Public Discourse: A Glimpse into the American Mosque

In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Mericful Precious Beloved

Here is another review of All American that I published on The Public Discourse.

On June 22, the Justice Department indicted a Texas man of threatening a Tennessee mosque that is currently under construction. According to the indictment, last September, Javier A. Correa left a message on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s phone allegedly saying: “On Sept. 11, 2011, there’s going to be a bomb in the building.” This is just the latest salvo in a long battle fought by opponents of this mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Opponents of the mosque worry about radical Islam and Sharia law: “We don’t want Shariah law. We don’t want a Constitution-free zone in Rutherford County [Tennessee],” said attorney Joe Brandon, Jr., to National Public Radio.

Yet the fight in Murfreesboro is nothing new. Muslim communities across the country have had to deal with angry opponents of the construction of mosques in their communities. As Kathleen Foley of the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding writes in her report on the American mosque: “Many myths have emerged regarding mosques in the United States, including that they are sources of radicalization among American Muslims, that they are led by extremist clergy, and that they host practices that border on the occult.”

Yet these claims are just that: myths, and all one has to do is look into the mosque to see the truth for oneself. In 2011, researchers conducted a comprehensive study of mosques across America. The second of their reports was released in May, and it showed that mosques are a force for good in the communities in which they reside. Among the survey’s findings: 63 percent of mosques conducted outreach activities in the past year, such as open houses for neighbors; 79 percent are involved in interfaith activities. Contrary to the perceptions of many, the overwhelming majority (70%) of Friday sermons are conducted in English.

The vast majority (88%) of American mosque leaders say domestic abuse should be addressed. A majority of mosque leaders (71%) agree that their mosque is working for social justice, and African American mosques are even more likely (87%) to be active in social justice. What’s more, mosques compare favorably to other houses of worship in terms of social services. Surveys show that only 26 percent of congregations of other faith traditions are involved in providing some type of health programming, as compared to 45 percent of mosques. Only 29 percent of other religious congregations are involved in community-organizing activities, while 47 percent of mosques are involved in these types of activities. (The full study can be read here.)

The study offers a view of the mosque from a “macro” level. In Wajahat Ali and Zahra Suratwala’s All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim, however, we can see the mosque at the ground level...

Read the rest of the essay here.

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