Ten U.S. Islamic organizations have formed a new umbrella group to serve as a “representative voice” for American Muslims, and one of their first tasks will be to carry out a census of the community.
Other focus areas for the new U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), according to speakers at the body’s launch in Washington on Wednesday, include enhancing Muslim political engagement and participation in forthcoming elections, civil rights issues, combating “Islamophobia” and having an impact on U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
Participating organizations include high-profile groups that have been dogged by controversy, such as the Muslim American Society (MAS), founded by Muslim Brotherhood members, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was named by the Justice Department in 2007 as “unindicted co-conspirators” in its case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, subsequently found guilty of raising money for Hamas.
“The new national council’s first priority will be to build on Muslim citizenship rights by conducting a census of American Muslims to create a database that will be used to enhance civic and political participation in upcoming elections,” USCMO said in a statement.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, a participant at the launch, said that Muslim organizations in 2011 had come up with a “guesstimate” of seven to eight million Muslims in the United States.
“Opponents of the Muslim community shot down the number for political reasons, to two-and-a-half, two million, and sometimes people even said half a million,” he said.
The aim of the census project would be to determine a clear idea of the number and distribution of American Muslims, by 2016.
“Muslim voters can be swing voters in key elections, especially in 2016, and we are aiming at that election to bring a more visible participation from the Muslim community,” Awad said.