Rackham student Fatima Ashraf says she is a strong advocate of
race as a factor in college admissions. A new study released
yesterday about American Muslims in southeast Michigan found that
she is not alone. The study revealed — among other things
— that 79 percent of Muslims surveyed support affirmative
action.

The Detroit Mosque Study which provides statistical information
on the political beliefs and behaviors of American Muslims was
funded by The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and aims
to inform public-policy makers about Muslim viewpoints.

“We wanted to influence the way this community is viewed
and understood,” said Farid Senzai, director of research at
ISPU. He added that the report would be sent to every member of
Congress to provide them with information about American Muslims
that could influence public policy.

Researchers surveyed about 1,300 Muslims last summer who attend
mosques in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The study’s
average participant was 34 years old, married with children, with
at least a bachelor’s degree and an annual income above
$75,000.

The study revealed that when asked to prioritize policy issues,
participants placed civil rights at the top of their list, followed
by education and foreign policy.

Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic Studies at the
University of Kentucky who conducted the study, said the Muslim
surveyed prioritized education both with regard to higher education
and all levels of public schooling.

He added that subjects considered it important to find good
schools with good programs and available scholarships and financial
aid.

The study also found little support among Muslims for President
Bush. 85 percent disapproved of his performance in office while
just 4 percent said they approved, according to the study results.
Eleven percent answered “Don’t know” on the
survey.

Reasons for the disapproval, however, were unclear. Senzai said
ISPU would have liked the research to go further into this area to
find out the exact reasons for this disapproval.

“There were certain areas of public policies that I wished
we had expanded on. The issue of terrorism and security could have
been touched on,” he said.

He added that it would be interesting to have more detailed
research on why public policy concerning civil liberties was the
No. 1 priority for Muslims. Bagby cited this as a result of the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“My strong feeling is that if this poll were taken before
9-11, civil rights would not be on the top of the list,” he
said. “Concerns about the attacks on Islam, the Patriot Act,
and the prospect of another Patriot Act have pushed civil rights to
the top of the list in terms of priority.”

Bagby said one of the findings that surprised him was that
second-generation Muslims, the children of immigrants, were more
conservative than their parents. Regarding affirmative action, 44
percent of second-generation Muslims (ages 15 to 20) said they
“strongly favored” the policy, compared to 58 percent
of their parents.

“This is consistent of all public policy,” Bagby
said. “The second generation ranks below the (first
generation).” Although he said the study had not focused on
finding reasons to explain these results, he believed the more
conservative nature of second-generation Muslims might be due to
their upbringing.

“Many second-generation (Muslims) are affected by the
somewhat conservative wing of the American public,” he said.
“They are largely suburban kids and have been influenced (by
their surroundings).”

Despite the difference, Bagby emphasized that the overall gap in
political ideology between immigrants and second-generation Muslims
was not that large.

Ashraf agreed with this, saying that Muslims on campus, many of
whom are second-generation Muslims, in fact support of policies
such as affirmative action.

“Generally Muslim students see themselves as a group of
minorities that is on campus, (so) they vouch for something that
helps all minority students,” she said.

Other results from the study focused on Muslims’
perspectives of the mosques they attend and found that 93 percent
of them believe members of their community should become more
politically involved and participate in more community service
activities with non-Muslims.

The complete findings of the Detroit Mosque Study can be
downloaded from ISPU’s website,
“http://www.ispu.us”>www.ispu.us.

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