A first-of-its-kind report on Muslims in Illinois found that 3 out of 4 are registered to vote, and an additional 16 percent expressed an interest to register, revealing high levels of civic engagement and opening the door for successful voter registration drives.
The report also highlights Muslims in Illinois are more politically independent, philanthropic and slightly more likely than the general public to report deeper civic engagement such as volunteering. Nearly 1 in 4 respondents reported volunteering for a political campaign in the past 12 months, compared to 17% of the general public. About 1 in 3 school-aged students said they didn’t have access to halal food at school.
The report – titled “Illinois Muslims: Needs, Assets, and Opportunities”— was convened and published by the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition in partnership with the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois Chicago and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, or ISPU, a think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
“Illinois has the largest per capita Muslim population in the entire nation,” says Reema Kamran, executive director and co-founder of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition. “We wanted to understand the diverse population that makes up the Illinois Muslim community, and make sure that we were uplifting our voices. We want the organizations that serve us to know our needs, and also to celebrate the contributions we make to the community.”
The study finds Illinois Muslims are young (50% are between the ages of 18 and 35), racially and ethnically diverse (23% non-Hispanic white, 35% non-Hispanic Black, 8% Hispanic, 31% Asian, and 4% non-Hispanic other) and more college educated (40%) compared to the general Illinois public (28%). Muslims in Illinois hold nearly 6% of the jobs in Illinois – around 350,000 – despite making up only 2.8% of the state’s population and facing high religious discrimination. Half of the respondents said they had faced discrimination based on their faith.
The report was developed after three years of research and preparation and presents an empirical assessment of the strengths and struggles of the Illinois Muslim community based on nearly 1,800 completed surveys collected from October 15, 2021, to January 31, 2022. The study also included a comparison to the Illinois general public and four focus groups.
“This report is not the end of this work. We will be using this to understand the community and make sure that we’re measuring the progress that we’re making,” Kamran says. “We will continue to build on this data, and hope this will serve as a replicable model that other states can also use to understand their underrepresented communities.”