Movement of Muslims towards American identity

Mohammad Akhtar,Ph.D, Professor of psychology

Muslims living in America are estimated to be in the range of 4-7 million depending upon who does the estimating and which measuring instrument one uses. PEW (2007) estimates Muslims to be in the lower direction. On the whole, Muslims resemble the general American population in their socioeconomic variables (earnings, education, employment) and other indicators, such as church attendance- 50% of Muslims attend mosque, and voter registration- 66% of Muslims are registered. However, on abortion and gay marriage issues, Muslims appear to be more conservative and resemble the Christian Right. About 1/5 of Muslims are America born blacks, while the rest are immigrants, who came to America mostly in 70’s and 80’s and have become naturalized citizens. The children of these immigrants who have come of age are naturalized citizens also, or they are America born. Thus combining all citizenship by birth or naturalization, the Muslims group in America represents a very significant percentage of American citizens. But are they American?

Do these citizens have American Identity?

Only about 1% of 307 participants at the 43rd ISNA convention considered themselves to be Americans first (”Muslims for Safe America”, 2006). While a PEW survey (2007) found the number to be much higher, it did not change the finding that Muslims subscribing to American identity are in the minority.

Why did an “American emphasis” fail in these cases? And that failure persists regardless of the fact that Muslims have lived in America for extended periods (25+ years)? Generally, the length of time in this country has been found to be a significant determinant in the degree of Americanization (Akhtar, 2004) While reasons for a lack of Americanization are several, we will skip them since they do not have a data base. But of the ones that were included in the survey, three reasons were checked by a predominant majority of respondents – approaching 80 %, in the Pew survey. They are as follows

1) Resurgence of a desire to show an “Islamic Identity”

2) The perception that “America is at war with Islam”

3) American foreign policy that is hostile to Muslims as shown in her invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the ominous signals to Iran.

Defining Identity

Do we go by an internal desire to be “American” or by an outward behavior to match the general “American” pattern? Both aspects are vital to the identity definition. Outwardly defined, Identity is viewed in a Social Perspective as a function of society- specified roles and expectations that an individual is supposed to meet - along with standards of excellence for evaluation. For instance, who is a Muslim and who is not a Muslim, is judged by the community. Sometimes certain communities of Muslims have gone too far in their depraved emphasis of the Muslim identity and resorted to tragic killings of other Muslims because these were not Muslims in their extremist thinking. It is sad because Fiqh scholars generally are in agreement that anyone who calls oneself Muslim, and exhibits the behavior by professing the Shahadah, is to be taken as a Muslim. Similarly in judging one as “American” loyalty and other Behavioral criteria have to be met, these issues are to be considered later. A Psychological Perspective comes into play when the individual internalizes the role, personally commits to it, and makes it part of his/her self. The typical identity related decisions an individual makes pertain to various roles. The roles he/she likes tend to be the ones the individual is good at, and gets acceptance for, hence selects them for self-defining and self-differentiating.

Group Identity

Similar principles apply to group identity with one key exception. Here, group orientation is maximized while individual identification is minimized. Parameters characterizing group orientation include the following:

a) Main Goal is the maintenance, enhancement or survival of one’s group, often at the expense of ridicule, subjugation, humiliation and sometime killing members of the “Other Group”. Jokes against the newly migrant groups in America such as polish people and Catholics, still fresh in memory, are familiar examples of how a group functions

b) Group Differentiation and Group Definition exaggerated. Here, adopting features to sharpen differences with other groups is considered vital. Some familiar bases for differentiation are race, color, religion, gender, tribe, caste-class and many more, all condemned by Islam except “Tawas”- piety that is the only basis accepted for prioritization. Yet, these differentiations continue with their tyrannical results in many Muslim countries. These exaggerations often defy rationality and beg questions such as: why commonalities between Christians and Muslims, for instance, do not catch our attention as much as the issue of Trinity? Similarly, while the difference between Sunnis and Shias is on the caliphate issue, there is agreement on practically all other fundamental issues. Thus, is it rational for them to hold this grudge about something that happened more than 1,300 years ago and ironically that cannot be reversed by any act of any one presently? Does that make sense? The explanation for this inheres in the need for differentiation.

