My first impression upon reading the banner headline, "Islam in America," was that this was going to be another dopey story of political correctness and blind pro-Muslim orthodoxy. I was surprised and reassured by the straightforward discussion of Islam in the United States, which includes a crystal-clear take on the substantial dangers of home-grown Islamic radicalism for U.S. national security:
Nearly six years after 9/11, the story of Muslims in America is one of overwhelming success. The National Intelligence Estimate released last week warned that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda continue to have their sights set on an attack within the United States. The report also notes a growing radicalism among Muslims in the West. But at a press briefing, intelligence officials were particularly concerned about the threat of homegrown terror cells within Europe's Muslim communities. America, the officials said, has so far provided relatively infertile ground for the growing and grooming of Muslim extremists. "Most Muslims in America think of themselves as Americans," says Charlie Allen, intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department.The story highlights other, more troubling statistics from the Pew survey: Sixty percent of young Muslims age 18-29 think of themselves as Muslim first, before American. The Pew survey also found that more than a fourth of 18-29 year-old Muslims believed that suicide bombing is justified. Further, 39 percent thought that new Muslim immigrants should remain islolated from the mainstream of American society.
In fact, Muslim Americans represent the most affluent, integrated, politically engaged Muslim community in the Western world. According to a major survey done by the Pew Research Center and released last spring, Muslims in America earn about the same as their neighbors, and their educational levels are about the same. An overwhelming number—71 percent—agree that in America, you can "get ahead with hard work." In stark contrast, Muslims in France, Germany and England are about 20 percent more likely to live in poverty.
The article quotes Autri Sajadeen, a 21 year-old pharmacy student of Bangladeshi descent:
On 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." For him, the bombing of Afghanistan that followed was much more tragic and painful.Sajadeen's alienation is apparently representative of a large segment of the American Muslim youth population.
There is something troubling about this information when it's placed in the context of the foundational beliefs of the Islamic religion. Proponents of Islam routinely point out that it is a religion of peace. But an analysis of basic theological holdings of the faith show that Islam's basic creed calls for the destruction of infidels.
According to Bruce Thornton, in a reveiw of Robert Spencer's The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, Islam is not a tolerant and peace-loving religion. It's a faith that seeks to eliminate challenges to its dominance, a religion that sanctions aggressive violence against non-Muslims:
Eager to display their sensitivity to and tolerance of the cultural “other,” [Islam's] apologists...end up arrogantly asserting that millions of practicing Muslims don't understand their own religion. But of course the jihadists know what their religion teaches about non-Muslims: they are categorically inferior infidels, particularly the “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians, “renegades who have rejected this final revelation [of Muhammad] out of corruption and malice and who have exchanged truth for falsehood.” They are accursed, and as such, it is the duty of every Muslim “to fight them,” in the words of the Qur'an, “until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.” In a later verse this injunction is specifically directed against Jews and Christians: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [a special tax on non-Muslims] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”I am not a specialist in Islamic doctrine. I do regularly read policy-driven and academic scholarhip on the clash between Islam and the West. I do believe that America's strength is its vastly more inclusive socio-political system than those of the European contintental democracies.
As for those fantasies of intercultural harmony entertained by many Western multiculturalists, consider this verse from the Qur'an: “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turn to them (for friendship) is of them.” As Spencer reminds us, “This is the Qur'an that pious Muslims cherish and memorize in its entirety; it is for them their primary guide to understanding how they should make their way in the world and deal with other people. It is nothing short of staggering that the myth of Islamic tolerance could have gained such currency in the teeth of the Qur'an's open contempt and hatred for Jews and Christians and incitements to violence against them.” Spencer's survey of the Hadith, the words and deeds attributed to Muhammed and second in authority to the Qur'an; the interpretations of the Hadith and Qur'an by centuries of Islamic jurisprudence; and the writings of modern Islamic radicals like Sayyid Qutb, the premier theorist of modern jihad, testifies to a consistent tradition of intolerance towards non-Muslims and the divine sanction to subdue them to Islam.
It would be foolish, however, to discount the radicalism of the Islamic faith's younger cohorts, and it would be unwise to ignore the extent to which Islam represents a competing ideology determined to prevail over its competitors.
I think the British case serves as a warning to the U.S. Melanie Phillips, a British conservative analyst, criticized President Bush recently for his tendency to appease domestic Islamic populations. It's contradictory to wage a war on terror, facing radical Islamist forces exclusively, while not speaking out accurately on the forces of extremism in our midst.
We have no interest alienating law-abiding American Muslims who denounce Islamic extremism and place American identity above religious faith. But we cannot kid ourselves in dismissing the considerable dangers on the homefront, be these migrating threats from European-based mujahideen or the global al Qaeda nework's appeal to Islamist start-ups domestically. It will be good to take of comprehensive approach to understanding Islam in America.