Where American Islam Is Going 2

This Golden Age of Islam will occur primarily in the United States because Muslims in America are more comfortable than in other Western nations. Americans are not strongly anti-Islamic, as some English and French are, and, in America, Muslims are assured freedom of thought and practice under the First Amendment. This freedom will lead to greater participation in, and therefore greater influence on, American society.
In America, where Islam can flourish without the restraints of culture and politics, Islam will no longer be equated with con¬flict and foreign lands, but will come to be identified with the familiarity of Muslim neighbors, classmates, and fellow carpool parents. Muslims will bring stability to their communities. Muslim businesses will create jobs, and families will commit to improving their neighborhoods and schools. Muslim families are strong; parents and children interact. The majority of Muslim children do not use drugs, drink alcohol, or engage in pre-marital sex providing, therefore, “positive peer pressure” on other kids their age. For these reasons, many of the negative myths about Muslims will be dispelled.
To create this second Golden Age of Islam, the American Muslim community must unify. In fact, one of the significant jihads or struggles that American Muslims are facing is unifying their community. Unification will take some time to achieve. While observers agree that the American Muslim community is coming together, groups do emerge that pose a challenge to over¬all unity.
A challenge may be presented by a growth of American Muslims who altogether cease practicing Islam. We can expect some abandonment of Islam among American Muslims, as has been noted in France. It is important to stress, however, that, in America, the number of Muslims who subscribe to the Five Pillars, including Eid Muslims, will outnumber those who become agnostics or even atheists. We will come to realize the presence of these “outside the flock” Muslims though, these minorities within a minority, as American Islam grows.
I often meet Christians or Jews who, although raised Catholic or Jewish, do not feel strongly about their religion out¬side of attending major religious ceremonies on Christmas or Rosh Hashanah. Acknowledging their upbringing, they some¬times say they are culturally, as opposed to religiously, Christian or Jewish. Similarly, we will start meeting more Muslims who identify themselves as culturally Muslim, in that they were raised Muslim and attend mosque services on major holidays, but they don’t pray five times a day or expect women to cover their heads.
Some scholars already have noted this American Muslim group, calling them “Eid Muslims,” who attend mosque on the two major Muslim holidays only. As long as Eid Muslims sub¬scribe to the Five Pillars, the basic beliefs of Islam, and strict Muslims do not judge Eid Muslims harshly, Eid Muslims represent only a small challenge to unity.
Over thirty years ago, Muhammad Ali refused to fight in Viet¬nam. At that time, he was a very enigmatic character—a charis¬matic boxer who had chosen an odd religion. Today, Ali, a Sunni Muslim, is heralded by many Americans as a hero, an inspira¬tion. Muhammad Ali is but one example of how dynamic the American Muslim community is. They are a thoughtful group that brings faith, honesty, and strong principles to modern America.
How will contemporary American Muslims be remembered? American Muslims’ arrival as a national force will be defined by their presence in society, particularly as trained professionals. Tolerance will be an American-Islamic hallmark, exemplified by the various political organizations formed, the women’s shelters created, the Islamic schools and ventures for social improvement with other like-minded groups. If you are expecting American Muslims, as their numbers increase, to rally around one particu¬lar issue, you likely will be disappointed. Muslims as a commu¬nity do feel strongly on certain issues such as American support for Bosnian Muslims. However, as American Muslims unify, it will be primarily to draw support from each other and present a cohesive, positive image to other Americans.
American Muslims will demystify Islam for other Americans, no easy task, by interacting with them daily. For the most part, American Muslims are and will be just like other Americans— concerned with their families, with improvement of their com¬munities, with schools and standards of living. In essence, American Muslims will be known for being American, having the same worries and needs their neighbors have. While this may seem rather unmonumental, it is not. Teaching Americans and the West about Islam, creating a better understanding of it, will be American Muslims’ contribution and legacy to the world as they combine the best of American culture with the best of Islam.

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