Five myths about mosques

Edward E. Curtis IV, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, punctures a few misconceptions about mosques in an article in The Washington Post.

It includes this on sharia:

In Islam, sharia (“the Way” to God) theoretically governs every human act. But Muslims do not agree on what sharia says; there is no one sharia book of laws. Most mosques in America do not teach Islamic law for a simple reason: It’s too complicated for the average believer and even for some imams.

Islamic law includes not only the Koran and the Sunna (the traditions of the prophet Muhammad) but also great bodies of arcane legal rulings and pedantic scholarly interpretations. If mosques forced Islamic law upon their congregants, most Muslims would probably leave — just as most Christians might walk out of the pews if preachers gave sermons exclusively on Saint Augustine, canon law and Greek grammar. Instead, mosques study the Koran and the Sunna and how the principles and stories in those sacred texts apply to their everyday lives.

And this on the character of most American mosques:

There is a danger that as anti-Muslim prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed community center near Ground Zero — alienated young Muslims will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s mosques. So far, that has not happened on a large scale.

Through their mosques, U.S. Muslims are embracing the community involvement that is a hallmark of the American experience. In this light, mosques should be welcomed as premier sites of American assimilation, not feared as incubators of terrorist indoctrination.

Category : The Lead

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8 Comments
  1. Robert Martin

    Jim, since the professor writes in light of the Ground Zero mosque, I note this passage from what you’ve quoted:

    “There is a danger that as anti-Muslim prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed community center near Ground Zero — alienated young Muslims will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s mosques.”

    Amazing. Is the professor saying (1) that any opposition to Islam must be Muslim prejudice, and (2) that confronted with opposition, Muslims will turn violent??

    Let’s replace the word “Muslim” in that passage and review it:

    –There is a danger that as anti-Episcopalian prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed Episcopal church near Ground Zero — alienated young Episcopalians will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s Hispanic centers.

    –There is a danger that as anti-lesbigay prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed community center near Ground Zero — alienated young lesbigays will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s lesbigay centers.

    –There is a danger that as anti-Republican prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed Republican field office near Ground Zero — alienated young Republicans will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s Republican field offices.

    –There is a danger that as anti-Hispanic prejudice increases — as it has recently in reaction to the proposed Hispanic center near Ground Zero — alienated young Hispanics will turn away from the peaceful path advocated by their elders in America’s Hispanic centers.

    What can be the explanation for the professor’s choice of words?

  2. Robert, if that were a serious question, I’d try to answer it. But you are just playing word games.

  3. Let me elaborate on that in a less flippant way. I think you are obviously smart enough to understand that the position of young Muslims and Latinos in our society is quite a bit different than the status of Episcopalians and Republicans, and that the more marginal a population feels, the less stake they perceive themselves to hold in our society, the more likely they are to act against that society. So I feel that these comparisons are not valid, and that you are baiting me.

  4. Bill Ghrist

    For a more in depth understanding of what the professor is saying, I would recommend that you look at Krista Tippet’s Speaking of Faith episode: Reflections of a Former Islamist Extremist., “British activist Ed Husain was seduced, at the age of 16, by revolutionary Islamist ideals that flourished at the heart of educated British culture. Yet he later shrank back from radicalism after coming close to a murder and watching people he loved become suicide bombers. He dug deeper into Islamic spirituality, and now offers a fresh and daring perspective on the way forward.”

    Read the transcript or listen to the produced program or, better yet, listen to the full, unedited interview.

    An important point that Ed Husain makes in the interview is the difference between the British and American Islamic communities and why young, educated British Muslims are so much more susceptible to extremism than are American Muslims. He says that Muslims (and other immigrant communities) in Britain tend not to think of themselves as British, but remain culturally separate from the wider British community. On the other hand, American Muslims strongly identify themselves as Americans.

