Published On:02 December 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

OPINION: Strong partnership awaits American and Muslim world

By Fakhruddin Ahmed

Pew Research Center’s 2009 demographic survey revealed that 23 percent of the world’s population (1.57 billion people) is Muslim. They’re spread among 173 nations, 50 with Muslim majorities. Millions more live in non-Muslim India, Europe, China and Russia. Contrary to popular belief, Arabs constitute only 20 percent of the world’s Muslim population; nearly 50 percent of Muslims are South Asians.

Islam encompasses all ethnicities and culinary, linguistic and cultural traditions. The House of Islam is far from monolithic. Religion aside, a Muslim from Kazakhstan and one from Indonesia have very little in common.

As the youngest monotheistic faith, Islam attracted converts from existing religions. In South Asia, where Islam took root in the home of two peaceful ancient religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam is moderate and the Muslims are tolerant.

In the Middle East, where Islam originated, frequent clashes with Christians, Jews, and more recently, Western colonial powers, have engendered less tolerance and more extremism.

The religious experience of Muslims varies from laissez-faire in the Balkans to ultra-conservative in the Gulf states. The pace of Americanization of Muslim immigrants depends on the orthodoxy of Islam practiced in their native lands. Exposure to “madrassas” that emphasize rote memorization rather than thorough comprehension of the Quran, or subscription to aberrant theologies that condone violence in Islam’s name, translate to slower integration.

America’s pluralistic culture and independent judiciary exert a moderating influence on incoming immigrants. For example, without bribes, nothing gets done in many Muslim countries. When Muslims see that bribing is a crime in America, they are ecstatic!
Even in Muslim democracies, the masses are skeptical of the judicial system, which favors the powerful. Once they realize that justice is blind in America — that even a president can be impeached for lying under oath — their confidence in America soars, as does their proclivity toward moderation.

Moderation will reign in the Muslim world once popular upheaval triggers the domino-like fall of the remaining unsavory dictators. The turbulence of the Arab Spring will spawn the flowering of democracy, satisfying Muslims’ yearning for democracies like Turkey over theocracies like Iran.

Since human predilection is to judge others by their race and religion, Muslims inside America must proactively educate and reassure average Americans about themselves and Islam.

Recently, a congregation of elderly Jews visited an Islamic center in New Jersey. After two hours of interfaith dialogue, one of the visitors whispered to a host: “You have no idea how many minds you have changed today. We visited your mosque with trepidation, expecting to see bin Laden posters plastered on the walls and weapons stockpiled everywhere!”

When the same center applied for expansion of its parking facilities and the neighbors objected vociferously, the township mayor advised the mosque leadership to invite their neighbors to an open house. Addressing the meeting of the zoning board after the open house, a representative of the neighbors said they had found the mosque members to be decent citizens and were withdrawing their objections.

These incidents highlight the challenges confronting Muslim Americans as they navigate the treacherous waters of anti-Muslim hysteria. Muslims must reverse their penchant for sequestering themselves and invite their neighbors to their homes, visit churches and synagogues and become politically involved in issues that affect all citizens.

Muslims must remember that the Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Chinese and Japanese (through internment) also suffered pangs of assimilation. Muslims have the advantage of protection by anti-discrimination laws since enacted to safeguard minorities.

Muslims fervently pray that the current populist rage against and scapegoating of Muslims triggered by the economic downturn, and the Tea Party Republicans’ use of Muslim-baiting as a wedge issue to enhance their electoral prospects in the 2012 presidential election, will subside once the economy improves and the election is over.

Islam-bashers may rage, but Muslim Americans are not going “gentle into that good night.” It is estimated that, by 2025, Muslims will constitute 30 percent of the world’s population. It does not behoove America to antagonize nearly one-third of humanity, who occupy huge swaths of land from the Far East, through South and Central Asia and the Middle East, to North and sub-Saharan Africa, and who want to befriend America.

Historically, Muslims and America have been allies. Most Muslims sided with America during the Cold War and helped America expel Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait in 1991. America helped the Afghans oust the Soviets from Afghanistan (1980s), and rescued the Bosnians (1995) and the Kosovars (1999) from the pogrom of the Serbs.

Truthfulness, neighborliness, generosity and accountability are virtues Islam preaches and America practices. Culturally and religiously, Muslims and America are natural allies who can forge a formidable partnership. Muslim Americans can be America’s ambassadors and conduits to the Muslim world.

Islamophobes cite the worst acts of Muslim terrorism, such as 9/11, and project them to be the true face of Islam. Non-Muslim Americans must not be swayed into believing that their fellow Muslim citizens are peculiar and aberrant creatures. Instead, they should regard them as assets who can advance America’s vital interests in the burgeoning cultural, religious, non-Western superpower of the future, the Muslim world.

[Fakhruddin Ahmed, D.Phil., is a Rhodes scholar. Originally from Bangladesh, he lives in West Windsor.]

(Courtesy: NJ.com)

About the Author

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on December 02, 2011. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on December 02, 2011. Filed under , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

0 comments for "OPINION: Strong partnership awaits American and Muslim world"

Leave a reply

Editor's Pick

SPECIAL REPORT: Indian religious leaders strongly protest against South Korean government hounding of Shincheonji Church despite cooperation to contain COVID-19 spread

By Danish Ahmad Khan The government of South Korea is pursuing a discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church while accusing it of COVI...

IMO Search Finder

Subscribe IMO