Monday, July 23, 2007

Islam in America

In its latest issue, Newsweek has run an interesting piece on American Muslims, in which writer Lisa Miller focuses on the "vulnerability" of American Muslims to prejudice and how they feel excluded from American society. This is mainly a puff piece, but I do agree that American Muslims are much more financially and academically successful than their counterparts in Europe, and they are also much more integrated into American culture and much less radical (to our credit as a nation and their credit as well for adapting into our culture). However, although Newsweek exagerrates perceived attitudes and instances of anti-Muslim behavior in the U.S., even they recognize the troubling results of a recent poll that shows that young American Muslims are susceptible to radicalization. A recent Pew study shows that:

  • 26 percent of U.S. Muslims age 18-29
    believe suicide bombings can be justified
  • 38 percent of U.S. Muslims age 18-29
    believe that Arabs did not carry out 9/11

And confirming what I've said all along, poverty and social inequality can not be used to justify terrorism or labeled as the root causes of radicalization. As Miller says:

These data, combined with the rising religious conservatism of young Muslim Americans, have led some experts to argue that differences between Europe and America have been overblown, that affluence and education do not inoculate a society against radicalization. "This idea that all those who are middle class are exempted from extremism has always been false," says Geneive Abdo, author of "Mecca and Main Street." "The leadership of the extremist movements have always been highly educated Muslims."

Suspicions about radicalization here at home can also be traced to whether U.S. Muslims see themselves as Americans first or Muslims first. Many adhere to the former, but as Newsweek discovered, there are young Muslims out there like Autri , a 21 year old pharmacy student who says about 9/11: "it sounds bad to say, but I remember thinking that I didn't care that it happened. A lot of my friends didn't care. I think it's because we're Muslim."

This disturbing reality, which even Newsweek could not ignore in its puff piece, reminds us of the need for vigilence and even greater scrutiny of Muslim youth in the U.S. Many of these youth are integrated, but they are seeking ways to rebel, and radical Islam is the prime way to rebel against parents who are fully integrated and part of U.S. mainstream society.

Mainstream, moderate Muslims such as Dr. Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego University and women's rights advocate/author Irshad Manji have been warning us about this for years. America needs to realize that suicide attacks are not confined to the land of the Tigris and Euphrates; unless we seriously start infiltrating the networks within our own country, these types of attacks will soon begin manifesting themselves on American soil

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