    This is what is at stake if anti-Muslim prejudice gains the upper hand in the U.S. Not only do we risk alienating young, educated American Muslims and making them more susceptible to the type of Islamist Extremism that has flourished in Britain, but we may lose the American Muslim community’s leadership in advancing a more modern, moderate Islam worldwide.

  5. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    The other thing to consider Robert is that there really are not radicalized forms of the other groups that you mention in comparison. There are no radicalized GLBTQ alternatives demanding the attention of GLBTQ folks, here or abroad.

    The same goes for every other group you mention. And yet there are radicalized forms of some other groups you did not mention, two being white racists and Zionists. And they have agent agitators present in your general population looking for dissatisfied youth to recruit. And there are radicalized forms of Islam scattered throughout the world who have websites, as well as agent agitators seeking dissatisfied youth also to recruit.

    So I think that the professor makes good sense. If the general US population starts stigmatizing Muslims, starts harassing and persecuting Muslims in various localities, as a nation you drive the moderating factors away and you leave dissatisfied Muslim youth disenfranchised and susceptible to radicalized Islam.

  6. Robert Martin

    Jim, I’m not baiting you at all, far from it, and this is not a word game, but a legitimate concern. (I’m not trying to “win” anything, by the way, I am under the impression we are here for a discussion, I arrive and comment in good faith.)

    The very language the professor is using when applied to other groups, begins to chip away and undermine the other points in his apologia. Do you not believe so?

    His starting point, like ours, is the NY mosque–yet look how effortlessly the professor’s own words spin out from there and regular worship, to implicate violence, extremism, and disaffection, which are referenced not as aberrations but as givens.

    What other of the groups mentioned above, or indeed any group, would tolerate such referencing, indeed, even use it as a prod to acceptance or silence?

    The ones David mentions are violent and criminal!

    In response to the professor’s point, which he himself brings out, your response and David’s, also reference the close locus to violence and extremism implicit not only in this discussion, but in the experience of regular Muslim worship in this country.

    This is incredible to me, especially in light of the professor’s other assertions.

    There are millions of disaffected, annoyed people–yet the professor paints these particular “disaffected youth” as heading straight to Islamist violence and all that we know this means, unless, unless….

    I guess his other points don’t get over this hurdle for me, and so his apologia amounts to, if they experience prejudice, they may Islamicize!

  7. Russel Kester

    I tend to agree with Robert Martin’s thoughts. From where does this tendency to violence arise in a community which repeatedly claims it pursues peace? A review of the history of Islam does not seem so peaceful to me (and no, pointing at any other religious community and saying they did it too does not excuse Islam). I believe even the Psalms refer to persons who speak peace with their lips while there is war in their hearts. And certainly Prime Minister Chamberlain during WWII learned that even a signed treaty of apeasement was worthless if one of the parties uses it as a tool to lower an opponent’s guard. No, Islam is a concern. My liberal heart really wants all of us to share in loving ecumenical fellowship with all faith groups. But the wonderful mind God gave me warns me to pay attention to the signs and test the spirits; so to speak.

  8. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    Russell you appear to misunderstand human behavior, especially among the young, with you comment. This is not limited to Muslims. They are just the folks de jour to be scapegoated with your misapplied logic. Your nation’s history is replete with group after group being the identified national enemy, starting with the folks who lived on the land before the arrival of the first Europeans, through every immigrant group that followed those Europeans to these shores.

    Take any group, your choice, you marginalize them, make them the nationally identified enemy, persecute them, discriminate against them, as you lot are currently doing with US Muslims, then you create an ideological vacuum. Disenfranchised youth, seeing that the ideology of their elders is not bringing change to their situation, seeing that it is not defeating the prejudice and discrimination, are then ripe for a radicalized form of their ideology. It has happened over and over in human history.

    The only folks that I have seen turn the other cheek in your country of recent memory are the Amish who suffered the loss of a number of community children in the schoolhouse massacre. The rest of you could learn much from them and their example. You would solve many of your national issues if you did.

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