Illinois is home to more than 350,000 Muslims. According to a new study, that makes the state No. 1 in the country for Muslims per capita.
The first-of-its-kind study, “Illinois Muslims: Needs, Assets, And Opportunities” was a collaboration between the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois Chicago, and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Researchers found that Muslims in Illinois were the youngest and most diverse faith community in the state and the country. The sample in the study were racially and ethnically diverse. About half of the sample was born outside of the U.S. and a sizable number speak languages other than English at home.
“There are so many different types of leaders and stakeholders, both within and outside of the Illinois Muslim community, who can benefit from this report,” said Erum Ikramullah, research project manager at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
The study also includes specific recommendations for educators, elected officials, Muslim community leaders and more on how they can better meet the needs of Muslim communities.
Among the Muslim respondents in Illinois, about 12% of them said they are self-employed or run their own business. They create about 6% of all jobs in Illinois despite making up about 3% of the population.
One of the challenges facing Muslims in Illinois is health care access, including therapy and mental health services. One of the biggest barriers to healthcare access is affordability, the study finds.
Islamophobia is also a top issue facing Muslims in the state. More than half of the respondents reported facing religious discrimination.
“We know from national data that this takes several forms both at the institutional level and at the interpersonal level,” Ikramullah said. “This can affect things from health care access, political participation access, bullying within classrooms to everyday microaggressions.”
Researchers also found that Muslims in Illinois were also highly politically active and civically engaged. 75% of the sample is registered to vote with an additional 16% expressing an intention to register.
“The message is: Don’t take us for granted,” said Dr. Dilara Sayeed, president of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition. “We’re here. We’re voters, we’re funders, we’re supporters. Hear us. See us.”
The full study can be found here.