ISPU 15-Year Anniversary Logo
15 Years of Research Making an Impact

2017 marks ISPU’s 15th anniversary. 15 years of groundbreaking research. 15 years of educating the general public and raising awareness. 15 years of enabling community and religious leaders, policy makers, journalists and nonprofit partners in their own work. 15 years of collaborative partnerships. 15 years of research making an impact. Our journey to becoming America’s go-to source for data for and about American Muslims has been a long one, and you—our loyal supporters—have supported us at every step along the way. We look forward to celebrating these first 15 years with you throughout 2017.

15 Years of Impact
An open book


A report with a pie graph and a line graph


A collection of 3 reports


Click here to learn more about ISPU’s impact.

15 Moments from Our First 15 Years

Islamophobia: A Threat to All

In 2014, ISPU launched its Islamophobia: A Threat to All report series. A collection of three reports and a data visualization map, this series looks at coalition building, religious freedom, and the intersectionality of Islamophobia and a number of other rights-restrictive initiatives. Three years later, one report, Manufacturing Bigotry: A State-by-State Legislative Effort to Pushback Against 2050 by Targeting Muslims and Other Minorities has remained as relevant as ever. According to report co-author Saeed Khan, “I was convinced that Islamophobia was less a disease unto itself than a symptom of a broader phenomenon as the country was moving toward becoming a majority-minority nation.” Today, community partners use Manufacturing Bigotry’s findings (as displayed on our interactive data visualization map) to prepare for meetings with state officials, who often support Islamophobic legislation as part of a greater pattern of discrimination. According to report co-author Alejandro Beutel, “Despite being published almost three years ago, the data-driven insights from Manufacturing Bigotry continue to remain as relevant as ever because of a political climate where overt bigotry, not just dog whistle politics using coded language, is once again becoming socially acceptable. The report is a social science contribution helping to directly inform social justice advocacy.”

The Formation of Our Washington, DC, Office

In February 2011, we opened our Washington, DC, office. While important community-level work was being done in Michigan, the addition of a DC office brought us closer to the policy makers and other stakeholders we sought to partner with. This location was added shortly after the hiring of Shireen Zaman, ISPU’s first full-time executive director, who said, “Opening a Washington, DC, office allowed ISPU to establish itself as a community-based organization that could have an influence on the national policy conversation and as a vital partner to other key allies and organizations. Unlike most ‘Beltway’ organizations, our growth was not top-down, but our expansion was a result of the demand for our work and the support of the community.”

ISPU Was Founded

The horrific events of 9/11 thrust American Muslims into the spotlight; the government, media, and public wanted information on Muslims, yet there wasn’t a go-to place for broad and reliable research. Where true data was lacking, half-truths and suspicion became increasingly common. To combat this disturbing trend toward misinformation, five friends from Michigan and a young scholar from California joined together and planned the research organization that is today ISPU. Recalls co-founder Muzammil Ahmed, “The thing that really had us worried was people trying to describe what the American Muslim community was like, in particular we had members of Congress who were saying that there’s a large number of extremists in mosques.” For co-founder Iltefat Hamzavi, “the goal was [to] provide a mirror—a real mirror for the community to look at itself and have others to look at it so that we can make a fair assessment.”

Over the past 15 years, ISPU has continued to strive toward this goal, evolving from a small think-tank to a nationally renowned research organization. In that time, we have published more than 150 reports and policy briefs, held trainings and convenings, provided necessary platforms for debate, and empowered American Muslims, policymakers, the media, and civic and religious leaders through data. Today, ISPU’s impactful research continues to fill an important need in the ever-changing American landscape.

Marriage and Divorce Study

ISPU Scholar and report author Amal Killawi holding up a marriage and divorce report in front of a group of Muslim women

In June 2014, we published our Promoting Healthy Marriages & Preventing Divorce report. At the time, American divorce rates in the U.S. were decreasing since reaching a peak in the 1980s. However, in the Muslim community, rates were on the rise. Community leaders across the country expressed concern about marital discord and divorce rates in the American Muslim community, yet there was limited research on this issue and little in the way of resources for practitioners, religious leaders, and members of the community offering support to families facing challenging times. To help address the need and improve marriage outcomes in the American Muslim community, we embarked on an ambitious exploratory study.

