How do Muslims give ? This may be a simple question to ask, but a rather complicated one to de-construct. While Charity and giving are one of the five pillars of Islam, the notions of giving among Muslims ( in the USA) are rather complicated, as I am discovering.
First off, the notion of who is a Muslim is rather complicated, since the USA is literally the United Nations of Islam – with Muslims from across the world present here. There are White Muslims, Black Muslims, Brown Muslims and Muslims of every nationality you can imagine. This being the case, it is very hard to talk about “Muslim charitable” giving.
But over the past few months, I have noticed a few trends that may be indicative of how Muslims in the USA give :
1. Disaster relief is a big magnet : Muslims both individually and collectively give to disaster relief. Unanimously, this seems to be the biggest attraction
2. Healthcare and assisting the poor : This seems to come in somewhere close.
3. Religious institutions : This may actually be among the top three items. Clearly, mosques, other religious institutions and organizations attract a good amount of money, as these organizations fulfill a spiritual need.
4. Diaspora groups or family back home : For many immigrants, sending money back home is a way of staying in touch and also showing the family back home that they care. While this is true of some Asian and African individuals that I know of, I am not sure how this reflects with other immigrant groups.
What Muslims don’t seem to be doing as well as other minority groups is giving to institutions. Institution building, giving to secular groups or entities needs to grow; though there is a growing awareness in the community for the need to do this.
Perhaps, as one local leader remarked, this is a generational issue – with the younger Muslims discovering the need for this kind of giving, and going beyond their own immediate circles; to expand their networks and sense of “community”. This is crucial for the complete integration of the community in the USA, it seems.