Some Common Misconceptions laid to rest


Feisal Abdul Rauf

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This is a very good article by the man who was at the center of the Park 51 masjid, or the euphemistically named World Trade Center mosque.  Feisal Abdul Rauf  addresses many of the concerns Americans may have legitimately had which blew up into large scale myths that took on a life of their own that have no basis in reality.  Take a look

 

I founded the multi-faith Cordoba Initiative to fight the misunderstandings that broaden the divide between Islam and the West — each perceived as harmful by the other. Millions of American Muslims, who see no contradiction between being American and being Muslim, are working hard to bridge this gap. It is therefore not surprising that they have become the target of attacks by those who would rather burn bridges than build them, and the subject of recent congressional hearings exploring their “radicalization.” What myths are behind the entrenched beliefs that Muslims simply do not belong in the United States and that they threaten its security?

1. American Muslims are foreigners.

Islam was in America even before there was a United States. But Muslims didn’t peaceably emigrate — slave-traders brought them here.

Historians estimate that up to 30 percent of enslaved blacks were Muslims. West African prince Abdul Rahman, freed by President John Quincy Adams in 1828 after 40 years in captivity, was only one of many African Muslims kidnapped and sold into servitude in the New World. In early America, Muslim names could be found in reports of runaway slaves as well as among rosters of soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Muslims fought to preserve American independence in the War of 1812 and for the Union in the Civil War. And more than a century later, thousands of African Americans, including Cassius Clay and Malcolm Little, converted to Islam.

Currently, there are two Muslim members of Congress and thousands of Muslims on active duty in the armed forces. Sure, some Muslim soldiers may have been born elsewhere, but if you wear the uniform of the United States and are willing to die for this country, can you be really be considered a foreigner?

2. American Muslims are ethnically, culturally and politically monolithic.

In fact, the American Muslim community is the most diverse Muslim community in the world.

U.S. Muslims believe different things and honor their faith in different ways. When it comes to politics, a 2007 Pew study found that 63 percent of Muslim Americans “lean Democratic,” 11 percent “lean Republican” and 26 percent “lean independent.” Ethnically, despite the popular misperception, the majority of Muslims in the United States (and in the world, for that matter) are not Arabs — about 88 percent check a different box on their U.S. census form. At least one-quarter, for example, are African American. Anyone who thinks otherwise need look no further than the July 30, 2007, cover of Newsweek magazine, which featured a multicultural portrait of Islam in America.

Muslim Americans are also diverse in their sectarian affiliation. And whether they are Sunni or Shiite, their attendance at religious services varies. According to the State Department publication “Muslims in America — A Statistical Portrait,” Muslim Americans range from highly conservative to moderate to secular in their religious devotion, just like members of other faith communities.

With above-average median household incomes, they are also an indispensable part of the U.S. economy. Sixty-six percent of American Muslim households earn more than $50,000 per year — more than the average U.S. household.

3. American Muslims oppress women.

According to a 2009 study by Gallup, Muslim American women are not only more educated than Muslim women in Western Europe, but are also more educated than the average American. U.S. Muslim women report incomes closer to their male counterparts than American women of any other religion. They are at the helm of many key religious and civic organizations, such as the Arab-American Family Support Center, Azizah magazine, Karamah, Turning Point, the Islamic Networks Group and the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

Of course, challenges to gender justice remain worldwide. In the World Economic Forum’s 2009 Gender Gap Index, which ranks women’s participation in society, 18 of the 25 lowest-ranking countries have Muslim majorities. However, as documented by the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality , Muslim women are leading the struggle for change through their scholarship, civic engagement, education, advocacy and activism in the United States and across the world.

4. American Muslims often become “homegrown” terrorists.

According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, more non-Muslims than Muslims were involved in terrorist plots on U.S. soil in 2010. In a country in the grip of Islamophobia — where Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) can convene hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims — this has been overlooked. In 2010, the Triangle Center also found, the largest single source of initial information on planned terrorist attacks by Muslims in the United States was the Muslim American community.

As an American Muslim leader who worked with FBI agents on countering extremism right after Sept. 11, 2001, I fear that identifying Islam with terrorism threatens to erode American Muslims’ civil liberties and fuels the dangerous perception that the United States is at war with Islam. Policymakers must recognize that, more often than not, the terrorists the world should fear are motived by political and socioeconomic — not religious — concerns.

