10 July 2010: Journey into America
In introducing his latest book "Journey into America" at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington this evening, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, took us into the hearts and minds of Muslims throughout the world and the issues that face all of its citizens. Ahmed is considered to be "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam" by the BBC.
The book is based on a four-year project, a study of the Muslim community in America today. Dr. Ahmed's primary calling is anthropology, and he put these skills to good use, spending a year of field work traveling the country to discover Muslims throughout the country, who number 7 million in total (including two recently elected Muslim Congressmen. With him went a group of students, to conduct a wide range of interviews everywhere from South Alabama to Utah, where he was surprised to receive a warm welcome from the Mormons.
The greatest amount of objectivity possible was necessary for them to draw any valid conclusions from their observations--a huge challenge for any group of humans or anthropologists, let alone those in an oppressed category.
He said that in South Alabama, in discussions about issues including terrorism, he was glad to have young, strong traveling companions. They were fed and sheltered by Muslim families throughout the country.
The study, Ahmed said, was the first of its kind, "rich in ethnography and international relations."
Since 9/11, as we all know, the Muslim community worldwide has suffered slings of misfortune, blamed by many others for that abomination--in the United States in particular where, he said, Muslims say that mistreatment of Jews and African Americans is condemned as a disgrace, while Muslims here are considered at a lower level.
(Strictly speaking, things are not all that black and white--those quoted should tour our prison system, from Bernie Madoff [no white-collar minimum security for him!] to the latest drug pusher to be thrown into the slammer--Jew and black--with full support of the public, including Muslims.)
In that Muslims comprise 25 percent of the world's population, at 1.5 billion, in fifty-seven countries, it behooves us to follow the guiding light of the founding fathers, to whom religious freedom was paramount to a civilized society.