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Despite discrimination, US Muslims ‘gave more to charity than other Americans’


Muslims in the United States gave more to charity in 2020 than non-Muslims and are more likely to volunteer, a new study found.

According to the study published in The Washington Post, only 1.1% of all Americans are Muslim, and their average income is lower than non-Muslims’. However, their donations encompassed 1.4% of all giving from individuals.

"US Muslims, a highly diverse and quickly growing minority, contributed an estimated US$4.3 billion in total donations to mostly nonreligious causes over the course of the year," the report added.

The study noted that the findings are significant as it was the first time the size of scope of charity by Muslims was measured and also because they face a great deal of discrimination.

"We partnered with Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organisation, to conduct this study. Our findings came from our survey of more than 2,000 Americans, half of whom were Muslim, that the SSRS research firm carried out from March 17 through April 7, 2021. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points," the study said.

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It said that the participants answered questions regarding their faith customs, donation practices. "We also inquired about how economic and political uncertainty and financial well-being influenced their giving and volunteering. Finally, we also examined whether they had experienced discrimination and their views about the level of discrimination in society," the authors of the study said.

"We found that Muslim Americans gave more to charity, donating an average of $3,200, in 2020, versus $1,905 for other respondents. They also differed from non-Muslims in many ways. For example, nearly 8.5% of their contributions supported civil rights causes, compared with 5.3% of the general public."

The researchers believed that this elevated level of giving reflects efforts to fight Islamophobia, a fear of Islam grounded in bigotry and hatred against Muslims. Likewise, Muslims gave more to enhance public understanding of their faith. About 6.4% of their giving funded religious research, compared with 4% from other sources.

The study said that the Muslim Americans further defied Islamophobic tropes through the causes they support. For example, it added, about 84% of Muslim American donations support US charitable causes, with only 16% of this money going abroad. That conflicts with an erroneous belief that Muslim Americans mainly support overseas causes.

Covid-19 relief

The other top secular charitable priorities of Muslim Americans were domestic poverty relief and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, it added.

"Donations to causes that sought to alleviate the toll Covid-19 has taken on US health, employment and food security comprised 8.8% of Muslim American faith-based giving, versus 5.3% for non-Muslims."

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Additionally, the report maintained, these donations also comprised a large part of Muslim Americans’ non-faith giving. Muslims gave 14.3% of their non-faith giving to Covid-19 causes, a sharp contrast with others. Among the non-Muslim population we surveyed, 6.7% of non-faith giving backed these kinds of charities.

"We attribute this pattern to the fact that Muslim Americans are overrepresented among medical professionals and front-line workers. For example, 15% of physicians and 11% of pharmacists in Michigan are Muslim Americans. In New York City, Muslim Americans make up 10% of the city’s physicians, 13% of the pharmacists and 40% of cab drivers, all of whom were designated essential workers," the authors noted.

The report stated that all observant Muslim adults with the means to do so are expected to give to charity in adherence to faith-based traditions. One, known as Zakat, is more formal and among the five pillars of Islam that Muslims are expected to adhere to. Another, Sadaqah, happens voluntarily.

"That made us want to see if religiosity played a role with the charitable patterns of US Muslims. It turns out that Muslims who displayed higher levels of religiosity, such as by praying more often, were also more likely to give to charity than those who prayed less frequently. We found similar trends among non-Muslims," the study added.


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