As a reporter for Onwardstate.com, it’s my job to write engaging, relevant stories for Penn State students and the state college community as a whole. I sometimes stray from this mission statement–not all of my stories are interesting and it can be very difficult to generate blog-worthy ideas at times. But once in awhile, I stumble upon a story that is begging to be told, that needs to be told for the good of the people involved and the entire community. I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of these situations several weeks before spring break.
You’ve probably eaten at one of Hitham Hiyajneh’s downtown State College restaurants. Pita Cabana, Yallah Taco, Underground Burgers and Crepes, Tazzah and the Melt Shack are the components of his massive fleet of eateries–all of them opening within the last six years and finding great success in the downtown restaurant scene. But what’s even more interesting than the success of the restaurants is the story of Hyajneh himself. He’s a muslim immigrant from Jordan who arrived in America in 1989, worked to open his own businesses, and is now trying to bring the rest of his family across the atlantic from his home country.
You can read my piece on Hiyajneh here: http://onwardstate.com/2017/02/28/the-obsessive-odyssey-of-hitham-hiyajneh/
Hiyajneh takes his religion seriously. He’s an active member of Center County’s muslim community, and all of his restaurants exclusively serve Halal food, meaning that every dish is prepared with ingredients that adhere to muslim dietary restrictions outlined in the Quran.
Talking to Hiyajneh reminded me of the rapid growth of Islam across the world, and the ever-increasing number of muslim Americans. But it also made me aware of the general lack of knowledge Americans exhibit regarding Islam tradition. Hiyajneh agreed with this sentiment, and referenced the often misguided media portrayal of Islam.
After writing about islam in my last post and listening to Hiyajneh, I was curious to find out more about Islam in America and across the world, and did some basic research which I’ll present here in the hopes of providing a greater context for the Islam-related discussions taking place in our society today, a sort of “Islam by the numbers” post that will attempt to provide only basic facts about population and recent events that I find relevant as they relate to modern misconceptions. I will not attempt to define Islam, but will leave this link here for readers who want to know more about its basic tenants.
Islam was founded, according to PBS, some 1400 years ago by the profit Muhammed.
The Pew Research Center estimates that approximately 3.3 million muslims were living in the United States as of 2015. Despite the magnitude of this figure, muslims only make up about 1 percent of the U.S population and are thereby a significant minority when compared with other major religious groups in the country. But according to the same organization and data, it is projected to become the second largest religion in America behind christianity, and by 2050 research suggests that muslim Americans will make up an increased 2.1% of the population. On a global scale, Muslims make up about 23 percent of the worlds population with 1.6 billion adherents, concentrated mostly in the middle east, sub-saharan Africa, Europe, and Asia.
A generally overwhelming majority of muslims across the world disagree with the violent actions of ISIS and other terrorist groups– less than 10 percent in most countries mentioned in the aforementioned Pew Research study.
According to an article from the Daily Beast, “Homicide rates in Muslim-majority countries average about two murders per annum per 100,000 people. In non-Muslim countries, the average rate is about 8 per 100,000. Murder rates fluctuate from year to year, but they are consistently low in Muslim societies.” 68 murders were reported in Jakarta, one of the most muslim-populated cities in the world, in 2014. 390 murders were committed in Chicago over the course of the same year.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s necessary to recognize that “global terrorism is a disproportionally muslim phenomenon.” But at the same time, Americans must realize that most people killed in terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists are other muslims. According to the above-quoted article from the daily beast, an American has a one in 3.5 billion chance of being killed in an act of terrorism every year, and it is unlikely that that attack would be committed by a muslim extremist. Business Insider lists the odds of an American being killed by a foreign-born terrorist over the course of their lifetime to be one in 45,808, which highlights the often overlooked commonality of mass shootings committed by legal American citizens.
I’ve presented these facts in the hope of offering some context to the slew of modern misconceptions about muslims in America. Please feel free to add more or ask questions in the comments section, I’ll do my best to answer given my limited background but interest in researching the subject.