c) Symbols, Signs, and Loyalties. Often, these are overpowering, and their power is derived from their function to serve the group’s needs to differentiate and identify itself. Signs and symbols are Codes devised by the group to be used to allow entrance as an In-Group member and to keep out aliens. Examples of some familiar symbols are the cross, crescent, head scarf, beard, observance of Muharram or observance of super-bowl football and the attendant festivities. These are symbols, often accompanied by their signified meanings. Similarly, many symbols can function to bestow an “American” identity. But when you bestow some symbols to a select few in an artificial situation removed from reality, it is often bound to be faulty and misleading. Muslims are fully familiar with this as many of them suffer humiliation whenever they cross the border; they are profiled as terrorists. While the system is aware of this discriminatory measure and of the large degree of its inefficacy, it chooses to ignore it to serve the dominant society and because of the larger group’s perceived need for security, which is crucial.

d) Power, Leader, Media. All above-mentioned features are sanctified by the group and carry tremendous power and thus significantly impact individuals. If a group leader or the media calls a certain group dangerous, it impacts the entire nation, regardless of reality. Often, power corrupts, leaders and heads of the state similarly exploit. When the mind of the nation is seized by fright, it stops checking on the leaders, vested interests; the whole nation is then at the mercy of leaders and the media. Unfortunately, the manner in which all ingredients are being mixed in the current “recipe” might prove to be a recipe for disaster for all, threatening wars between Islam versus West and Iran versus America.

e) Race to raise one’s rank in the eyes of the leaders and the group at large. Records sometime might be falsified against “the other-group” by media and leaders to prove they are loyal and “champions of the group.

Both nations are caught in a Catch-22. America is fearful and resentful because it was attacked for no legitimate reason. Thus placed in a defensive posture, it had to impose surveillance devices and profiling procedures. These are discriminatory and at times result in mistreatment, unjustified torture, and humiliation of the entire Muslim community, adding fuel to their resentment and feeling of alienation. This further retards the development of an “American” identity in them. That leaves Muslims more negative, more fearful and more hostile; this in turn necessitates more discriminatory profiling and further security measures and some new measures added .That engenders more hostility in Muslims There is an emerging new fear of the terroristic elements in America-born young Muslims. This has been noticed more in Europe, via bombing incidents. This vicious cycle goes on while entrapping thousands of people from both groups caught in a senseless web. The key to untangle ourselves is to recognize that people on both sides are simple humans who are overwhelmed by the dynamics of their groups. It is with this perspective that we have highlighted the above-mentioned key elements. We will add a few more illustrations in the next section to deepen this line of understanding. Let us not make a mistake in recognizing that the course we are on currently is more than vicious: it is deadly for both nations and should be countered jointly by both nations on all fronts. From the Muslims side, we are making a dispassionate attempt in this paper to contribute to a better understanding. We are confident that similar efforts are being made on the “American” side as well. We are aware, for instance, of American efforts to expose the dishonesty of American media and leaders in intellectual discussions and the political vein. We are touched by those Americans who take a stand in sympathy with Muslims, rather than supporting the “popular” view. For example, an expose of the plight of Muslims done by a Muslim was awarded a Peace Prize by a Divisions of American Psychological Association, which is among the largest organization of professionals in the country. (Obama’s speeches delivered later than the date the article was done are by far the most valiant attempts from the side of America to correct the America’s stereotyping and misconceiving of Muslims).

Symbolic loyalty as a critical factor illustrated

The current situation has its roots in the 9/11 incident which is viewed as the main cause of the Muslims problems. To test the accuracy of this view, let us change the scenario and let us imagine that Muslims were fairly well-established in their loyalty to America prior to 9/11. How would the fall of the World trade Center per se have affected America? The affect would have been very mild and not enough, in our opinion, to work up the whole country into a frenzy of paranoia and a state of panic. That incident would have been dismissed as an isolated act of a dozen of lunatics who were rotten apples of the Muslims group. The reality of course as it prevails is drastically different because the loyalty perception of Muslims was not “and still is not” established. In that overall context, therefore, 9/11 became the symbol of possibly more attacks to come. Thus the whole Muslim nation became suspect that naturally warranted subjecting the entire Muslim community to a gigantic inquisition extending the borders to Iraq, Afghanistan and practically the whole world. What has been the total cost? Trillions of dollars; incalculable loss of lives; a blow to the image of, and international trust in, America. Additionally more pertinent to our perspective is the loss of American identity among Muslims in America that will adversely inflict a damage that will continue over generations to come.

