Monday, October 8, 2012

U.S. Muslims Squarely in the Mainstream

By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf | Tampa Bay Times - Special | October 8, 2012 | [Original Article]

In all of the hullabaloo surrounding the vile video that slanders the Prophet Mohammed and Islam, the disgust of American Muslims has been expressed adamantly but reasonably.

American Muslims recognize the video for what it was — the ravings of a sick mind of an obscure person with no bearing on the thinking of the vast majority of Americans. That's a mature response for American Muslims — more than 7 million of them — considering the bashing they have taken from some conservatives in recent years.

Imam Feisal Abdul RaufIn Tampa, just last month, conservatives angrily protested outside the Hillsborough County School Board because Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, had been invited to speak to a high school class studying world religions.

According to protesters, this Muslim was brainwashing these students with propaganda. They believe American Muslims are the vanguard of a religion bent on world domination. Countering these protests are interfaith alliance groups, such as the ones in Tampa that recognize that freedom of religion in the United States extends to all religions and is good for America.

Suspicion of religions brought by immigrant groups is not new in America. It was an article of faith in American politics that Catholic immigrants would turn the United States over to rule by the pope. Anti-Catholicism was rife in political movements, sometimes turning violent. Not until John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Catholic president in 1960 were these biases finally laid to rest. Jews faced massive discrimination for generations — socially, economically and politically.

I believe two things are constant. Over time, new faith groups are accepted and become part of the American fabric. And over time, the American experience transforms an immigrant's faith into some new American version that can be exported back to their home countries.

This is a good thing for Islam. As an imam who immigrated to America more than 46 years ago, I have seen the change. In America, Muslims are creating a new form of Islam. Divisions between Shiite and Sunni that plague their home countries don't exist among American Muslims. Freedom of expression has seeped into American Muslim mainstream thought.

Given the chance, this Americanization of Muslims will have a profound, positive impact on their adopted country and their native countries. Instead of protesting American Muslims and casting suspicion on their faith, all Americans should unite behind interfaith groups that are building a stronger nation and promoting international peace.

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