The American Muslim Research Initiative (AMRI) addresses questions related to American Muslims as a diaspora and a local community in the United States. The initiative is data-driven and embraces a community-based approach, where scholars who study American Muslims and non-Muslim religious and ethnic communities that underwent a level of scrutiny over decades, can come together and create more knowledge related to the study of minorities in the US with a special emphasis on American Muslims.
The focus of the initiative is two-fold: domestic and international. The domestic is focused on studying the American Muslim community's acculturation and incorporation into US society, their political behavior, and role in US society and politics, as a minority group. The international focus examines the transnational impact of Islam on a global level, and how Islam inside and outside of the US affects the lives of American Muslims, and visa versa, with specific attention paid to US foreign policy potential implications. The initiative stresses the need for data-driven research about issue related to Muslims in the United States as a first step toward informed and responsible public discussions and policy-making, both domestically, and internationally.
AMRI locates the experience of Muslims in America in the context of other religious and racial groups scrutinized and persecuted in U.S. history. The interdisciplinary lens of this project is one source of its strength, as it draws from approaches that cross the humanities and social science, including: history, politics of race and ethnicity, theology and religious studies, U.S. politics and political science, political economy, communication and media studies, art, law and policy studies, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, and psychology. Other strengths lie in AMRI's commitment to civic engagement and policy-making that put its findings into practice.
Areas of Inquiry and Impact
Studying other religious and ethnic communities becomes very useful in conceptualizing how communities that have and continue to face challenging situations in the United States can survive and learn from them, both theoretically and empirically. AMRI would focus on fostering conversations between different religious and ethnic communities. Thus yielding for a more informed approach to the study of Muslims as a minority group, through conversations that include non-Muslim. Non-Muslim communities like Italian, and Irish Catholics have faced discrimination in the United States yet were able to overcome these challenges, and become an integral and central part of American society and public life. The American Muslim community can learn from the experiences of other American religious and ethnic groups.
The experiences of other ethnic communities from anti-Semitism faced by the Jewish American community, to policies of exclusion that were faced by the Japanese American community during World War II, to the Chinese exclusion act, are all experiences that we can use to understand the ways by which these communities were able to manage, to varying degrees of success, and exert their "American-ness" as fundamental in their identities. Seen in this light, the American Muslim community continues to face challenges due to popularized misconceptions and stereotypes from terrorism to backwardness. This community can better be understood through a thorough analysis and discussions of the struggles and triumphs of other communities. Religious tolerance is not easily accomplished in the US. For example, Mormons have been struggling to become fully accepted in American society, and have yet to gain full acceptance.
AMRI is an extension of a multi-year research project (The Muslim American Public Opinion Survey - "MAPOS"), conducted by Karam Dana (UW-Bothell) and Matt Barreto (UW-Seattle). Drawing on data from 22 different metropolitan cities around the U.S. between 2006 and 2009, MAPOS remains the largest survey of Muslims in the U.S., and continues to generate significant findings about Muslims, years after the data was collected (data collection ended in 2009).