News / USA

Taking the Pulse of American Muslims

New book explores how life in America has changed for Muslims since 9/11

Multimedia

Audio
Mohamed Elshinnawi

'Journey into America' chronicles the Muslim-American experience in the years since 9/11.
'Journey into America' chronicles the Muslim-American experience in the years since 9/11.

Even with so many practicing Muslims in their midst, most Americans know little about the Islamic faith.

News headlines have led many people to associate the religion with violence, intolerance and terrorism, creating tensions between some Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States.

American University professor and Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed decided to take a team of young researchers on a trip across the United States to take the pulse of the nation's Muslim community. Their findings have been published in a book and documentary titled, "Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam."

New challenges

Over the course of a year, Ahmed and his research team traveled to 75 American cities, visiting more than 100 mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim homes.

Along the way, the team conducted nearly 2,000 interviews with American Muslims, asking them to describe their experiences living in the United States.

What they found is that the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, carried out by a band of self-described Islamists, has made life for Muslims in America more difficult.

"American Muslims are generally considered with some suspicion, with some misunderstanding," says Ahmed. "There is some controversy about Islam itself. So there is a gap, the gap existed after 9/11 and so many years after 9/11. Unfortunately, there still remains a gap."

Ahmed found that many American Muslims feel nostalgic for the days before 9/11, when they enjoyed their constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedoms with relatively little public controversy.

The change in atmosphere since the 2001 attacks has affected even young Muslim Americans in their schools.

"We had some heart-breaking stories, one story in particular about a 10-year old boy in New York. That boy told us that when he goes to school he is beaten up because they consider him a terrorist. And his mother went to Pakistan and she was killed in a bus blown up by the Taliban. So he, in a sense, was pressured by both the extremists in the Muslim world and some of the prejudices that Muslims are facing in the U.S."

Misunderstanding gap

Despite such prejudices, Muslims in the United States are still pursuing their American dreams.

Many are excel in fields like medicine, science, business and even as members of the U.S. Congress. Their success, Ahmed says, brings with it a new challenge: to work harder to educate non-Muslim Americans about Islam and to correct inaccurate and misleading portrayals of Islam in the U.S. news media.

The quest to close this gap of misunderstanding is fueled by a deep patriotic urge.

"To refer back to the founding fathers, to refer back to those extraordinary men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and (John) Adams who all reached out to people of faith from any other religion in the world, including Islam," says Ahmed.

Islam also faces challenge when Americans look around the world at majority-Muslim societies and see mostly kingdoms or dictatorships, widespread injustice and a lack of respect for human rights. That grim picture fosters a negative bias against Islam in America.

And that bias is reinforced, Ahmed says, every time there is a violent crime committed by someone in the name of Islam, like the recent lethal shooting rampage by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim Army psychiatrist at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

Finding common purpose

Toward the end of his book, Ahmed suggests one way these biases can be overcome is if Muslim- and non-Muslim Americans can find common purpose - and common benefit -- in helping to move the United States toward better relations with the Islamic world.

To do so, Ahmed says, the U.S. government first needs to develop better relations with its own Muslim citizens.

"Americans need to understand and really begin to empathize with the Muslim community in America because America is in a crisis right now on the global stage in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Muslims can play a very important role in acting as ambassadors between Americans and the Muslim world."

Ahmed hopes his book, "Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam," will encourage Americans from all backgrounds to see their Muslim fellow-citizens in a new and more sympathetic light, and to recognize, perhaps for the first time, that Muslims are an important part of America's rich social tapestry.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid