Where Muslims Place Their Faith

Matthew Cantirino at First Thoughts writes:

The New York Times today comments on the results of a new Gallup survey of American Muslims which suggests that, on the whole, followers of that faith are more hesitant to express patriotism and confidence in national institutions than Americans of other religious groups.

Among the most intriguing findings: two-thirds of American Muslims say they identify strongly with the United States, about the same percentage as those who say they identify strongly with their religion. But other religious groups identified far more than Muslims with the United States. Protestants, Catholics and Jews said they identified with the United States far more strongly than they identified with their respective faiths.

Some of the doubts expressed by American Muslims in the poll are understandable in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks and any unjust targeting of their faith that may have occurred in the aftermath. Yet it is impossible not to wonder whether there is more to this story. Namely, whether American Muslims who, it seems, largely take their faith seriously, understand something which has been forgotten by the majority of professing Christians and Jews in this country: that allegiance to political authorities (however just or deserving those authorities are) must ultimately be subordinate to allegiance to God and the exigencies of religion.

The Gallup results suggest that many Americans have allowed patriotism to consume their faith rather than complement it, and the comparisons of American Muslims to other citizens of faith causes one to wonder whether U.S. Muslims will eventually come to value patriotism above all else, as well—that they will identify with the nation first and treat their faith simply as an interesting add-on. Some authorities on the matter, like one quoted in the article, are already enthusiastic about this prospect: the hope is that Muslims can become “full-fledged Americans.”

Gallup’s poll results are also particularly striking in that they suggest members of longer-socially-established American religions (specifically Catholicism and Judaism, no strangers to discrimination either) have come to value patriotism far more than their faith. It would be a loss for public life if the majority of American Muslims began simply to favor a vague, inoffensive civic faith (something on the order of what Will Herberg identified in his memorable essay “Protestant, Catholic, Jew”) at the expense of the centrality of their religion.

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  • Donald Wescott

    Very informative and enlightening Father, thank you.

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  • Michael Bauman

    For the most part Muslims have more of a faith to identify with as opposed to many Christians who simply “accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior” which all to often boils down to a rather vague, amorphous gas theory of god and salvation. What is there really to identify with.  Catholicism has all too often become clerical by default as well as by encouragement.  Judism is so fragmented as to be unrecognizable as one faith.   At least that is the impression of this meadering mind. 
    The question I have is what does it really mean to identify with one’s country more than with one’s religion or the other way ’round?   

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      As always Michael, you ask a good question:”[W]hat does it really mean to identify with one’s country more than with one’s religion or the other way ’round?”  Truthfully, I’m not even sure how we would go about answering the question.

      Turning to the Orthodox Church, I wonder how many of us identify more with our respective ethnicity (be that Greek, Russian or American-convert) more than with the Gospel?

      Anybody have a thought about any or all of this?

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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      • Shenoda Guirguis

        if I, the least, may say my opinion, I think the poll is not valid because it compares apples to oranges. And hence, to answer Michel’s question: it is meaningless to identify oneself more, or less, with God vs one’s country. The question is wrong in first place.

        To explain myself; simply, my love to God and to my country goes (and grows) in parallel (i.e., without competition) within me, in a similar fashion as my love to my dad and that to my son grows. Further, my love to God and to my Country are also orthogonal. Same as my love to my mom and to my wife are orthogonal (i.e., takes different form of expression and tensity).

         “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:21)

        Our Orthodox Fathers has been always loyal to their countries, and many of the martyrs were soldiers and officers in the army. They were welling to sacrifice their life for their countries sake, and they did shed their blood for Christ’s sake.

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