Healing Muslim-Christian Relations in the United States

May 24, 2021

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Muslim-Christian relations in the United States are highly polarized, perhaps especially so after the presidency of Donald Trump. While the former president found steady support among evangelicals, a majority of American Muslims voted for President Biden in the 2020 election. In addition, some conservatives have taken a nativist stance that is unfriendly toward Muslims, in part related to changing demographic trends in the United States. For their part, American Muslims took on new roles in U.S. politics during the Trump era, which saw the election of progressives such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota). Beneath the headlines, however, the situation is far more complex, especially since American Muslims and evangelical Christians are both internally diverse when it comes to political, social, and religious issues. So is there a way for Muslims and Christians to find common ground and work together on shared policy issues?

Asma Uddin, a Berkley Center research fellow, recently published a book addressing these and other issues, The Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in a Post-Christian America (Pegasus Books, 2021). The new book builds on her experience as a religious liberty lawyer and unpacks the complex relationship between Muslims and Christians in the United States, exploring group identity, intergroup bias, and competing narratives of victimhood. Uddin shows how Muslims have come to serve as proxies for the political left, while conservative Christians have become proxies for the political right—making the Muslim-Christian divide all the more challenging to solve. As a potential solution, Uddin proposes “religious freedom as a superordinate, or overarching, goal that should unite these two groups.” The Berkley Forum welcomes scholars and practitioners to continue the conversation started in The Politics of Vulnerability by reflecting on Muslim-Christian relations, religious liberty, and pluralism in the United States.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What are the historical, political, or religious roots of fraught relations between American Muslims and conservative Christians? What concrete steps might help to promote a more peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians in the United States? Is it possible to build a consensus on U.S. religious freedom across different faith traditions? If so, what principles—ethical, legal, or religious—could help to heal the polarization of domestic religious liberty? What are the broader challenges and possibilities of balancing national unity with religious and cultural pluralism? How might interfaith dialogue and encounter contribute toward healing Muslim-Christian relations in the United States?

related event | The Politics of Vulnerability: A Conversation with Asma Uddin

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