Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Will Americans accept Islam?

Will Americans accept Islam?
A partial answer to this article is linked below.

The president has tried to tackle this issue head-on, even as polling reveals a wary public.
By Stephen Prothero

Earlier this month, at a White House dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, President Obama said some things that conservative talk show hosts love to rewind and repeat. In the presence of diplomats, business executives and members of Congress, Obama described Islam as "part of America" and hailed "its commitment to justice and progress." He then called Islam "a great religion." His fellow Americans are not so sure.

According to a new Pew survey of American attitudes toward Islam, a strong majority (58%) of Americans now acknowledge that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims. Hispanics, blacks and atheists fare better. Only gay men and lesbians are seen as worse off than Muslims, with 64% of Americans saying there is a lot of discrimination against them.

Raw Associated Press video of President Obama speaking during the Iftar dinner commemorating Ramadan.

Unfortunately, Americans don't seem either willing or able to do much about this bigotry. According to Pew, over half of Americans admit that they do not know a Muslim, and when asked two simple questions about Islam — the name Muslims use for God (Allah) and the Islamic holy book (the Quran) — only 41% got both right. If America's future with Islamic countries hangs in part on U.S. citizens and their elected representatives having some basic Islamic literacy, that future is hanging by a thread.

Who are we? One of the questions Americans have asked themselves since the Revolution concerns the religious character of the United States. Is this a secular nation, as our godless Constitution suggests? Or is it, as our citizens' religious preferences intimate, a Christian country? During much of the 19th century, the U.S. was widely perceived as a Protestant nation. After World War II, as the Cold War haunted us with the specter of atheistic communism, Jews and Catholics were welcomed into the American fold. Immediately after 9/11, this Judeo-Christian past seemed to be yielding to a Judeo-Christian-Islamic future. Today most of that Abrahamic talk has gone the way of the Latin Mass.

This new Pew poll shows that Catholics and Jews are viewed favorably among roughly two-thirds of the American public — a figure roughly equivalent to the favorable ratings enjoyed on Inauguration Day by Michelle Obama. So Catholics and Jews continue to sit comfortably alongside Protestants under America's sacred canopy. Muslims, however, are left out in the cold. Their favorable rating of only 38% (roughly President Bush's marks upon Obama's inauguration) is lower than at any time since 9/11.

With the health care showdown upon us, and multiple wars in the Middle East, President Obama has a lot on his plate. Even so, he seems determined to do something about religion, too, or more precisely about religious tolerance.

Democrats have traditionally bent over backward to avoid committing religion in public. During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy felt compelled to promise that he would never let his private Catholic faith affect any public decision he might make as president. And when John Kerry bid for the Oval Office in 2004, he seemed about as comfortable discussing his Catholicism as he would have been selling Tupperware products door-to-door.

After Bush's victory over Kerry in 2004, however, the Democrats got religion. While Hillary Clinton yoked her views on immigration reform to the Good Samaritan story, Obama made friends with megachurch pastors. In his inaugural address, he spoke of the United States as neither a secular nor a Christian country but a multireligious "nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers."

Eboo Patel, executive director of Interfaith Youth Corps and a practicing Muslim, was at the White House Ramadan dinner. He was gratified to hear Obama describe Islam as a "great religion," but Bush did the same, so in his view that is not the story. The story is that the event was not restricted to Muslims. High-ranking members of the Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder, were on the guest list. So were megachurch pastor Joel Hunter and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. "It was great that Saperstein and Hunter were there," Patel told me. "A roomful of Muslims in the White House is an interest group. But a roomful of Muslims, Jews and Christians — that's America."

The pastor in chief President Bush was widely criticized for wearing his faith on his sleeve. But even more than Bush, in fact more than any president in recent memory, Obama has used the bully pulpit as a pulpit. In his eulogy for Ted Kennedy, where he spoke of love and faith and God, Obama looked more like America's pastor in chief than its commander in chief. In major addresses to Catholics in May and to Muslims in June, he proved that all religion is local, too, speaking of Catholic social thought at the University of Notre Dame and of the Quran in Egypt. On all these occasions, he preached a gospel of tolerance rooted not in wishy-washy liberalism but in neo-orthodox theology — the sort of faith that "admits doubt" and in the process "humble(s) us" before our Maker.

This new Pew survey gathered much useful data, but it wasted time and money in determining that roughly two-thirds of Americans see Islam as either "somewhat different" or "very different" from their own religions. The question isn't whether Christianity and Islam are similar or different. The question is whether religious (and non-religious) people can find common ground. On this point, Patel is unequivocal. "Religions are different," he says, "but they have shared values." The challenge is "to identify shared values such as mercy, compassion and service," and then to advance from there to shared projects.

In his public pronouncements on religion, Obama has repeatedly invoked the Golden Rule as common ground. But like Patel, he does not pretend that all religions are the same, and like his predecessor he does not shy away from speaking as a "committed Christian." At Notre Dame, he denounced "outworn prejudice" as "rooted in original sin." In Obama's view, there is not just something wrong but something un-Christian about discrimination against Muslims, or against any other religious (or non-religious) group.

Unfortunately, this study did not ask Americans what they think of anti-Muslim discrimination. Do those who see discrimination against Muslims want it to end? Or would they like to see more of it? According to Patel, that is the $1 million question — "not who faces bigotry, but who would stand up against it."

Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn't.

(Illustration by Keith Simmons, USA TODAY)

The answer to the article

Are Muslims Part of the American story?


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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.