Last week, we shared a few responses from Muslim readers discussing the place of Islam in America. This week, four Muslim women share their thoughts as part of our ongoing Washington Post series. Check out the original questions we asked. On Faith invites Muslim readers to join the ongoing discussion and answer the questions at bottom of this post.
Sarah Kajani, 23, a social media consultant from Atlanta, said radicalization seems “so far away” to American Muslims.
“When it becomes part of a discussion, it is usually raised by non-Muslims. Either they ask if I believe or practice Islam like Bin Laden or what do I have to say about the actions of Islamist radicals? How can I stand their actions? But the one point I continue to raise is the fact that every religion has radicals. I believe Islam[ic] radicalization is just overexposed within America due to the clash of civilizations, or what I like to believe is the clash of ignorance.”
Kajani said the current intense climate poses a challenge for American Muslims:
“You have to be able to stand by your identity, always having to stand up for what you believe, whether that is to the Muslim community or the American community.
Take Bin Laden's death - I mean on one hand I wanted to celebrate, the one we had been chasing for so long was finally found and killed, but at the same time this man gave every Muslim the chance to educate the world on what Islam really is. I mean of course we still get pestered at airports and people instantly judge us. But now we have the hope of really spreading the true message of Islam and hopefully shatter the clash of ignorance. At the same time, this hope places pressure on the Muslim community. It’s a delicate situation. I think it is hard to clearly define this challenging dichotomy that Muslim Americans must live."
Donna Sibaai, 45, is a realtor in Wichita and president of the American Muslim Women’s Association.
Sibaai says she talks with her children daily about what it means to be Muslim in America.
“I want them to be proud and comfortable with who they are. As an American Muslim of American-Arab Muslim children I have been exposed to stereotypes and prejudices I never knew existed. I now understand first-hand what it is like to be a minority in America. We talk a lot about the ability to be a leader and not feel influenced by others …
We talk about the fact that radicalism of any kind is often bred out of fear and ignorance, and a tool used by those who seek power and control, This has been the case throughout history. Because my children have had the chance to travel extensively outside the U.S. they find it troubling that while the media promotes an image that leads people to believe that Muslims and Islam is violent and radical, not even one of the hundreds of Muslims they have met throughout their lives, both here and abroad, has ever espoused any type of violent or radical ideology, quite the opposite actually.”
The climate of intensity surrounding the subject of American Islam is, she said, “like climbing a hill over and over again. The rhetoric against "anything foreign" seems to be at an all time high. Things that once were politically incorrect now seem to be not only acceptable and tolerated but even celebrated. Even politicians seem to running their campaigns on anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim platforms, with little knowledge or regard for the facts."
Namira Islam, a 23-year-old law student from Ann Arbor, MI, said there is no consensus among American Muslims about what role they should play in countering radicalization, “aside from: ‘we condemn radicalization.’ Some people don't see why it'd be their responsibility as they're just trying to live their lives, whereas others feel they have some duty to combat negative stereotypes of Muslims. Either way, it's a difficult task to take on, and I wish more people would engage Muslim-Americans on how to counteract radicalization. I worry about the victims and their families (so many Muslims and non-Muslims). I don't worry about people who murder innocents. God will certainly punish them for disobeying His commands.”
Anisah S. L. David, 49, is a city council woman and community advocate in Bushnell, S.D.
Growing up in the Midwest, in Rural America as Muslim Americans of European-American and Hispanic-American backgrounds, I knew they would have enough questions regarding their Identity, as fellow Americans assumed our ethnicity or our lifestyle. We talk about the difference between being MUSLIM and all the stereotypes about cultural/ethnic identity. We aren't Arab, we aren't Pakistani, we aren't Indonesian, we're not Sudanese, we're American … We went to Pow Wows and Historical Re-enactments and Art Festivals and cultural events; but they always attended events within the framework of our religious identity and moral codes…
I took great pains to expose them to diversity as did my Dad years ago, back in Colorado -- though he was Lutheran and a rancher, his ideals and mine were the same and I shared those ideals with my kids."
David said her worries about religious radicalization, but not among Muslims.
“Unlike most Americans I worry about the larger percentage of radicalization taking place in this country. Not the "cells" that are claimed to exist in Muslim populations, but in the larger population of Americans. The hate speeches and promotion of violence is scary. Reminds me of the way Nazis promoted their hate toward Jews before World War II and how few "moderate" Americans and European leaders worked to fight to stop it before lives were lost."