Islamophobia in the US has risen significantly since 9/11. People are fearful of Islamic extremism that has caused panic and speculation. Even in this environment of uncertainty, a small yet potent group of Muslims is living in America, struggling to balance their faith and the country’s dominant social culture. This essay is about Islam and the rise of the Islamic community in the US.
First, it is necessary to understand the essence of Islam. Peace is the central concept of this religion even though it means different things to different people. For the American Muslims, who have recently converted to Islam, it is a vehicle to form a connection between their misplaced sense of identity and spiritual viewpoint (Shakir, 2007). Islam offers a solution to the social problems they face in America (Shakir, 2007). They follow the Quran that stipulates a specific way of life.
Islam is not very different from Christianity and Judaism. All three preach monotheism. They believe in the Abrahamic religion and have scriptures, which they follow. They believe God created the world. All three religions were disseminated to man through prophets as voices of God – Moses for Jews, Jesus for Christians, and Mohammed for Muslims. Hence, the basic tenants of all three religions are the same though they differ radically from one another in terms of rituals.
Even though Islam has strong similarities with Christianity and Judaism, it is often accused of spreading violence. Islam directs Muslims to live peacefully, as Quran sermonizes the importance of nonviolent existence. Nevertheless, interpretation of a religious text depends on the intent of individuals who may distort the original meaning to suit their purpose. If Islam sanctioned violence, then Christianity has shown such zealous extremity during the Crusades. Christianity was not responsible for the mass killing. Then following the same reasoning, Islam should be exonerated from any charges of being the preacher of violence.
Some, like President Morsi of Egypt, believe that Islam is not compatible with democracy (Ben-Meir, 2013). Since Islam is a monotheism-based religion, it believes that the ultimate power of the world rests in God. This theological hierarchy does not coincide with democratic philosophy as it creates autocratic possibilities. Christianity and Judaism, on the other hand, have been sufficiently modernized with the political philosophy with the European Enlightenment and teachings of philosophers from Descartes to Sartre (Ben-Meir, 2013). As Islam strongly influences the political and social life of the practicing Muslims, the question of the religion’s compatibility with democratic pluralism arises.
The roots of Islam, embedded in Abrahamic religion, embrace the idea of private and public pluralism as the religion preaches social responsibility. However, certain ambiguities have arisen with Islam, the practice of Sharia law, democracy, and human rights. Sharia is the divine law followed in most Islamic countries. Sharia provides a moral and legal frame for religion. It is believed that Sharia law and human rights are not compatible. However, a new age political Islam is probably more attuned to democracy and hence, it can be said that in the future, Islam too will evolve to better suit the modern political ideologies.
Islam in America is a growing community with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. One reason for the rise of the Muslim community in America may be marginalized minorities converting to Islam and migration from Africa and Asia. Nevertheless, Muslims in the country struggle to hold onto their identity due to the pressure of a highly consumerist and socio-political environment.
Ben-Meir, A. (2013). Is Islam compatible with democracy? Web.
Shakir, I. Z. (2007). Imam Zaid Shakir on PBS – interview [Video file]. Web.