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Finally, the idea inculcated by the media in the post-cold war period that Islam has supplanted the Soviet Union as the threat to its survival and the tendency to equate Islam with extremism and terrorism, combined with the American policy tilt toward Israel and its inconsistent record not only in Introduction 5 the Middle East but also in Bosnia and Chechnya further disillusion and alienate many.

Haddad contends that some Islamic leaders have encouraged immigrants to return to their homelands and work for the establishment of Islamic governments. Others also discourage assimilation, but advocate the creation of Islamic communities within the broader non-Islamic society. Still others encourage engagement and peaceful coexistence, emphasizing the common religious and social values and interests between Islam and Christianity. While the isolationists practice their faith privately and worry about losing their children to the attractions of Western culture, the socially engaged build institutions mosques, schools, professional and social associations to establish a place for Islam in the American religious and cultural landscape.

In contrast, African-American Muslims are visible and active in asserting their Muslim identity when they focus on the problems facing inner-city America in particular: racism, poverty, crime, violence, and drugs. These differences among and within Muslim communities raise questions of interpretation, law, and cultural identity. The primary question facing Muslims in America is whether or not they can live Muslim lives in a non-Muslim territory. Especially for immigrants raised in Muslim-majority countries, this is a particularly vexing question.

Muslim jurists had in the past encouraged Muslims to migrate from non-Muslim areas, lest they inadvertently contribute to the strength and prosperity of non-Muslim states. But, although ideally Muslims should live in a Muslim territory, Islamic jurisprudence does allow for them to live outside the Dar al-Islam provided they can fulfill their religious obligations without hindrance. Some religious leaders have counseled emigration from non-Muslim territories back to Muslim lands, others have defined the conditions under which Muslims can live permanently as loyal citizens in non-Muslim lands and still preserve their faith and identity.

They continue to differ, debating questions such as whether they should vote, whether they are bound by Islamic divine or secular man-made laws, and whether they should participate with non-Muslim neighbors in community life and fully accept and defend a non-Muslim homeland. Islamic law provides the ideal blueprint for society, delineating what can and can not be done.

Muslims on the Americanization Path? - PDF Free Download

Formulated in the early centuries of Islamic history, classical law provided guidance to Muslim courts and individual believers down through the centuries. Since the late nineteenth century, however, Islamic reformers have called for a bold reinterpretation ijtihad of Islamic law to address the challenges of modern life. But the weight of tradition remains formidable. A popular belief is that, the early Muslim jurists having defined and delineated the parameters of Islamic law, the obligation of 6 Introduction the community was simply to follow it—the door that led to further interpretation had been closed.

This static notion of Islamic law was promoted by many among the ulama religious scholars and remained convincing until it was vanquished by rapid and significant systemic change. Then prescient Muslim intellectuals realized that such dramatically changed circumstances required fresh responses. Across the Muslim world, a minority of Islamic reformers called for a bold reinterpretation of Islamic theology and law. The problems of Muslims living both in America and Europe have been compounded by the challenges of life as a Muslim minority in a non-Muslim country, and this in turn presented a challenge to human and textual resources.


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As in many parts of the Muslim world, so in North America Muslims have realized that the complexities of modern life often require disciplinary skills that are beyond the limits of a single individual. Thus, for example, medical ethics requires expert knowledge not only of religious texts but also of the sciences and, perhaps, economics as well. In addition, the realities of life in the West are often quite different, indeed alien to, those of traditional Muslim societies.


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  • Many in North America have concluded that legal decisions can only be rendered by those who have had firsthand experience of this new world. As with imams, so too with legal scholars, the Muslims of North America have had to develop an indigenous core of experts since they could no longer simply import personnel and interpretations from the old country.

    The Fiqh Council of North America was established to provide just such an indigenous Muslim response. A group of scholars representing a crosssection of expertise was constituted to respond to the questions posed by Muslims in North America. DeLorenzo gives examples of some of the questions that have arisen in areas ranging from economics and medicine to marriage and the family and the responses of American muftis. Economic problems have centered on how to deal with interest in banking, mortgages, insurance, car loans, and the like. Islamic organizations face questions such as how to invest their funds; Muslim stockbrokers and financial advisers have had to convince clients that their services are Islamically acceptable.

    Lawyers and their clients face similar issues regarding property, estates, and pension plans. As in many parts of the Muslim world, gender issues have included problems in marriage, dower and divorce compensation, inherit- Introduction 7 ance and bequests. Unique to the Muslim-minority experience in the West, however, has been the decision not to recognize as Islamically valid a marriage or divorce that has not gone through the secular courts. For many decades the Muslims of America have remained relatively invisible, but by now they constitute a significant minority whose concerns can be effectively addressed through the political system.

