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The Political Incorporation of Muslims in America: The Role of Religiosity in Islam

38 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2009  

Matt A. Barreto

University of Washington - Seattle

Karam Dana

Univ Washington, Seattle

Date Written: October 22, 2008


Previous scholars have argued that Islam as a religion and a culture is incompatible with liberal, democratic American values. Not only is Islam inconsistent with the West, but it poses a direct conflict according to some scholars. This viewpoint has been popularized in American and European media and by government officials who declare fundamentalist Muslims as enemies of freedom and democracy. However, there is no evidence that the grounds of conflict are based on religious ideology. Are the most devout Muslims really opposed to political incorporation in the U.S., or are other traditional non-religious factors such as socioeconomic status and acculturation more important in understanding political alienation? To date, nearly every study of Islam and Western values has been qualitative, anecdotal or philosophical in nature, leaving most questions unanswered, at least empirically. Using a unique national survey of Muslim Americans, we find that more religiously devout Muslims are significantly more likely to support political participation in America - in contrast to prevailing wisdom. We conclude that there is nothing inconsistent with Islam and American democracy, and in fact, religiosity fosters support for American democratic values.

Keywords: Muslim American, Democracy, Religion and Politics, Participation, Race and Ethnicity, Public Opinion

Suggested Citation

Barreto, Matt A. and Dana, Karam, The Political Incorporation of Muslims in America: The Role of Religiosity in Islam (October 22, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Matt A. Barreto (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Seattle ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Karam Dana

Univ Washington, Seattle ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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