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Engy Abdelkader

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5 Myths About American Muslims 10 Years After 9/11

Posted: 09/08/11 07:33 PM ET

While 9/11 thrust the American Muslim community into the center of public attention nearly a decade ago, misinformation regarding this group persists against an alarming back-drop of rising Islamophobia.

The following five myths are worth noting. To be sure, many more exist. But I have chosen to highlight these five because they contribute profoundly to unfavorable views about American Muslims and exacerbate the public's perception of Islamic radicalism in the Muslim community:

1. American Muslims don't cooperate with law enforcement officials.

In truth, since 9/11 the Muslim American community has assisted law enforcement officials to prevent more than 40 percent of al Qaeda terrorist plots against America.

The largest single source of initial information to authorities about plots has come from the American Muslim community.

Indeed, securing the homeland is a shared commitment and a significant priority to the American Muslim community.

As President Obama highlighted in his address to the nation following the death of Osama bin Laden, "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own."

The American Muslim community has a vested interest in preventing another terrorist attack from occurring on American soil -- first and foremost because the United States is their home, but also because they stand the most to lose should another attack occur on American soil (e.g. loss of life, discriminatory backlash, defamation of Islam).

2. Mosques are hotbeds of extremism, terrorism in the American Muslim community.

A two-year study on American Muslims titled "Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans" by Professors David Schanzer and Charles Kurzman, with Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina respectively, found that current mosques are in fact a deterrent to the spread of radical Islam and terrorism.

Those who have never attended a service at a modern American mosque may be surprised to learn that sermons delivered by Muslim leaders often focus upon a Muslim's duty to donate generously to charity; anger management; demonstrating respect toward one's husband or wife; the virtues of patience and forgiveness in Islamic tradition; the significance of participating in American civic life by exercising the right to vote in local and national elections; or respecting the rule of law in your place of abode.

Moreover, in the past decade many prominent American Muslim spiritual leaders have used the pulpit to condemn acts of religious extremism and violence, which should not be surprising since an enlightened understanding of Islamic law reveals terrorism is inimical to its principles.

3. Sharia is threatening to infiltrate the American legal system.

The most apt response to this imaginary threat comes from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) who observed that this "Sharia law business is just crap."

There is simply no credible evidence to bolster the claim that American Muslims are pushing the implementation of sharia in America. As a related American Civil Liberties Union report highlights, the proponents of so-called anti-sharia bans have failed to demonstrate a single case of sharia overtaking our judicial system.

4. Muslim leaders don't condemn acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam.

The overwhelming majority of American Muslim leaders have unequivocally done so. University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kurzman has compiled a list of condemnations by Muslim leaders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks specifically.

They have also regularly engaged in outreach with the law enforcement community and worked to strengthen inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding with the interfaith and larger community around them.

5. Every practicing Muslim engages in taqiyyah, which is religiously mandated lying.

Most American Muslims are likely unfamiliar with the term; it simply is not part of the community's vernacular. Yet, here it is.

Taqiyya is an Arabic word that means concealing one's faith out of fear of death.

Its historical relevance derives from the very first Muslims whose profession of faith in the one God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus made them vulnerable to torture and other religious persecution by their pagan brethren in the Arabian Peninsula almost 1,500 years ago.

Today, your average Muslim has learned from childhood that lying is wrong much like her American counterparts, and thankfully the community is not subject to the same treatment that the first Muslims endured so long ago.

To believe that a person is untrustworthy simply because that individual happens to subscribe to Islam is offensive and equally morally repugnant as if one were to regard any other member of a minority group in a similar light just because of their religious, racial, ethnic or other identity.

In sum, the only way to counter misinformation is through education -- in schools and universities, at the work place and among ourselves.

Engy Abdelkader is a Legal Fellow with the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding.


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