The study provided an understanding of the ways in which American Muslims perceive and utilize marriage education and marital interventions. Researchers conducted individual interviews with imams, counselors, divorcees and married individuals to determine the use of and feasibility of marital interventions in the American Muslim community. Amal Killawi, the author of the report, says this much-needed research filled a gap: “The Marriage and Divorce Study shed light on the challenges experienced by Muslims in marriage, and it sparked a nationwide conversation about the need in our communities for both marriage preparation and support for struggling marriages.”

American Muslim Poll 2016

A group of presenters reveal the results of ISPU's first nationwide survey: American Muslim Poll 2016

What are the attitudes, practices, and experiences of American Muslims? We sought to uncover the answers to these questions in our first nationwide survey: the American Muslim Poll. In March 2016, our poll results revealed the opinions of various faith groups on topics such as religion, politics, violence, identity, and so much more. Our goal: to insert Muslim voices into discussions about Islam that tended to neglect their perspectives, offering a badly needed, evidence-based contribution to an often misinformed discussion. What emerged was the profile of a Muslim community that was both pious and patriotic, optimistic and weary of discrimination, similar to Jews in its politics, and much like Protestants in its religious practice.

Throughout 2016, the poll’s research findings were cited in at least 60 different news publications, including a CBS News special. It underpinned efforts to combat bullying in schools, trained educators and law enforcement, and informed governmental agencies and White House officials. It also enabled educators like Prof. Todd Green, who said: “I refer to ISPU’s American Muslim poll when I give public talks on Islamophobia. It helps to nuance the picture of American Muslims and to challenge unfair stereotypes concerning Islam’s compatibility with the U.S.”

Detroit Mosque Study

In April 2004, we published our first report, the Detroit Mosque Study. This study gave a statistical overview of Detroit mosques and their attendees, and sought to “sift rumor from reality in regards to American mosques.” According to report author Dr. Ihsan Bagby, this report’s significance was in the way it began a conversation about American mosques and their leadership. He felt that an evidence-based discussion was key to a greater understanding of the Muslim community generally and a necessary step in improving their standing in the society at large.

For ISPU, this study held deep significance. Less than three years after the organization’s founding, the Detroit Mosque Study was ISPU’s first published contribution to a much-needed discussion about American Muslims. Even now, after 15 years and more than 150 reports and policy briefs, ISPU always remembers fondly its first success at educating the public and countering fear with facts.

Detroit Mosque Study report cover

Stay tuned to read about more ISPU moments.

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Thank you for sharing your important work! With increased awareness about your solid data driven research, media outlets will seek out your scholars for the real deal instead of relying on pundits to paint a story.


–Aliya Poshni, Donor

What do American Muslims think? How do they feel? How do they act in many circumstances? What are the challenges that are facing our communities? These are some of the most pressing questions that we don’t have answers to except when ISPU starts to come in.


–Alejandro Beutel, ISPU Scholar

I think if I had to describe ISPU in one word, I would use two words: game changer in that it’s providing data and much-needed information that is credible about what Muslims are about. . . . There is nobody else in the country I know doing it.


–Dean Obeidallah, Columnist and Host of The Dean Obeidallah Show

ISPU . . . is really the culmination of a vision of how Muslim Americans can have a seat at the table in clarifying and correcting and even shaping the narrative about Muslim Americans.


–Saeed Khan, ISPU Scholar & Co-founder

ISPU is ammunition in this campaign to deal with misinformation, misunderstanding, and a poverty of relationships. Because for some people they need more than just a picture, they need more than just my saying something—they need data.


–Steve Spreitzer, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity

ISPU . . . is a tremendous resource for not only the American Muslim community but the entire American community. . . . It gives a voice to a community that sometimes has other people speaking for it, for better or worse.


–Moheeb Murray, ISPU Board Member

In this current era, I believe that ISPU is essential. And it is essential because the American Muslim community needs data in order to help organize our community in an efficient way.


–Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI

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