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Questions and Answers

Q:  Where do most American Muslims live in the United States?

American Muslims can be found in every state and major city across the country - from Southern California to Dearborn, Michigan, and from New York City to small-town New England. The ten states with the largest Muslim populations, listed in order, are:

Ten states with the largest Muslim populations
1> California 6> Michigan
2> New York 7> Virginia
3> Illinois 8> Texas
4> New Jersey 9> Ohio
5> Indiana 10> Maryland
(Source: Council on American Islamic Relations, 2000).

Q:  Do American Muslims have the same religious freedoms as other Americans?

Yes. The tradition of religious freedom for all citizens - regardless of race, religion, or creed - runs deep in America and is protected by law. In fact, the very first words of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution say:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

In practice this means that the government of the United States does not have the right to establish, endorse or favor any particular form of religion, or interfere with the practice of any religion. In addition, all citizens are free to practice the religion they choose. This is true for Muslims as well as Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and all other religious denominations. Islam, in fact, is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States today.

Q:  How are Muslims in America contributing to their communities?

American Muslims come from all walks of life, and are contributing to American society in many rich and diverse ways. American Muslims are:

· Business leaders and entrepreneurs
· Teachers and educators
· Scientists, researchers and physicians
· Emergency Medical Technicians and rescue workers
· Students at top universities, high school athletes, and grammar school students
· Religious leaders
· Community leaders and volunteers
· Professional athletes
· Authors and journalists
· Public servants at all levels of government

Q:  Do Muslim Americans play an active part in the American political process?

American Muslims enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of the United States, including voting, petitioning and running for elective office. For example, an estimated 62.4 percent of American Muslims are registered voters. American Muslims are increasingly appearing in positions of civic and political leadership, both elected and appointed. Some prominent political positions held by Muslim Americans have included:

· State Senator, North Carolina
· State Assemblyman, New Hampshire
· State Assemblyman, Rhode Island
· City Council Member, Prospect Park, New Jersey
· City Council Member, Tuskegee, Alabama
· City Council Member, Dearborn, Michigan
· City Council Member, Middleburg Heights, Ohio
· City Council Member, St. Charles, Missouri
· Mayor, Kountze, Texas
· Mayor, Wayne, Michigan
· Director, National Institutes of Health (Presidential appointment)

About this communications effort...

Q:  Who are the Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU) and why are they involved in this project?

Founded in May, 2002, the Council of American Muslims for Understanding is a private, non-profit, non-partisan and non-political organization representing a number of American Muslims of diverse backgrounds and dedicated to promoting a better understanding of Islam in America both at home and abroad. CAMU is a proud sponsor of this series of documentary shorts, and is partnering with the American people and government on this and other activities to improve ties and promote greater understanding with the Muslim world.

Q:  Why are CAMU and the American people undertaking this outreach effort to the Muslim world?

In the wake of September 11, 2001, both the U.S. government and American Muslims recognize the urgent need to find ways to help bridge the gap of information and understanding between the Muslim world and the United States. It is the hope of CAMU and the American people that by telling the stories of real-life American Muslims and highlighting the values shared by Muslims and non-Muslim Americans alike, this effort will help to promote a greater understanding and stimulate a forum for a broader dialogue and an exchange of ideas between American citizens and the Muslim world.

Q:  Why is the State Department partnering with CAMU for this effort?

CAMU is an organization solely dedicated to improving understanding between people of the Muslim faith and other communities. In the wake of September 11, CAMU approached the State Department with the idea of developing a more open dialogue and greater understanding between people of the Muslim world and the American people.

Q:  What is the significance of the timing of this communications initiative?

The documentaries are scheduled for release in late October and running through mid-December, during Ramadan. It is appropriate the stories appear during Ramadan, the holiest period in the Muslim calendar and a time of prayer and reflection on life and faith for all Muslims. Many of the values central to Ramadan - education, family, faith and charity - are explored in the documentaries.

Q:  How is this different from previous communications efforts by the United States government?

This communications effort seeks to portray the everyday lives of real American citizens who are members of the Muslim community, and is sponsored by a group of American Muslims of diverse backgrounds who themselves came together in an effort to try to bridge the gap in understanding between the United States and the Muslim world. The documentary shorts are supported by this Web site, printed materials and by a speaking tour, with the aim of bringing together individuals both from the United States and from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere in the Muslim world for dialogue, discussion and communication of shared values and objectives. The U.S. Department of State is providing the venue for people to share their thoughts and experiences as Muslims in America.

Q:  Were the people portrayed in the documentary shorts paid for their participation?

No, the participants volunteered their stories, experiences and their time.

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