By Imam Faizul Khan
Islamic Society of Washington Area
Forty or fifty years ago the words Islam and Muslims were unheard of in the press. Seldom was they mentioned, rarely were they publicly discussed and not much was talked about the Muslim presence in America. Today, the situation is vastly different. Muslims and Islam are almost daily covered by the media.
There are many reasons. Muslims have been in America for over a century now, yet they remain conspicuous by their absence in many spheres of American public life. But contemporary reality suggests that Islam and Muslims can no longer be viewed as outsiders. A substantial Muslim presence in America combined with unstoppable forces of globalization; require a new paradigm of engagement. Islam is integral to America, just as any other major religion.
Rather than be viewed as cultural outsiders, Muslims should be embraced as culturally enriching and economically benefiting America. The American Muslim community has seen remarkable growth from one congregation in the mid-1920’s to more than 2,200 organizations of all types by the 21st Century.
American Muslims today are experiencing life as part of an increasingly globalized system. All indications suggest a growing momentum among Muslims in favor of integration into America’s civic and political life. Mainstream Muslims consider core American values to be consistent with normative Islam. Chief among these are the norms of hard work, entrepreneurship and liberty, justice and freedom for all. The American Muslim community has played crucial roles in almost every facet of American society and has exemplified its behavior by getting involved in civic, social, political, religious and humanitarian programs to benefit all Americans. Unfortunately, many Americans do not understand Islam, and have an unfavorable view of it, or are not at all knowledgeable about Islam.
The recent incident at Fort Hood, Texas, did cause some Americans to once again turn a suspicious eye on Islam and Muslims. What affect will this incident have on the American public perception of Islam? The answer lies not in reference to Islam and Muslims, but to understand this incident in its particular context and know that this has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. Since September 11, 2001, the peaceful community American Muslims has been subject to all kind of accusations and persecutions. This is happening despite the fact that — since 9/11 — Muslims have organized more than 3,500 interfaith forums denouncing terrorism and loudly condemning groups such as Al-Qaeda. I Condemn the actions allegedly taken by the Muslim soldier at Fort Hood and would condemn any action by any Muslim who uses violence in the name of Islam.
Perhaps the best investment at this time is to engage in projects and programs that are people oriented and that will project the humanitarian faith of Islam. As long as we uphold the values of justice and equal dignity for all and reach out to our fellow Americans who share our commitment to these values, we are destined by the grace of God to defeat all unscrupulous and mean-spirited attacks.
Imam Faizul Khan is spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of Washington Area.