To be young, Muslim, and American. Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By PETER SKERRY
The Boston Marathon bombings highlighted, once again, the challenges of assimilating Muslim youth. And while the onus of accountability ought not rest exclusively on Muslim Americans, it understandably weighs most heavily on them. Indeed, any fair-minded assessment of recent events must underscore the inadequacies of Muslim-American leaders. Yet the usual criticisms are wide of the mark and fail to identify the institutional as well as intellectual weaknesses of these leaders.
In general we too easily overlook—even in the midst of a raging debate over our immigration policy—what Norman Podhoretz once referred to as “the brutal bargain” that immigrant children must accept in order to assimilate into the society their parents chose for them. For Muslims today, the drama involves not so much overcoming poverty and educational deficits but adapting to a society whose values are sharply at odds with their religious heritage. Among Muslim-American youth, especially since 9/11, this has led to heightened criticism and suspicion of U.S. government policies at home and abroad. More generally, it has resulted in a hard-edged identity politics that has encouraged some young Muslims to define themselves not only in opposition to the government but to American society and culture.
Marcia Hermansen, a Muslim who is also a professor of Islamic studies at Loyola University in Chicago, recounts her shock when she “encountered some Muslim students on my campus who seemed to feel vindicated by the destruction and loss of life on September 11.” As she elaborates, “Quite a number of Muslim youth in America are becoming rigidly conservative and condemnatory of their peers (Muslim and non-Muslim), their parents, and all who are not within a narrow ideological band of what I will define as internationalist, ‘identity’ Islam.”
This trend was picked up by Pew pollsters who reported in 2007 that Muslims older than 30 were much less likely (28 percent) than those aged 18-29 (42 percent) to agree that “there is a natural conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.” When it surveyed Muslims again in 2011, Pew asked if “there is only one true way to interpret the teachings of Islam”: 31 percent of foreign-born Muslims agreed, but 46 percent of native-born Muslims did. Also that year, Pew found that 58 percent of foreign-born Muslims agreed “the American people are generally friendly toward Muslim Americans,” compared with only 37 percent of their native-born offspring.
Among many Muslim-American youth, there is self-conscious rejection of their parents’ easygoing, traditionalist understanding of Islam, inevitably suffused with the customs of their homeland. The youthful response is frequent invocations of the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims that ideally transcends all barriers of ethnicity, race, and nationality. Sustained by such Islamist constructs, young Muslims on college campuses often trump their parents’ insistence that they marry within their ethnic group with a religiously grounded ethic that prioritizes marrying another Muslim regardless of ethnic or racial background.
As Hermansen notes, such youthful perspectives entail a “religious and cultural superiority . . . a mindless and rigid rejection of ‘the Other’ . . . a smug pride in one’s superior manifestation of visible symbols of identity.” One result is a preoccupation with “the evils of Western cultural elements such as the celebration of birthdays, Halloween, and prom night.” And while this mindset does not typically lead to violence, it was clearly on display when Tamerlan Tsarnaev disrupted speakers at his Cambridge mosque when they embraced the celebration of American national holidays such as Thanksgiving and praised a non-Muslim religious leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
Hermansen argues that such views have been “allowed to run unchecked and uncriticized . . . even been encouraged among youth by mainstream Muslim organizations in America.” In fact, Muslim-American leaders have themselves espoused such views, especially before 9/11. Yet since then, these leaders have been struggling, however opportunistically, to adapt to the realities of American life. The problem is that they have all too often led their followers down blind alleys.
For example, in the 1970s and 1980s Muslim leaders explicitly urged their people to avoid assimilating into the American mainstream and to withdraw into Islamic community centers, schools, and colleges. Paradoxically, they also encouraged Muslims to do dawa and seek to convert the very Americans they were to shun. Similarly, these leaders denounced U.S. foreign policies impacting the ummah but discouraged Muslims here from participating in the political process.
12:45 PM, Feb 13, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Kosovo, the Albanian-majority Balkan republic, is probably best known for its fervent pro-Americanism, understandable given the role of U.S.-led NATO forces in assisting its 1.8 million inhabitants against Serbian oppression in 1999. American troops in Kosovo are drawn from National Guard units and have fallen below a thousand, but continue to symbolize a commitment that Kosovars consider indispensable to their future.
