% mixed/other.

In terms of education, Muslims are about the same as the general US population for going to college and graduate school. However, there are more likely (21% compared to 16% in the general population) not to finish high school.

The income profile of Muslim Americans is very similar to the general population, though Muslims are less likely to own a house. This is very different from the Muslims in Europe where Muslims generally are from the poor and lower middle classes. Interestingly, Muslim Americans are a little less satisfied (42% excellent or good) with their economic situation as compared to the general US population (49% excellent or good). However, there are large differences in ethnicity here, with Pakistanis being very satisfied (68%) and African Americans very unsatisfied (30%).

Half of the Muslims consider themselves Sunni and 16% Shia while 22% say that they are only Muslims. Native-born Shias are quite uncommon (only 7%) while most Shia (or their parents) are from Iran (91%) or the Arab region (19%).

23% of the Muslim population is of converts to Islam. Most (91%) of these are US-born. 59% are African American and 34% are white. 55% converted to Sunnism, 6% to Shiism and 24% to nonspecific affiliation. About half of the converts converted before the age of 21 and very few (17%) converted after the age of 35. Two-thirds of converts were Protestant before, 10% Catholic and 15% had no religion.

American Muslim beliefs about the Quran mirror those of American Christians about the Bible, with Muslims being just a little bit more conservative. For example, 50% of Muslims believe Quran is the literal, word-for-word word of God while 40% of Christians believe the same for the Bible. 60% of Muslims think that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of Islam. Religion plays a very important role in the life of 72% of Muslim Americans. However, 40% of Muslims go to the mosque at least once a week while 34% go seldom or never. African Americans and Pakistanis are the two groups that visit the mosque most often while Iranians rarely do. Coming to prayers (salah or namaz), 41% pray five times a day, 20% pray at least once a day and only 12% never pray (another 6% pray every Eid). I am not sure I would take the response to this question very seriously. Three-fourth of Muslims also consider giving charity (zakat) and fasting during Ramazan to be very important.

US Muslims US Christians
Religion is very important in your life 72% 60%
Pray every day 61% 70%
Attend mosque/church at least once a week 40% 45%

About a quarter of Muslims have high levels of religious commitment with an equal number having low levels of religious commitment. The rest fall in between. Sunnis are more likely to be religiously committed than the Shia. African Americans seem to be highly committed as well.

Since women prayer in mosques was a popular topic here, it was interesting to read the opinions of Muslim Americans on this issue. 48% of men and 45% of women want women to pray separately from men; 20% of men and 26% of women want women to pray behind men; and 21% of men and 20% of women want women to pray alongside men in the mosque.

The old question of comparing different identities is something I don’t like. What really does it mean to ask if someone thinks of themselves as American first or Muslim first? And is it the same question when asked of a majority population? This really is something minority populations have to face as the majority can readily identify with the nation. So I found it interesting that among ethnic groups of Muslims, the native-born African Americans are the most likely to think of themselves as Muslims first (58%). Also, interestingly, 42% of American Christians think of themselves as Christians first.

A better question is about assimilation. Here 43% of American Muslims think that Muslims coming to America today should adopt American customs while 26% say that they should remain distinct from American society. Women are less enthusiastic about adopting American customs than men (48% vs 38%). Young people (aged 18-29) are almost equally divided on this issue (43% vs 39%). Interestingly, the foreign-born are more for assimilation (47% pro — 21% anti) as compared to the native-born (37% pro — 38% anti). This is mainly a result of the African Americans (47%) saying that Muslims coming to America should remain distinct from society.

In terms of interaction with society, nearly half of the Muslims have most or all of their close friends who are Muslims while the other half have relatively few Muslims in their inner circle. Here, women are much more likely to have most or all Muslim friends. 62% of Muslims say it’s okay for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim. Again men are much more likely (70%) to have this opinion compared to women (54%). Those with high religious commitment are less likely to have this opinion though their 45% surprised me.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 53% of Muslims say that it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States. Those most likely to have this opinion are the highly educated (65%), those earning more than $100,000 (68%) and non-African American native-born Muslims (67%). Why the rich and educated elite think so I have no idea but my guess is that these groups had not experienced any prejudice or problems before and thus it came as a shock to them.

