Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
A federal judge has ruled that an Abercrombie & Fitch store violated the civil rights of a Muslim employee when by firing her for wearing a hijab, the head covering worn by some Muslim women. A new report released by Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding suggests that such incidents might not be that unusual in an increasingly diverse workforce. According to the report, more than one-in-three American workers have experienced personally or witnessed incidents of religious non-accommodation, such as being required to work on religious holidays. Among non-Christian workers, half of those surveyed say employers ignore their religious needs.
The issue of religious dress is a particularly sensitive one in the Muslim community. A survey of Muslim Americans conducted by Pew Research Center found a slim majority (51 percent) of Muslims reported they worry women who wear the headcover or hijab in public will be treated poorly because it identifies them as Muslim.
A PRRI survey found that many Americans do not have a strong understanding of Islam or frequent contact with Muslims. Only 14 percent of Americans say they know a lot about the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims, and four-in-ten Americans report they have not had a conversation with a Muslim in the last 12 months.