Muslims reconstructing themselves as American-Muslims, professor says

There’s been a “silent revolution” for Muslims living in America since Sept. 11, religious studiesprofessor Liyakat Takim said at a Humanities Institute faculty lecture March 13.

“Before Sept. 11, there were Muslims living in America; now there are American-Muslims,” he said. “They realized their American citizenship was at stake.”

Takim said that after Sept. 11, some Islamic students visited him fearing they were being victimized. “Islam is seen as exotic [in America],” he said. “People [would] mistake Islam as a country.”

To change this, many American Muslims have since taken their civic responsibility seriously, he said. “Mosques have become people friendly and [Muslims have] become more patriotic. They’ve realized they’ve needed to converse with Americans instead of about Americans.”

Many Muslims have also become politically active, acting as delegates to vote in both Republican and Democratic parties, Takim noted. In 2006, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to U.S. Congress.

Besides relationships with Americans, though, Sept. 11 brought Muslims in conflict with each other, mostly brought on by the multi-faceted aspects of Islam.

As with other variations of religion, Takim said there are “various levels of tension” — often between immigrant and indigenous Muslims, men and women and progressives and conservatives.

Some were angry, for example, when Muslim immigrants came to America and put American issues like affirmative action, racism and unemployment on the backburner. “Islamic issues like Palestine and Kashmir [instead] became American issues.”

There’s a culture of Muslims who chose to reject American laws and culture. But many others say you have to live the law of the land. “They think, if you don’t like it, leave,” he said.

Takim’s book, The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma and Religious Authority in Shi’ite Islam, recently was named the 2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title by SUNY Press.

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