The list of problems given by Muslims has the following: No problems (19%, that is significant!), discrimination/racism/prejudice (19%), being viewed as terrorists (15%), ignorance about Islam (14%), stereotyping (12%, how is this different from prejudice?). 54% of Muslims believe that the government singles out Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring. Men (59%) believe so more than the women (49%) and native-born Muslims (73%) do so more than foreign-born (47%). In fact, it seems that the longer one has been in the US the more that group believes in Muslims being singled out. Interestingly, only 47% of Arabs believe Muslims are being singled out while 55% of Pakistanis and 53% of other South Asians believe so. This seems somewhat consistent with my observation that Americans think that the stereotypical Arab features are actually those that belong to Pakistanis and Indians.

Here is an interesting comparison of the encounters with intolerance of Muslims Americans and African Americans in the past 12 months.

Percent who report that in the past year they have been Muslim Americans African Americans
treated or viewed with suspicion 26% 33%
called offensive names 15% 20%
singled out by police 9% 20%
physically attacked or threatened 4% 10%
any of the four 33% 46%

This shows that while Muslims have seen more intolerance recently, it has been milder and less frequent than what African Americans experience in the United States. So what would be the case for the poor African American Muslims? Half of all Muslims who are African American say they have been the target of bigotry based on their religion in the past 12 months, compared with 28% of white Muslims and 23% of Asian Muslims.

While Muslims were majority Democratic even before, the Bush administration has probably made them more so. 63% are Democratic or lean Democratic compared to only 11% Republicans/lean Republican. Muslims voted 71%-14% for Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election. Even politically conservative Muslims (19% of the total) lean Democratic (60%) and voted for Kerry (63%).

Most Muslims (70%) prefer a bigger government providing more services and want the government to do more for the needy (73%). However, Muslims are conservatives on social issues. 61% think homosexuality should be discouraged. The only group of Muslims who disagrees is those with low religious commitment. Only 43% of them think homosexuality should be discouraged. The group most opposed to homosexuality is African American Muslims who are 75% against. Also, 59% of Muslims say that the government should do more to protect morality in society. Arabs and recently arrived immigrants seem to be the most enthusiastic about the government regulating morality. Contrast this with the view of the general US population where 51% think that the government is too involved. I am of course with the bare US majority and think that the idea that government should be involved so much in morality is a major problem of the Muslim world right now.

43% of Muslims think mosques should opine on day-to-day social and political questions while 49% disagree. This seems to be a division between African Americans who overwhelmingly want mosques to express their views on political matters and foreign-born Muslims who don’t. Non-African American native-borns’ views are in the middle.

Muslim American voter registration and turnout lag behind the American average. Also, while in the general population rich are more likely to be registered and to vote, that’s not the case among Muslims. Both native-born and foreign-born citizens are equally likely to be registered to vote. The ethnic group with the lowest registration is Arabs (50%) and the highest Pakistanis (83%).

An overwhelming 75% of Muslim Americans are against the Iraq war compared to 47% of the general public. Even Republican Muslims (54%) are against the war. On the Afghanistan war, opinions are more divided. Overall, 48% Muslims are against it compared to 29% of all Americans. However, foreign-born Muslims are divided 40%-40% about the Afghanistan war while native-born ones are against the war 65%-26%.

Fixing responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorism seems to be difficult for Muslims. While American Muslims seem to be much more realistic on this issue than Muslims in Europe (except France) or in the Muslim world (except Nigeria or Jordan), only 40% believe that a group of Arabs did it while 28% don’t believe a group of Arabs to be responsible. Of these 28%, a quarter blame the Bush administration for the attacks. Overall, 32% refused to answer or said they didn’t know. This is ostrich-like behavior. Older American Muslims, those with college degrees and those with low religious commitment seem to do better.