While actual loyalty to defend the country is important, the role of symbolic loyalty is more crucial in everyday dynamics. Let us examine the 2008 presidential campaign and the tough time Obama had in defending himself on his symbolic loyalty. Nobody was focusing on the actual loyalty of Obama himself. The media appeared entranced by Obama’s pastor’s utterances, which were disrespectful to America and hence symbolically implied his disloyalty. Actually the pastor’s record by way of serving in the army and in the community was rather good. While mentioned by the media in some hurry, it was suppressed in favor of sensational stuff which various TV networks were racing to out-do the others because of the lure of advertising dollars, backed up by adversarial comments from Clinton and McCain. It became a crisis. Another instance of the symbolic nature of the loyalty issue became evident again in Obama, in the form of his avoidance of the contact with Muslims during the campaign. America takes it for fact that Muslims are terrorists. While Obama’s identity as Christian and his loyalty is firmly established, why should his legitimate contacts with Muslims, for which he is legally entitled, raise eyebrows? The explanation is the symbolic disloyalty implied by association with Muslims. Still worse is the association when Obama was portrayed as dressed in the Osama Bin Laden’s robe along with his turban.

Muslims fears and exaggerations caused in their own dynamics.

So far we have confined the discussion to the phenomenon of exaggerated fears among Americans, aptly phrased as Islamophobia. What about its counterpart among Muslims? They also have their own sensitivities centering around the loyalty concerns. About 20 years ago, we may recollect that collaboration with Jews, even in an interfaith framework, was not allowed among Muslims; it would sound the alarm of a “kafir”. The whole group would target the “guilty” one with full force and isolate him. Now, the same behavior is acceptable. Muslims also have their fears exaggerated and over-generalized. Jerry Falwell slandered and defiled our prophet diagnosing him as pedophile; that was ignorant and needed to be condemned. But our exaggerated fears can also be discerned when everybody was alerted to the danger of American conspiracy and the news was spread at an amazing speed accentuating the level of anger among Muslims at each step. Little display was given to the news with little recognition that the person who wrote a forceful rebuttal to the pedophile charge was a Christian leader himself and was American indeed. Even if entire America shows malevolence towards Muslims, do we have to understand it necessarily as a conspiracy against Islam, rather than the result of human dynamics? This is an established fact that practically every immigrant group arriving in America had to deal with malevolence. For instance, about a century ago, signs displayed in Boston stores read: “no Jews allowed holding public office”. Jews withstood it and are established now because they took a positive approach. We had better stop here before we become offensive and our own identity is suspect and questions are raised about our allegiance. Recognizing these as valid concerns, we do not mind submitting in all humility a denial of any lure, money or other kind, goading our writing. Our sole motif is to raise the issue for possible benefit of all.

Why Muslims of America need American identity

It is an established fact that to avail the benefits from America, or any society, immigrants have to adjust to American ways in order to be accepted. The fuller the adjustment, the fuller is the acceptance. Muslims need American identity for full acceptance and for full membership into “in-group”. Naturally, the society has a differential scale for “in-group” as opposed to the “other-group” for its reward- punishment distribution. For middle to high-level jobs that presuppose skills and their certifications in the form of credentials, Muslims have little difficulty. It is on the highest managerial kind of positions that Muslims have huge difficulty for several reasons. They have difficulty attaining these types of positions because these positions seem to require more than what meets the eye, or more than what can be defined in specified skills. Or they are positions that presuppose public trust and confidence, or are government positions with security concerns, or high political offices, which command a following of the masses and require proven loyalty-, refer to the previous discussion on Obama and symbolic loyalty; all such positions would be inaccessible to Muslims. To remedy this issue Muslims must clarify their loyalty and establish their American identity, if they want power, influence, dignity or just sheer acceptance from American society.