    But to what extent can or should Muslims participate in the political system of a nonMuslim state in which Islamic law plays no part?

    Can Muslims vote? Can they fight and die in defending their new country? What if they are called upon to fight and kill fellow Muslims on behalf of a non-Muslim state? Muqtedar Khan analyzes this struggle in terms of the identity politics of self and the internal other other nationalities and sects and the self and the external other non-Muslims.

    He demonstrates the extent to which identity issues and identity politics prevent American Muslims from interacting and cooperating across national and sectarian lines. This phenomenon is reflected in professional associations, universities, and mosques where national and sectarian backgrounds can determine attendance and participation at lectures and in other programs.

    These divisions carry over into politics where many are more united and involved in political developments in their countries of origin than those in the United States. As a result national American Muslim organizations often have to struggle to survive financially and to achieve any sense of common platform and strategy.

    25 Influential American Muslims

    This American anti-Islamic attitude can be seen not only abroad but in antiterrorist legislation and media coverage of Islam and Muslims at home. However, Khan argues, just as Muslims in Muslim countries in the twentieth century have come to identify both with Islam and their national identity, so too in the next generation, many more will subscribe to an Islamic as well as an American identity, as African Americans have already done.

    Differences of national origin remain strong because of continued ties and involvement with politics back home, and these often hinder cooperation among American Muslims. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran or Pakistan and Bangladesh are echoed in America and demonstrate the extent to which sectarian and national differences continue to divide American Muslims.

    In a celebrated case, the French government banned its wearing by school children. The ensuing debate saw France, in the name of preserving its secular government, declare that, if Muslims were to become good French citizens, they must integrate not just assimilate. France rejected multiculturalism for integration.

    Kathleen Moore and Esmail Shakeri provide studies that describe the many facets of this issue. In the United States, which prides itself both on maintaining the separation of church and state and on its positive valuation of diversity, Muslim women who wear hijab have encountered problems in the workplace and in the courts. Constitution have been more generous than they once were toward the religious practices of minorities. Recent appellate-court decisions, she maintains, involving Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Native American Indians and Sikhs, and Muslims have often appeared to belie the liberal guarantee of nondiscrimination and equal protection.

    Based on this study of employment Introduction 9 cases involving religious discrimination, Moore argues that American constitutional law as currently constructed is incapable of solving the problem of the observant Muslim who wears the veil in a secular state. Given global migration patterns, the remarkable number of Muslim minority communities that have come into existence, and the rapid growth of Islam in Europe and America, issues of law and religion will become increasingly significant both in and of themselves and because they will reflect or inform the attitudes of the broader society.

    Muslims on the Americanization Path?

    In the twenty-first century, Moore maintains that the successful resolution of workplace discrimination requires broader political and social changes and not just changes in the law. There controversy centered on the attempt by the school board in Montreal to ban wearing the hijab in school. However, as Shakeri demonstrates, much of the public discourse was influenced by what the hijab symbolized or represented to many of its opponents Western feminists, journalists, academics, politicians for whom Islam is an alien, oppressive, extremist, or terrorist religion.

    The Canadian debate reflects the tensions between text or norm and context, both Muslim and Western values and social conditions, educated Canadian-born Muslim and non-Muslim Western feminist women; a policy of integration vs. Problems facing Muslim women in North America involve not only immigrant or first- and second-generation Muslim women, but also the growing number of American converts. That Islam is the fastest growing religion in America is due in part to the number of American women who have embraced Islam in recent years. They face the same problems of faith and identity, of dress and employment, but in their case it is often compounded by the reactions of their families, neighbors, and friends.

    Anway analyzes why they converted, their family background, religious quest, and the impact of their conversions on their lives as well as their parents and relatives.


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    • For many, Islam provided answers to the doubts they experienced as Christians. Far from questioning the compatibility of Islam with American values, these converts often found a congruence between their new faith and traditional American ideals, including commitment to family, community, education, and discipline, though they often also found themselves caught up in the process of integrating their Western heritage with new beliefs and cultural practices. While all Muslims in America may be called Muslim or refer to their religion as Islam, the experience of African-American Muslims has been very different from that of Muslims who were born and raised in Muslim countries or in an immigrant Muslim milieu.

      Most are descendants of slaves, were raised as Christians, and are members of a community whose religious and political identity has been affected by the struggle for freedom and equality. Early leaders such as Noble Drew Ali and W.

