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America in Islam

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Publication Date: December 2004

Publisher(s): Hudson Institute

Author(s): Hillel Fradkin

Funder(s): Hudson Institute

Funder(s): Hudson Institute

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)

Type: Report


For all practical purposes, the question of Islam in America is little more than a generation old. Yet it is already extraordinarily complicated and burdensome, both for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, with no signs of becoming any less so. This is true for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that there are not one but two questions: that of Islam in America and America in Islam. The latter question had been growing in importance within the general Muslim world over the last two to three decades. It became the defining issue, however, with the September 11 terrorist attacks, undertaken as they were as an act of war against America in the name of Islam. American Muslims, then, are forced to answer this question not only as U.S. citizens seeking to define their place in that society, but also as members of a worldwide Muslim community for whom this debate is charged and divisive.

The fact that most American Muslims are recent immigrants means they bring this contentious debate with them from their countries of origin. My Muslim friends and acquaintances often say this is a burden they would prefer to be without, seeking in America, as they do, like many immigrants before them, a more secure and comfortable life rather than a religious mission or conflict. Instead, their religious concerns—if they have any, for many American Muslims have weak ties to their religious rituals and institutions—are more immediate: Is there a mosque in the vicinity, and is it one to which they should attach themselves? Where can one buy halal meat, meat that fulfills the requirements of the Muslim dietary code? Above all, most American Muslims do not share the terrorists’ view of the United States and do not wish to be implicated in their violence.