So far the gains suggested from identity were at the level of the society, but let us not overlook the less obvious gains at the Psychological level that Muslims need for their internal harmony and mental health. There are Muslims who start out with their old identity and refuse to adjust to or even acknowledge the live forces that surround them in America would suffer failures and the resulting sense of inferiority and despair. Then there are some people who may ignore their basic beliefs and go ahead with their American pursuits and achieve success. This pretense, however, may work to a degree but sooner or later it will catch up in the form of serious internal conflicts causing depression, anxiety or other problems. For best adjustment what Muslims need (Akhtar, 2007, p 91) is a predominant acceptance of American forces, not necessarily the entire American practices that will allow for the American identity? Be aware that American identity has to be integrated in a compatible fashion, not just co-exist with the old identity. While Muslims ethnic identity would be most incompatible, Islamic identity will nicely combine with American practices- to be discussed later.

Positive Participation

Sociologists agree that, to become integrated into their new home, immigrants must actively participate in their local community. Unfortunately however, since immigrants are often in a state of shock at significant cultural differences, they tend to cling to their own group and isolate themselves from their new environment .It is an established sociological truth that the sooner they can integrate themselves into the “new” society, the better it will be for all. Strangeness produces fear and familiarity brings liking and openness. Given some time for interaction, the immigrant picks up basic skills to be accepted as a group member and to accept new roles. Muslims have lived long enough in America to be adept in all they are expected to do, except that the basic feeling for America appears missing. They feel discriminated against, mistreated and humiliated, which makes them feel insecure and inferior. The doctor’s prescription for Muslims still is to participate, and participate positively. This extra demand is to enable them to overcome their negativity toward the society in which they live. This negativity has to be neutralized if they want to win acceptance and liking of the society.

How to participate positively? Firstly, one can avoid the negative ways of interaction, such as complaining and blaming the society for one’s own shortcomings. This immigrants, mentality, dubbed as “persecution complex,” will only make the society more negative in its reaction that will perpetuate the individual’s exclusion. Remember, the key issue here is the society’s suspicion of the Muslim’s loyalty, which translates as the need for patriotic behavior such as serving the army. Japanese Americans have been exemplary in showing positive approach. During World War 2, they were removed from homes and quarantined. While living in internment, they volunteered to fight for America. A whole battalion 100/443rd comprised exclusively of Japanese, won 21 medals of Honor and was one of the most decorated units. After the war, they reentered life. Although they were bitter but they vowed to show to others that they were better, and were successful in proving it. Other patriotic behaviors will be such as hoisting American flag. contributing money, time and skills strictly for the benefit of America would also be easily recognized as patriotic. Also helpful would be participation in supportive activities undertaken for the benefit of needy people and for the provision of medical relief of the American community

Dilemma of Muslim Participation

While what is needed and what is expected of Muslims in America is clear to Muslims, do words and music match? For the actual practice, we have to be motivated by a love for America. The reality of Muslims is the other way; they feel persecuted, resentful, humiliated and so on. Thus, how can they participate positively? Some suggestions, developed previously, should help with this dilemma.

Previous emphasis on group dynamics with multiple illustrations was given on purpose to develop an insight into its working and to crystallize the three basis thoughts for their constructive play in restructuring their thinking and a helpful role in overcoming the Muslims, difficulty in positive participation. This is amplified in the following

1) Both Muslims and America are legitimate in feeling victimized. However, these feelings are currently being attributed wrongly to the “other group” as perpetrator, who is regarded as the main cause of the issue and needs to be held responsible and blamed for its exclusive and individual participation;

2) Instead, the feeling of being victimized should be attributed to the exaggerations and heightened emotionality triggered by the dynamics of the groups that take over rational thinking;

3) Muslims were mistreated by America because of her fears and her irrationality; but

also because Muslims acts were directed at security issues. To begin with, Muslims had been lacking in the needed demonstrations of their loyalty and then a Muslim group attacked America. America’s act for protection has to be seen as a natural reaction and should therefore be condoned and not condemned. Thus America was not the aggressor as it appears when taken in isolation. If these thoughts are allowed to restructure the Muslims mind, the blame on America would be minimized to reduce their resentment and anger towards America. Given a little of the negative feelings “if still left, Muslims should be persuaded to rise to the occasion and act positively, not only for the sake of their long-term benefits, but also for the reason of their love of Islam. God has created all the countries impartially and does not favor any one country as homeland for Muslims (See Iqbal- philosopher-poet). Potentially, therefore, America is just as good as Egypt, for instance, for Muslims to love. Love of soil is not only natural but is consistent with what Islam requires. (see Alwani in Akhtar, 2007). Moreover, our love of America should be heightened further when we appreciate high values of Islam and ask where else they are existent, live and well but in America.