51% of Muslims are very concerned and 25% are somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism. Again younger Muslims (18-29) are not as concerned. Compare these numbers to Pakistan where 43% are very concerned and 29% are somewhat concerned.

Only 8% of American Muslims think suicide bombing of civilian targets is often or sometimes justified. This rises to 15% among those aged 18-29. Only 5% of Muslim Americans have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, but 27% refused to express an opinion. The 5% number is very low and reasonable as one can find at least 10% in an opinion poll to agree to anything. However, the 27% who declined to answer are more worrying. Why did they refuse? Were they afraid? Looking at the detailed tables, it seems those who refused were mainly those with a high school diploma or less (35%), African Americans (30%) and recent immigrants (30%). In contrast, 78% of college graduates have a very unfavorable opinion of Al Qaeda.

61% of Muslim Americans think a way can be found for Israel to exist so that the rights and needs of the Palestinian people can be taken care of. This can be compared to 67% of the US public, 67% of Israelis, 33% of Turks, 26% of Indonesians, 23% of Pakistanis, etc. Contrast the 23% of Pakistanis with 67% of Pakistani Americans. Arab Muslim Americans are the only ones with less than a majority (49%) on this question but even they have far different views than the people in Arab countries.

بش کے دیس میں خدا

امریکہ مذہبی ملک ہے۔ یہاں ایتھیئسٹ کو اچھا نہیں سمجھا جاتا۔ خدا پر یقین کو اچھے انسان ہونے کے لئے لازمی قرار دیا جاتا ہے۔ ذاتی اور عوامی دائرہ‌کار میں ایتھیئسٹ کے بارے میں ایک عام امریکی کیا خیالات رکھتا ہے اس بارے میں کچھ سروے کے نتائج حاضر ہیں۔

بدتمیز نے اپنے بلاگ پر ایک سلسلہ شروع کیا تھا بش کے دیس میں جس میں وہ امریکہ کے بارے میں لکھتا ہے۔ پھر حال ہی میں بدتمیز نے پوچھا کہ خدا کیا ہے؟ ۔ اس سے مجھے اس پوسٹ کا خیال آیا۔

جیسا کہ میں پہلے لکھ چکا ہوں کہ مجھے امریکہ آنے سے پہلے اندازہ نہیں تھا کہ امریکی اتنے مذہبی ہوں گے۔ مگر یہاں آ کر احساس ہوا کہ یہاں atheist کافی کم ہیں اور عام لوگ انہیں اچھا بھی نہیں سمجھتے۔ صرف یہی نہیں بلکہ اردو وکی‌پیڈیا کے افراز کی طرح بہت سے امریکی agnostic اور atheist میں فرق نہیں سمجھتے۔ ایسا نہیں ہے کہ atheists کے خلاف active hostility ہو مگر مذہبی لوگوں کا خیال ہے کہ خدا کو مانے بغیر انسان ایک اچھا انسان ہو ہی نہیں سکتا۔ شاید اسی قسم کی کوئی رائے پہلے صدر بش نے بھی دی تھی۔

پچھلے سال یونیورسٹی آف منیسوٹا نے ایک سٹڈی شائع کی جس کے مطابق ایتھیئسٹ امریکہ کی سب سے کم قابلِ بھروسہ اقلیت ہیں۔ اس سٹڈی کی تفصیلات کے مطابق امریکی نہ ایتھیئسٹ کو ووٹ دینا چاہتے ہیں، نہ اپنے بچے کی اس سے شادی کرنا چاہتے ہیں اور نہ یہ سمجھتے ہیں کہ ایتھیئسٹ اور ان کا امریکہ کے لئے ایک ہی وژن ہے۔ مزے کی بات یہ ہے کہ ان ساری باتوں میں ایتھیئسٹ مسلمانوں سے بھی بدتر سمجھے جاتے ہیں۔

