Where American Islam Is Going

A few years ago, my mother mentioned something about how nice two of the Jewish families in our hometown, Pueblo, Colorado, had been when we first moved there. My mom thought maybe it had something to do with the fact that these fam¬ilies had known what it was like to be non-Christian in a Christian town. “You know,” she said, “the Pueblo Country Club had only started accepting Jews as members a few years before we moved.” I was shocked to hear this! I had no idea that our modest, local country club had ever, in its history, not accepted anyone. We had moved to Pueblo around 1975—I couldn’t even imagine that up until the early seventies, Jews had been excluded at country clubs. These friends of ours are among Pueblo’s most social families; one of them even writes the social column in our local newspaper.
It then occurred to me that Muslims could have been excluded from the country club, too. So I asked my mom if the club ever attempted to exclude us, as Muslims. She replied, with a laugh, “Nobody here knew enough about Muslims to leave us out!” That’s one time I was happy about American ignorance of Islam.
As a group, American Muslims face an uncertain, yet hope¬ful, future. The most popular and obvious possibility is that American Muslims will assimilate into American society, in a way that other religious groups have done.
What I see is Muslims who attend mosque services and have Islamic values, but at extended levels are part of American soci¬ety, bringing their knowledge of Islam with them. I envision American Muslim families in communities all over America, who have both non-Muslim and Muslim friends and neighbors. I envi-sion their children marrying other Muslims, some of whom may be converts and also of different ethnic origins. Some families will send their children to full-time Islamic schools, and some will not.
They will have their own identity, not as Muslims or as Amer¬icans but as American Muslims.
American society will benefit from the added dialogue pro¬vided by Muslims. Muslims will benefit by reaching a dynamic in which they are a part of American society while maintaining an Islamic identity, their symbols and public observances melded into layers of American society and culture. In this scenario, Islamic holidays will be recognized, with many Muslim and non-Muslim Americans enjoying days off from work and school in celebration. Already, Syracuse University has become the first American educational institution to close on Eid al-Fitr.
Islam is a part of the religious foundation of Western cul¬ture. American Muslims, as Muslims living in the West, are re¬discovering Islamic emphasis on what we recognize as Western ideas—tolerance, democracy, compassion—ideas cited in the Qur’an that have been unintentionally buried by centuries of Islamic scholarship and the practices of Eastern Muslim societies.
It is an exciting time to be an American Muslim. We stand at the threshold of redefining a centuries-old religion and carry¬ing on Muslims’ legacy of achievement. American freedom of thought, and separation from cultural amplifications of religious practice, are allowing American Muslims to adopt a leaner, more accurate Islam. This Qur’anic Islam is very compatible with Western lifestyle, as the vestiges of non-Western culture are dropped.
I call this re-discovery of Islam by American and Western Muslims the second Golden Age of Islam. The first Golden Age was so characterized because Islam flourished: Islam spread throughout the globe from the seventh century onward, and Muslims were the foremost scholars and thinkers of the world. The Muslims of history contributed to civilization in a number of ways: in algebra and geometry, with the creation of the number zero, in modern navigation, and architectural design, among many other advances. I predict that the second Golden Age of Islam will be so designated for primarily two reasons: because of the inner growth and strengthening of faith of Western Muslims and the successful adaptation of those Muslims to Western life without compromising their beliefs.

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