Muslims in America

Like it or not persecution is part of America’s narrative. Over the years we’ve discriminated against blacks, women, Jews, Catholics, gays and now we’ve turned on our Muslim neighbors.

There’s no denying that since the Sept. 11 attacks many Americans have come to fear their Muslim neighbors. There have been some improvements over the past decade – religious organizations are more involved in interfaith work and activists are speaking out, trying to educate people on Islam – but ignorance is still on the loose.

Today at the RNA conference the topic is “Muslims in America: The Next 10 Years” and we’ve heard from many speakers about Islam. Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, began the dialogue with “Radicalization: How it Happens, How to Prevent it.”

“Anyone can be a terrorist,” he said. “Why aren’t we seeing more of it?”

Because American Muslims are interested in peace-building, not terrorism.

Since 2000 Muslim extremists, believe it or not, have been losing ground. They’re having to resort to the web to recruit people, because that’s the only way they can reach new “workers.” America is actually safer from terrorists now than it was in the 1970s.  Since 9/11, there have been 22 million deaths in America. Of those, 150,000 were murders. Of those, 33 were from terrorist attacks.

But some organizations, like ACT for America, refuse to see the statistics and continue to fight radical Islam, falsely assuming that it’s alive and well in the U.S.

Eboo Patel, president of the Interfaith Youth Corp, was today’s keynote speaker and said radical Muslims overseas are attacking people, partly because of the media.

“They’re doing the killing to get video, to get you to report on it,” he said, to a room full of journalists.

The real story, perhaps, is how the majority of American Muslims are working to make America better – just like other faith groups are.

“We are going to be a part of the story of America’s expansion,” he said.

He said people of all faiths need to come together and fight injustice.

“It’s not about freedom for Muslims, it’s about freedom for everybody,” he said. “It’s not only on Muslims to stand up for Islam, but on Christian and Jews too.”

Right now a panel of young Muslims are speaking about growing up post 9-11. They’ve faced discrimination in a variety of ways but seem eager to help educate others about their faith.

Next I’ll be attending a round table discussion, “Critical Perspectives on Social Media, Youth and Politics.”

You can join me in that discussion on twitter @spokanereligion.

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