The number of mosques in the United States has doubled in the past decade, according to a new study – and the number of Muslim clergy who say that America is hostile to Islam has declined over the same period. One of the perennial friction points for Muslims in America has been some Americans’ anxiety about the possibility of the implementation of Islamic law in U.S. courtrooms, resulting in the introduction of dozens of anti-Shari’a laws in state legislatures. But, as Dr. Robert P. Jones discusses in this week’s column for “Figuring Faith,” the tide seems to be changing for these bills as well.
In January, an appeals court threw out Oklahoma’s anti-Shari’a law, saying that it unconstitutionally discriminated against Islam. Now, more expansive bills banning the use of any law that originated outside the United States are moving in two dozen states, and members of other religious communities are getting anxious about the possibility that these laws might limit their religious freedom. Meanwhile, in the absence of high-profile news stories about Islam and Shari’a law, public opinion is shifting as well:
While these legal challenges evolved, Americans’ concerns about the threat that sharia law’s threat to the American legal system have fluctuated considerably, largely in response to public events that captured national attention. A year ago, when Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on alleged radicalization among American Muslims, 23 percent of Americans agreed that American Muslims want to establish sharia as the law of the land in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) disagreed, while 13 percent said they did not know. In September 2011, near the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and amidst debates around the Park 51 Community Center and Mosque in Manhattan, which opponents dubbed the “ground-zero mosque,” this number rose to nearly one-third (30 percent) of the general population. Over six-in-10 (61 percent) disagreed, while 8 percent said they did not know.
Over the few months, though, these issues have had a much lower media profile. And in the absence of prominent national stimuli, concerns about the threat of sharia have dropped by more than half since September. PRRI’s February 2012 Religion and Politics Tracking Survey showed only 14 percent of Americans agree that American Muslims want to establish sharia or Islamic law as law of the land. More than two-thirds (68 percent) disagree, and nearly 1-in-5 (17 percent) say they do not know.
To read the full post, head over to Dr. Robert P. Jones’ Washington Post blog, “Figuring Faith.”