Reconciling Islamic identity with American identity

New Identity. The identity we are searching for obviously is some kind of combination with an American identity. That raises two questions, we are combining an American Identity with what “other” identity, and in what proportions will they combine? The basic need for American identity arises for the newcomer to fit into the society. Therefore, the higher the degree of “American” component, the better it is. Ideally, it should be much greater than half. In a typical case, an immigrant likes to combine American with one’s ethnicity, the culture of origin. But this is often difficult to actualize. It is like saying, “Put on pajamas or shorts for sleeping” The “or” suggests you can have either, but not both. That combination is impossible. In contrast, the American practice of wearing shorts is potentially combinable with the general precept “do not display your beauty to others” (Islam). That means, a female can still wear shorts in her privacy, in the medical necessity, in the setting of females (may be). The point is “American specific” practices are more likely to combine with general rules of Islam than with practices of other cultures. Similarly, American precepts are still more likely to blend with Islamic counterparts. Several related observations follow:

a) American culture, being incompatible, is sure to drive a foreign culture out of business over a few years;
b) Islam, as we call it, if it is predominantly couched in specific ethnicity, will fare the same way;
c) A literalist- traditional view of Islam that takes Islam in specific forms would be similarly incompatible.

Fiqh and Ijthehad have to be the most essential tools to use to strip a practice of its specificity.

Basic concept of Islam

According to Islamic scholars such as Alwani (Akhtar, 2007), the former Chair of Fiqh Council of ISNA, there are two kinds of Islam: universal and local, that need to be separated from each other. When you examine over a long span of time and across the varying conditions in different cultures and find that the “Islamic precept” stays the same, such as Zakat, it shows an invariant obligation and therefore is universal, otherwise it will be judged as local and changeable. There is agreement that Quran and Sunna are the basic sources and their interpretation should be made within the framework of a system.

There is agreement among scholars that Quranic verses concerning social dealings (Muamlats) “few as they are” constitute a category of what is considered changeable. To dovetail with it neatly, socio-public dealings are precisely the ones that are at the heart of identity issues. To put simply, Islam allows changes in the earlier version of dealings in favor of American emphases and the identity needs; it also gives us the necessary tools to change; the rest is up to us: when and how to change.

One more basic concept needs to be amplified in regard to the Universal Islam or principles which basically are abstractions and would defy human comprehension .For the purpose of human handling, God’s message is given in familiar and concrete forms. Ramadan (2004) is quite insightful and absolutely right when he observes

“Islam does not exist outside of culture, Even universal Islam is found always enmeshed in concrete forms which will turn out invariably to have cultural specifics when one would take a cross-cultural perspective. It is only the general principle and not the cultural specifics that Muslims are universally bound to follow. Therefore we need to free a teaching from its accompanying specifics, which surrounded it even in the early culture, when Islam was in the process of getting established; practices of that time, being local, still need a further step and scrutiny to uncover the universal elements

Abstracting from the specifics is decoding, which is well recognized in Fiqh. It is designated as Decoding I (Saeed, 2006) when the act of abstraction is taken in the context of the Muslim culture of origin. When the same abstraction act is done for the new culture such as America, it is designated as Decoding II. Decoding at the two levels is what is demanded in the application of Islam and the adoption of American practices. To help with these clarifications, a few illustrations are given below.

