Muslims in America
Around 1.6 billion Muslims inhabit the world today, and an estimated three to seven million reside in the United States. Despite the fact that Muslims are the largest unreached people group, only 2% of Protestant Christian missionaries are engaging the Muslim world. In fact, 86% of Muslims globally have not had personal contact with a Christian, which equates to only one in seven Muslims having met a Christian. Clearly, Christians who live in the United States have a tremendous opportunity to minister to the millions of Muslims residing in the United States. Thus, it is perplexing as to why the 257 million Christians in the US seem reluctant to engage this prime mission field even though it is in their own backyard.
Muslims’ experience in the US has been shaped by many factors, but none could be more significant than September 11, 2001. The Muslim population had kept a relatively quiet profile in the US, but all of that changed on 9/11. Jackleen Salem explains, “The political situation in the Middle East has always impacted Muslims in America, from the Six Day War in 1967 to the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. But it was 9/11 that put the spotlight on Muslims in America unlike it had ever been before.” Although unease around Muslims existed perhaps before 9/11, this feeling of discomfort seemed to morph into outright fear overnight.
LifeWay surveyed one thousand Americans and one thousand senior pastors in America. In reference to the study, USA Today reported, “What might be most notable about the LifeWay surveys is the strikingly harder views on Islam among clergy compared with Americans at large.” To begin, 27% of Americans believe that “ISIS is a true indication of what Islam looks like when Islam controls a society.” On the other hand, 45% percent of Protestant pastors agree with the statement, and 51% of evangelical pastors. Similarly, 37% of Americans are concerned about the implementation of sharia law in the US, and even more evangelical Christians are concerned about it (51%). Further supporting this idea, one Christian woman wrote on her survey for this paper, “I do not understand Sharia law above our country’s law.” Moreover, 76% of Protestant preachers in the LifeWay research agree with the statement “airstrikes against ISIS are needed to protect Christians.” Sherman A. Lee suggests this harsh perception perhaps stems from many Christians viewing Islam as the “enemy of Christianity.” In the end, these studies seem to suggest that not only is prejudice toward Muslims in existence among the general population of America, but perhaps even to a greater degree among American Christians.