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Guest Post: Farzana Chowdhury on American Muslims and Philanthropy

May 20, 2009

We are pleased to welcome Farzana Chowdhury as a guest blogger at SAPP.  Farzana is originally from Bangladesh, and is currently pursuing her masters degree in Public Affairs at Indiana University, specializing in public policy, nonprofit management, and comparative and international affairs.

c/o Pakistan Link

c/o Pakistan Link

American Muslims represent an important segment of American society.  There are about six million Muslims are living in America.  However, reliable data regarding charitable giving trends among American Muslims is non-existent.  As the Pew Research Center noted, “There is surprisingly little quantitative research about the attitudes and opinions of this segment of the public” (Pew Research Center, 2007).

The unfortunate event of 9/11 has changed American communities’ attitudes toward Muslims and put many Islamic nonprofits under intense scrutiny; special concern has been expressed regarding their distribution of funds.  While some policies have caused fear among Muslims, there are also cultural gaps between American Muslims and the rest of society.  Until now, there has been little research showing how much Muslims contribute to nonprofit organizations in the U.S, how they decide where to send their money, or how second or third generation Muslims think about philanthropy.

I am a graduate student in the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.  In a class on nonprofit management, we recently talked about giving in religious contexts.  It was obvious that the normative teachings of Islam and the principles practiced by people can vary greatly.  For example, one of the class members grew up in Sudan and in a Muslim family.  The tradition in her family was to help close family relatives [as opposed to giving to charity].  This account shows that the teachings of Islam are interpreted differently in different countries.

Similar to other ethnic groups, Muslims come to the United States from all over the world and bring different cultural traditions with them.  We need to better understand how their backgrounds impact their decisions regarding philanthropy as they settle here and make America their new home.

8 Comments leave one →
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