گیلپ کے ایک سروے کے مطابق 2008 کے صدارتی انتخابات میں زیادہ‌تر لوگ کیتھولک، افریقی امریکی، یہودی، عورت،ہسپانک یا مورمن کو ووٹ دینے کو تیار ہیں مگر ایک ایتھیئسٹ کو صرف 45 ووٹ دینے کے بارے میں غور کریں گے۔ یہ ایک ہم‌جنس‌پرست سے بھی بری پرفارمنس ہے جسے 55 فیصد لوگ ووٹ دے سکتے ہیں۔ 1958 میں جب ایٹھیئسٹ صدارتی امیدوار کے بارے میں سروے کیا گیا تو صرف 18 فیصد اسے ووٹ دینے پر تیار تھے۔ یہ تناسب 1978 میں بڑھ کر 40 فیصد ہو گیا مگر اس کے بعد سے زیادہ نہیں بڑھا۔

اسی سال ایک اور سروے کے مطابق 32 فیصد ووٹر مورمن امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے، 45 فیصد مسلمان صدارتی امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے جبکہ 50 فیصد ایتھیئسٹ امیدوار کو ووٹ نہیں دیں گے۔ یہاں بھی ایتھیئسٹ مسلمان سے بھ بدتر ثابت ہوا۔

پیٹ ٹلمین ایک امریکی فٹبال کا کھلاڑی تھا جو فوج میں شامل ہوا اور افغانستان میں فرینڈلی فائر سے مارا گیا۔ پینٹاگون نے پہلے اس کو ہیرو قرار دیا اور کہا کہ وہ دشمن سے مقابلے میں مارا گیا۔ ٹلمین کی فیملی حقائق جاننے کی کوشش میں رہی اور اب بھی مزید کوشش جاری ہے جب اس کی موت سے متعلق کافی حقیقت سامنے آ چکی ہے۔ اس بارے میں یہ آرٹیکل کافی تفصیل بتاتا ہے۔ مگر ہم ایتھیئسٹس پر بات کر رہے تھے۔ اس آرٹیکل میں فوج کے ایک لیفٹیننٹ کرنل صاحب فرماتے ہیں کہ ٹلمین کی فیملی اس کی موت کی تفصیل اور ذمہ‌داری کے تعین پر اس لئے مصر ہے کہ وہ خدا پر یقین نہیں رکھتے اور اس لئے انہیں چین نہیں آ رہا۔ اس بیان سے کرنل کا ایتھیئسٹس کے خلاف تعصب صاف ظاہر ہے۔

Vote Early, Vote Often

Today are the midterm elections. Do vote and vote against the Republicans as they have become arrogant. Also it is good to throw out the governing party once every few elections.

Today is election day here. So do vote. I won’t be voting out of respect for the law, and my non-fellow citizens (as Harry put it), but you should.

I think it is time to vote against the Republicans this time. Vote against any Republican standing for any office (even dogcatcher). There are several reasons for this. You will probably have heard the more important ones, like the US torture policy, the Iraq war, incompetence in the war on terror as well as in economics, and so on. But there is another important reason: arrogance of power. The Republicans have drunk from the fountain of power and it has gone to their head. This happens from time to time in a democracy and whenever it does, there is only one thing to do: Throw them out. I am a strong believer in voting against incumbents every few election cycles just for the heck of it. It keeps the politicians on their toes and does not let one party stay in power for too long which are both good things in my opinion.

As for predictions, mine is that the Democrats will take over the House by gaining about 24 seats but will fail in the Senate. Since Lieberman and Sanders are most likely going to caucus with the Democrats, this will result in a 50—50 Senate with Cheney casting the tiebreaker vote.

I have been following the polls, predictions and other election news at the following sites:

I hope to congratulate Captain Arrrgh tonight for getting rid of both his Senator and his Representative (both Republicans).