Editor's note: This publication, produced by the Interfaith Alliance and Religious Freedom Project of the First Amendment Center, provides answers to frequently asked questions about religious freedom and American Muslims.
From the beginning of our history, religious liberty has been at the heart of the American vision of democratic freedom. Within the civic framework provided by the U.S. Constitution, religion has long played an important role in American public life, without being enforced or controlled by government.
Today, however, as a growing number of religions call America home, new questions are being raised about the place of religion and specific religious groups in American life. For the health of the nation and the good of religion, those questions require answers.
During the past decade, acts of violence by extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam have raised fears and created confusion about Islam. In the United States, some individuals and groups have attempted to conflate all of Islam with extremist violence by disseminating misinformation and distortions about Islam and American Muslims. This has led to a rise in discrimination against American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims, attacks on American Muslim institutions, and protests against the building of mosques in local communities.
By seeking to provide accurate information about religious freedom and American Muslims, this publication does not ignore or minimize the significant threat posed by extremists who promote and commit acts of violence in the name of Islam. We fully recognize the challenge to peace and justice posed by small factions within Islam who lift up extremist theology and pervert their faith to support their violence. All of the world’s major religions have faced similar challenges. But acts of violence by radical individuals and groups must not be used to condemn Islam itself – or to paint all Muslims with the brush of extremism.
Our purpose here is to inform Americans about the vast majority of their fellow citizens who are Muslim. In doing so, we seek to uphold our shared commitment to religious freedom and contribute to a climate of understanding and respect among Americans of all faiths and none.