      Muslims on the Americanization Path?

      Today, they are in the midst of a period of transition from what some have called proto-Islam to more traditional or mainstream Islam as AfricanAmerican Muslims continue to struggle with issues of faith, identity, and destiny, including the relationship of their adopted faith to Christianity, to race, to black liberation, to traditional Islam, to their African heritage, and to American citizenship. At the same time, their interaction with immigrant Muslim communities challenges the ability of Muslim Americans to transcend the divisions of race and ethnicity.

      Three studies provide critical perspectives on the history and development of the African-American Muslim identity, its formative experience, its relationship to traditional Islam, its African heritage, and the American experience, and the dilemmas of co-existence in a multi-ethnic context.

      While there were theological differences between them, the fundamental existential questions were the same: Why do black people suffer? How can this suffering be brought to an end? Both offered a paradigm that emphasized the material as well as spiritual here-and-now and not just the hereafter, and both preached individual initiative and responsibility, family life, hard work, and frugality.

      Introduction 11 African-Americans are heirs to a triple cultural heritage: African, Islamic, and Western. While most discussions of the origins of African-American Islam or of Islam in the African-American community focus on the role of early charismatic figures and their syncretistic, heterodox forms of Islam, Yusuf Nuruddin argues that what he regards as more orthodox Islamic influences preceded these heterodox movements, among them Marcus Garvey, Edward Wilmot, Noble Drew Ali, and the Ahmadiyya, who provided a bridge between black cultural nationalism and Islamic pan-Africanism to the black supremacist Nation of Islam.

      Next were those who adopted a more assimilationist, ecumenical outlook, such as Warith Din Muhammad, and finally a number of responses, including Louis Farrakhan and others, who are trying to reclaim leadership from both Islamic separatists and assimilationists by reasserting the separatist legacy of the Nation of Islam and, at the same time, aligning themselves with a more traditional or orthodox Islam.

      At the same time, a variety of secular cultural nationalists, including American and continental African authors and artists, have launched an Afrocentric crusade against all variations of Islam. Some wish to continue to recognize and integrate their triple heritage and legacy; others reject the legacy of both Western and Islamic culture.

      The problems are compounded when there are interactions between the African-American and immigrant Muslim communities or international Islamic organizations like the World Muslim League Rabita al-Alam alIslami. Thus, for example, when the Saudi-based and -funded Rabita sought worldwide consensus for 12 Introduction the Saudi-American coalition against Iraq, the initial show of unity among African-American Muslims was shattered when Operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm in Warith Din Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan assumed polar opposite positions based upon religious and ethnic considerations, and, as Dannin notes, those divisions remain.

      African-American Muslims, however, share a common challenge with immigrant Muslims and Muslims worldwide: How is one to be Muslim and African-American simultaneously? Despite the shared beliefs and rituals that unite Muslims, the transnational unity of Islam disintegrates in the face of ethnic, linguistic, and nationalist differences and conflicts.

      The result, Dannin argues, is an endless crisis of identity. On major religious holy days or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam appears to be multiracial and multi-ethnic; but inter-racial and inter-ethnic tensions remain common at the local level, in mosques and in community politics. This dilemma is seen quite vividly in relations between new Muslims of African descent and new American Muslims of Middle Eastern and South Asian backgrounds. Their interaction or lack of it is often based on ethnic e.

      Arab and cultural differences, especially religious attitudes, values, and practices that a particular group regards as religious doctrine. Americanization and the Preservation of Cultural Identity Despite the fact that Islam is the third largest religion in the United States and that by now most American Muslims have been born and raised in the United States, the American media continue to view Islam through the prism of the Iranian revolution, regarding it as a retrogressive religion given to extremism and terrorism.

      The situation is compounded by the tendency of the media to focus on the explosive or violent act, to give primacy to those events that impinge on American interests and overlook or minimally cover equally significant ones that do not, the shrinking resources of especially the print media, and the tendency of many reporters and editors not to regard religion unless it involves acts of terrorism as hard news. The failures or limitations of American media reporting on Islam and Muslims have an impact on the sensibilities and sensitivities of American Muslims.

      Although critical of the media, Noakes also challenges the American Muslim community to recognize that complaint must be accompanied by action, from protest and participation e. For the majority of Muslims in America, the multi-ethnic experience has reinforced the extent to which economic security and Muslim identity are interrelated. Many in the Eritrian community which has gathered there struggle to survive, handicapped by lack of English and marketable skills.