Qur’an specifies two women or one man is needed as the witness. However, it must be seen as specific to the business setting to handle which women in Arabia were ill suited. Therefore, the universal principle abstracted from this will be that a woman’s witness is equal and not half to that of a man (Decoding I). Examine women in America in business and other settings, women’s performance as witness is seen at par with that of men (Decoding II). When the two match, the American principle- a woman as equal to a man - is judged to be similar to that of Islam, it is accepted and has green light for Muslims. The case of rejection and red light would be premarital sex, which is favored in America in principle and practice both, but is clearly prohibited in Islam (post-marital sex is complex, the principle is rejected yet the practice is prevalent in America). Islamic stance of rejection is the same for both; harmful effects of sex outside of marriage are substantiated by American researches (Akhtar, 2007, ch.6). The third case of yellow light could be women’s practice of sky diving in America, the principle behind it could be adventure and fun in public. May be Islam’s stance is neutral to this practice- assuming that it does not pose any harm to the public and women’s safety is not a big issue. A clear case would be to eat Bakhlawa or Apple Pie. A definite preference would be for Apple Pie in the identity perspective while Islam’s stance is neutral (The preference would remain clear if it is pitted against California dates, but may get a bit murky if Apple pie is pitted against dates especially brought from Mecca; yet the judgment should stay still intact in favor of Apple pie if the perspective is the normal eating favorite for American Muslims. As a general formula, the recommendation for the neutral cases will be to convert them into positives for the purpose of maximization of the acceptance zone for American practices. To sum up, the general rule is accept all the American practices with the exception of those against which there are clear prohibitions in Islam (Ramadan, 2004, Akhtar 2007). When we take the principles to their highest level to arrive at American ideals such as Liberty, Equality, Justice, they will all match100 %.with the ones in Islam. Perhaps, Abdou- an Egyptian reformer, understood Islam at its height as he observed it while abroad ,and upon return he said “ In the West I found Islam but no Muslims; in the Arab world I find Muslims but no Islam.”

American practices of public concern

In general all American practices – excepting those that are prohibited in Islam – should be accepted.

While living in America there is a pressure to be like other Americans. We should accept this and not insist on the use of our ethnic practices instead. American practices, however, vary in the degree of concern they carry with the American public, and therefore this should be reflected in the priority we assign to them. For example, if your youngster has to wear Nike shoes or he/she should go to school in your car, and not in the bus, it is reflecting the high concern of all kids in the school and should be accepted as such. In growing children, gaining group acceptance is important to facilitate their American identity and general psychological adjustment. We have leeway if we do not want to adopt some American ways. But we should not disregard ways, which are especially high in salience compared to others. As it may be evident from our previous discussion of identity, we need to respect the American flag and July 4th activities. The best proof of our loyalty in the current crisis is going to war for America. However, an American war that is against your own or another Muslim country would pose a dilemma. If America is fighting a war that is unjust, a Muslim should invoke the provision of Conscience as Mohammad Ali, the boxer, did. If it is a just war, Muslims have to join the U.S. armed forces notwithstanding some oppositional voices raised by misguided Muslims. Contrary to the confusion and ill-founded opinions on Islam, scholars uphold the principle of a contract even when it is against them. “If they ask you for your help in the name of religion, you must help them, except against people with whom you have concluded a treaty “( Qur ‘an 8:72).

Dar al Harb (home of war).

A basic reservation raised against America for considering it our home is that it is at war with Muslims. True, in the deep psychological sense, a home is where you have peace. But this technical categorization, not found in Qur’an or Sunnah but emerged in Fiqh, is either unclear or invalid. The usual condition emphasized for Dar al-Islam is where government machinery and system are Islamic, so that you do not have to struggle further. Ulemas have been debating this issue for a long time. There are three viewpoints (Masud 1995):

1) Those who maintain that it is a valid concept and hold on to its definition;

2) Those who find it valid but like to change the conditions to define Harb; and

3) Those that find the concept invalid and would drop it.

The argument is that in the present world, conditions are radically changed. Malawi (1997) re-conceptualizes the West as an abode of Treaty. Ramadan (1997) sees Europe and America as an abode of Dawa (bear witness to God in the country you live) and concludes that Muslims can make this abode their home definitely within Islamic framework. Especially when Muslims have 5 guaranteed rights in America : right to practice Islam, right to knowledge, right to establish organizations, right to autonomous representations, right to appeal to law. A person, even with little vision, can see the necessity of these rights to bring about and maintain one’s integrity as an individual: Physical - life, safety, health; Intellectual, Social- family and group activities, and as God-conscious missionary, who has the message of ‘real” Islam to deliver, adapted to the America’s needs and temperament, more by action than by preaching, and more by positive contribution to improve American life than by reactive anger and hostility towards America. That is being a true Muslim and having a true American identity. Which Muslim country provides the opportunities to achieve all that?

Strategic Action Plan

We Need Action with Urgency.

