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Arsalan Iftikhar

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Welcome To The Post-Osama Era

Posted: 10/03/11 04:14 PM ET

During the waning midnight hours of a late Sunday evening on May 1, 2011, our United States President Barack Obama walked into the East Room of the White House to announce to the world that Osama bin Laden had finally been killed in Pakistan. As our nation recently finished commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks here stateside, there have also been other positive trends between Americans of different backgrounds which definitively show that our world is now entering into the very beginning stages of the 'Post-Osama Era.'

To highlight some of these positive societal trends within America, the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center recently released a very comprehensive study entitled "Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future" which gives a fascinating look into a cross-section of the American Muslim societal experience exactly one decade after the tragic September 11 attacks on our country.

To be certain, there have been high-profile national controversies including the proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan (also known as the 'Ground Zero Mosque'), Republican Peter King's controversial congressional hearings on "Radicalization within the American Muslim community" and the current upsurge in 'anti-Sharia' legislation in state which have put the Muslim-American community tensely within the national headlines. Even so, this recent Gallup report found that "while they continue to experience some perceived bias -- both in their interactions with other Americans and in their exchanges with law enforcement -- Muslim Americans are satisfied with their current lives and are more optimistic than other faith groups that things are getting better" as a whole.

Since Islam is certainly the most vilified and misunderstood religion around America today, it should also come as little surprise that the Gallup study found that over 37 percent of American Protestants, 35 percent of Catholics and 32 percent of Mormons across the United States think that Muslim Americans are "not loyal citizens to America." On the contrary, it was very encouraging in the Gallup study to see that over 80 percent of Jewish Americans say that American Muslims are actually loyal citizens (and not a threat) to the United States.

Because of this general mistrust of Islam around America, the Gallup study also found that nearly 60 percent of American Muslims stated that they have faced some form of overt prejudice from other Americans and nearly 66 percent of Jewish Americans similarly agreed that most Americans harbor some xenophobic prejudice against Muslims in general.

Another silver lining of this report was that the Gallup study found that Jewish Americans are also among the least likely religious groups to believe that Muslim Americans sympathize with al Qaeda; with 70 percent of Jewish Americans saying that they do not believe Muslim Americans feel this way. Muslim Americans and Jewish Americans -- the two major U.S. religious groups with the biggest stake in the decades-long Middle East conflict -- also have similar views about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved. A substantial majority of Muslim Americans (81 percent) and Jewish Americans (78 percent) both overwhelmingly support a future in which an independent Palestinian state would coexist peacefully alongside of Israel.

Although many Americans would ultimately come to learn about Muslims in a negative light from the 9/11 attacks, it is important to note some of the positive societal contributions that Muslims have given to the world. For example, most people do not know that it was Muslims who invented algebra and many people would also probably be surprised to learn that it was a Muslim who designed the Sears Tower in my hometown of Chicago.

Also, the greatest American boxer ever -- Muhammad Ali -- and the funniest dude in America -- Dave Chappelle- are both Muslims. Even more significantly, Muslims have won three out of the last 10 Nobel Peace Prizes. But more important than Nobel Peace Prizes, it is Muslim culture that has brought crunchy falafel, henna tattoos and yummy hummus to our beloved American shores. As we have also seen from the peaceful 'Arab Spring' nonviolent grassroots pro-democracy movements through the Middle East and North Africa, our next generation of post-Osama Muslims are beginning to understand that only through peaceful nonviolent movements can we truly affect positive sociopolitical change within any corner of the world. Over the last ten years, we have seen that the bankrupt ideology of 'Bin Ladenism' had not helped build one school, educate one girl or build one water purification center to help better any society around the world.

As Americans of all races, ethnicities and religions mobilized together to honor the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our beloved nation, let us hope that our global community can utilize this pivotal crossroads moment within our shared historical timeline in a positive manner to help usher in the beginnings of this new post-Osama Era.