10:43 AM, Jan 3, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The small republic of Kosovo, with a population of less than two million—90 percent ethnic Albanians, of whom 80 percent are Muslim—is the Balkan zone offering the greatest resistance to radical Islam. Some vignettes from recent interviews may impart the flavor of the debate over Islamism in the country:
10:50 AM, May 6, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Tariq Ramadan is the latest in a long chorus to criticize the Obama administration for killing Osama bin Laden. The organization that his grandfather Hassan al-Banna started, the Muslim Brotherhood, along with its Palestinian branch Hamas, mourned the death of the holy warrior, while more moderate voices, like the Sheikh of Al Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb, simply complained that his death rites were inappropriate. Ramadan seems to align himself with the latter. “It's very strange,” Ramadan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “that we drop his body in the sea, against all the Islamic rituals, and we are told the Islamic rituals and principles are respected.”
And he's a golfer, too.Aug 30, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Ike’s not a Communist, he’s a golfer." That was Russell Kirk’s succinct response to the claim by John Birchers in the 1950s that President Eisenhower was a Communist.
So what?7:18 PM, Aug 19, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In March 2009, a Pew poll found that 11 percent of Americans incorrectly believed President Obama was a Muslim. A new Pew poll shows that that number has increased to 18 percent. Does this seven-point jump have any significance? Maybe. Maybe not.
From Pakistan to Bosnia.4:00 PM, Aug 9, 2010 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The people of Pakistan, and Muslims as well as non-Muslims around the world, were horrified when, at midnight on July 1, three bombers struck the Data Darbar Sufi shrine in Lahore.
12:00 PM, Apr 14, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
The young Kosovo Republic, with an overwhelming Muslim majority but a tradition of moderate Islam and a secular constitution, has joined Tunisia and France in prohibiting girls attending public schools from wearing the headscarf (hijab). As in Turkey, where the ban on headscarves, instituted in the 1920s, has become a matter for judicial controversy, decisions against the headscarf by local and school authorities have produced a legal case and complaints of discrimination.
The niqab problem.12:00 AM, Feb 11, 2010 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Proposals to ban niqab, the face veil worn by some Muslim women, are gaining support in France and Britain. France saw its first crime by “burqa bandits” on February 6, when two men wearing head-to-foot female “Islamic” garments robbed a post office in the Parisian suburb of Athis-Mons. The men gained entrance by convincing the clerks that they were women, then lifted their veils to disclose that they were not, drew at least one firearm, and stole about $6,000.
Khaled Abou El Fadl's mysterious Egyptian interview.Dec 22, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 15 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
DR. KHALED ABOU EL FADL'S reputation as a moderate Muslim thinker earned him a seat on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom last May. He is an accomplished legal scholar and an expert on Islamic jurisprudence. Born in Kuwait and bred in Egypt, Abou El Fadl is a professor at UCLA Law School with degrees from Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, remarks made in an unguarded moment--and subsequently distorted by the Egyptian press--have just landed him in trouble.
From the November 3, 2003 issue: Meet Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, a voice for human rights in the Muslim world.Nov 3, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 08 • By AMIR TAHERI
Editor's Note: The Nobel Committee's decision to name Iranian human-rights lawyer and activist Shirin Ebadi the 2003 peace laureate has turned her into a household name throughout Iran and the Muslim world.
Moreover, the 56-year-old Ebadi has become an alternative source of moral authority in Iran--and a rare figure of consensus in that fractious society. With the exception of the hardline Khomeinists who have branded her "an enemy of Islam," Ebadi has won praise from virtually all Iranians--from left to right.
HBO's documentary on the Moscow theater hostage crisis is disturbing, wrenching, and definitely worth watching.7:30 AM, Oct 23, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
"WE'VE COME TO RUSSIA'S CAPITAL CITY to stop the war or die here for Allah. . . . I swear to Allah, we desire death more than you want life." These words, spoken by Chechen terrorist Movsar Barayev, open "Terror in Moscow," a grim and stomach-churning look at the Moscow theater hostage crisis of October 2002. Producer/director Dan Reed was able to obtain (for the right price) videos from the FSB (formerly KGB), footage recorded by the terrorists themselves, and broadcasts from Radio Ekho Moskvy.