After working out a conceptual clarification regarding who we are and who we want to be, the question is how to move towards actualization of American identity. Typically, immigrants leave it to Nature to take its course to “Americanize” them. Generally, they are resistant because it involves changes that are disturbing. In our case it is by our choice; we must design our identity that suits us best and we must act to actualize it in an optimal time and without delay. We need an urgent action in view of the dangerous world we live in. We are aware of the current reality marred with antagonism between Muslims and America. This antagonism, as noted previously, is reciprocal and involves the two groups bringing the macro politics into play in each group. We are aware of the current reality marred with antagonism between Muslims and America, which is reciprocal and which involves the two groups at the macro level of politics in each group. If we have an insight into the multiplicative effect of these dynamics, we should expect the feeling of antagonism will escalate and might get out of hand if excesses are committed by either side. Before that happens, Muslims need to take an emergency action, especially regarding the issue of their loyalty and positive participation – at least to the point of changing the direction of negativity to neutrality. At that point, rationality will take over and business can go on at the normal pace.

If we start now with our positive participation, it will take years before it is widely known and becomes a positive part of the dynamics of the American culture. What happens to our children until then? They will grow in the shadow of terrorism, suspicion and fear, isolated and mistreated; that in turn will produce self- doubt, cause a problem of identity, and a feeling low self-esteem. Should these problems persist for an extended time, they could cause depression and anxiety. Malaise and de-motivation, known to characterize minority groups such as blacks, have been found to be responsible for their failings in several areas. Taylor (2002), who worked with minorities, arrived at an insightful conclusion: “Self esteem is the vaccine that inoculates” people and their children against disorders such as academic under-achievement, family dysfunction, substance misuse, violence, and delinquent behavior. Not having a direction is a problem is recognized as the usual identity problem; but beyond that, clarity itself is to be emphasized according to Taylor as a crucial need. Clarification of information is woefully missing, but what is further aggravating the identity problem is the Muslims feeling of hate and love of America, their divided thinking to go with Islam or without Islam, and finally their conflict on which Islam is real: Traditional, Enlightened, Salami and so on. What Muslims have is an identity crisis demanding their immediate attention. They have an urgency to sit down as a group and make some hard choices and start identity clarification before it is too late.

Group Action

Our strategy is to plan and design our identity and start to move right now rather than wait for clarifications to emerge over generations.

The first action needed is to decide how and who is going design the new identity? To get the ball rolling, it is proposed that identity should be designed by a council of experts, which carries credibility with the Muslim community. This Council should be divided in three committees comprised of three scholars each at a minimum. The Islamic Committee will have experts having an in-depth understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and who are familiar with the American-Western culture by way of birth or extended stay, The Social Science Committee would similarly have experts in social sciences such as Sociology, Psychology, and Economics, as needed The third committee would be American Culture Committee that may be split into two a) American experts recognized for their expertise at the national level ,b) Muslims recognized for their love of America combined with their heritage of being born American that goes back to 2-3 generations as American. The proposal is tentative and is open to discussions in the future involving community-wide participation. To make that happen and to carry this movement further to the level of educating, consensus-building on concepts, organizing the council of Experts and so on, we need activists, individuals and organizations working together. All the thinking and discussions are of little value unless we can translate them into action. Only action will bring the needed change and the desired benefit. To start, you have our humble action via this paper and organizational sponsorship by Muslim Council of America, which has organized an Islamic Committee that has already met by the date you would be reading this paper. We trust you will see sense in this movement and will feel the urgency for your action. As the Qu’ran says ‘collaborate as community in ( Bir and Taqwa’) the righteous cause’. As good Muslims, you will need to come forward for the survival of your community and take your own future and the identity of your children in your own hands, would n’t you?

References

Akhtar, M (2004) Predicting the degree of Americanization. A preliminary research report

Akhtar, M. (2007) Muslim Family in a Dilemma: Quest for a Western Identity. University Press Of America

Msud, M. (1995) Shatibi’s philosophy of Islamic Law.p.367. Islamabad: International Islamic University

Mawlawi (1987) Al-Usus Paris, UOIE

PEW (2007) Research Center Study

PEW (2006) Global Attitudes Project

. Ramadan, T (1997) To be a European Muslim. Oxford University press

Ramadan, T (2004) Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press

Saeed, A. (2006), Interpreting the Qu’ran. New York Rutledge

Taylor, D. (2002) The Quest for Identity: From Minority Groups to Generation. Greenwood Publishing

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