5. American Muslims want to bring sharia law to the United States.

In Islam, sharia is the divine ideal of justice and compassion, similar to the concept of natural law in the Western tradition. Though radicals exist on the fringes of Islam, as in every religion, most Muslim jurists agree on the principal objectives of sharia: the protection and promotion of life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity. None of this includes turning the United States into a caliphate.

For centuries, most Islamic scholars around the world have agreed that Muslims must follow the laws of the land in which they live. This principle was established by the prophet Muhammad in A.D. 614-615, when he sent some of his followers to be protected by the Christian king of Abyssinia, where they co-existed peacefully. Not only do American Muslims have no scriptural, historical or political grounds to oppose the U.S. Constitution, but the U.S. Constitution is in line with the objectives and ideals of sharia. Muslims already practice sharia in the United States when they worship freely and follow U.S. laws.

In his 1776 publication “Thoughts on Government,” John Adams praised Muhammad as a “sober inquirer after truth.” And the Supreme Court building contains a likeness of the prophet, whose vision of justice is cited as an important precedent to the U.S. Constitution.

“nuff said!

Do We Believe in our Principles or not?


The author of the piece excerpted below asks this and three other pertinent questions related to the debate taking place in America regarding freedom of religion especially as it applies to Muslim Americans.  The answer to this first question is conditional, based on what is described below

I got home from vacation late on Friday night and was soon asked to join in the fracas around the planned Cordoba House two blocks from Ground Zero. In less than 36 hours after getting back to Washington, I was walking into the Fox News studio on Sunday morning. Welcome home.They asked about a letter that I had just signed supporting religious freedom for Muslims. I said we should ask three simple questions:

  1. Should we as Americans be able to worship and pray when and where we choose? Haven’t we fought for that?
  2. Are American Muslims … Americans?
  3. And, for those of us who are Christians (and I am an Evangelical Christian), are we obeying the commands of Jesus to love our neighbors? Aren’t Muslims our neighbors? So what might Jesus say to this controversy?

There was a brief silence from the Fox and Friends anchors. OK, they said, but what about “sensitivity” to the families that lost loved ones in 9/11? Well, I said, 59 Muslims also died on 9/11 because of a vile, cowardly, and criminal attack by al Qaeda. Does it honor them, or their families, by somehow connecting all American Muslims to that horrible attack?

Well, thank you for joining us today Reverend, they said. Thank you, I said, but how we handle this is very important–to what it means to be Americans or what it means to be Christians.

I was ready to talk about my friends Imam Feisal Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, who are among the leaders of the vision to build a new community center committed to peace, interfaith dialogue, reconciliation, and bridge-building. I know them both and can testify to their long record on denouncing terrorism in the name of their religion and their consistent work for peace. Until very recently, Daisy says her main concern about the new interfaith center was whether there would be enough stroller space. Daisy called me Sunday to describe how their lives have been turned upside down. If Ground Zero is the “gaping wound” my Fox and Friends anchors described, what could be more helpful than a religious center dedicated to healing?

That morning, as I watched continued coverage, I was disappointed to hear the low level that discourse has dropped to.  The politicians who spoke to it sounded more like the people leaving nasty and false comments on YouTube videos than anyone deserving of public office. Well, it is the election season again.

This guilt-by-association “sensitivity” argument is very dangerous stuff. Millions of American Muslims are not responsible for the heinous crime of 9/11. And an imam’s desire to heal and build bridges should be a welcome thing. Exactly how far away from what places should Muslims be able to pray in America? Is there a measurement requirement that is emerging from all the other places in the country now where mosques are also being opposed?

Fundamentalism doesn’t only exist in Islam. The things someone like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell have said certainly are an embarrassment to other Christians — remember Robertson’s assertion that 9/11 was the judgment of God on America because of liberalism and feminism. So how about preventing fundamentalist churches that like Robertson from worshiping within 3 blocks of Ground Zero because of “sensitivity”?

How we handle this one will affect our future as a nation. Do we believe in our principles or not? Do we believe Muslims are also Americans or not? Are we an inclusive and pluralistic nation, or not?

Perhaps FoxNews that Rev. Wallis dealt with  was the network Obama was referring that is pervasive with its innuendo driven coverage of his faith?  In many people’s minds, the answer to the last two questions is a resounding no!

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