2021 – Civic Engagement as Religious Duty among American Muslims: Between ‘Muslim Charity’ and ‘Collective Goodness’ in a Muslim Food Pantry

Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 41(4): 643-657. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13602004.2022.2029015


How do American Muslims make sense of their engagement in U.S. civic spaces? Research has mostly focused on determining whether the level of civic engagement of American Muslims has increased or decreased following 9/11. But we know little about how American Muslims participate in U.S. civic spaces and which kinds of meanings are used to make sense of their civic participation. Drawing on participant observation in a Muslim food pantry, this article identifies two different styles of civic engagement in service provision, the “Muslim charity” and the “Collective goodness” style. Both these styles envision civic engagement as a religious duty but interpret it differently. The Collective goodness construes civic engagement as a religious duty to be performed showing group pride. The Muslim charity style connects civic engagement with individual humbleness, instead. I show how these different styles of American Muslims’ civic engagement produce meaningful contradictions and I gauge their potential effects on defusing of anti-Muslim sentiments.