Dr. Robert Crane on
The future of Muslims in America
Date: 12/15/03 12:14:39 AM Eastern Standard Time
Dear Dr. Crane,
I am currently conducting a study of
the civil liberties crisis engulfing the American Muslim community since
September 11, 2001. The research is being directed toward a book
that will lay out the recent crisis and I am eager to gain some feedback
on ideas that I am exploring. I am hoping to obtain the
insight of a number of influential leaders and commentators from within
the American Muslim community. Given your expert knowledge and vast
experiences in the many years of American Muslim institution building,
I would greatly appreciate if you could please shed light on the
following issues. You need only to address questions you feel
comfortable elaborating on. Thank you very much.
The questions asked by Ahmed Yousef are given below along with Dr. Crane's
Q. How do you see the future of Islam and Islamic institutions in America
in the short-term and the long-term?
A. Islam in the sense of awareness of Allah and commitment to
righteousness will not suffer from repression either in the short or long
term. Suffering usually strengthens both taqwa and iman.
Muslims as a self-aware community with political institutions will suffer
in the short-run because Muslims fear that a high-profile is dangerous in
the dominant American atmosphere of prosecutorial paranoia.
Q. What are the most probable scenarios that you expect to take place in
the coming months and years?
A. The most probably scenario is that the Muslim community will be split
among three approaches to a hostile environment. Perhaps half of all
Muslims will become more secular and try to assimilate into their
surroundings, as most Jews did in 19th century Europe. This, of
course, is suicidal for a Muslim.
Perhaps another forty percent will maintain the practices of Islam but
retreat into a ghetto mentality that rejects cooperation with or even
acceptance of the larger community. This approach became dominant in
twentieth century Judaism worldwide, especially after the Holocaust.
This is suicidal over the long run. The remaining ten percent will
redouble efforts to integrate into American society by bringing the wisdom
of Islam to American life and institutions in order to improve America and
enlighten its governmental policies, both
domestic and foreign.
This ten percent cohort of Muslims in America may grow
rapidly as the second-generation Muslims and indigenous converts rise to
Q. What is required of the community on the one hand, and its leadership
on the other hand, to overcome the current dilemma, with its attacks on
Islam, Muslim leaders, and institutions?
A. The silent majority of un-organized Muslims must become more active and
cooperate with all organized Muslims, and the organized Muslims,
especially in the seven major Muslim organizations at the national level,
must learn to value and cooperate with the politically inactive Muslims.
The Muslim Brotherhood organizations are the only highly visible
organizations. They are targeted by non-Muslim political extremists
because they have political agendas and therefore are seen as threats.
The image of Muslims must shift to reflect the more spiritual agendas of
the silent majority and the overlapping agendas of those, especially the
African Americans, who are more concerned with the social justice issues
that concern most Americans.
Q. Do you believe that it is still possible to fulfill the dream of
Muslims in America? If so, how would you characterize it and the ways it
is to be achieved?
A. The dream of Muslims in America is no more than the dream of all
Americans, which is to be free and prosperous. This dream can be
fulfilled only if it is part of a higher dream to revive the best of
classical American and classical Islamic thought, which are identical.
This was well expressed by Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves but whose
republican principles led to the eventual abolition of slavery. He
taught that no free people can remain free unless they are properly
educated. Education consists primarily in learning virtue.
And, he emphasized that an entire people can remain virtuous only within a
religious framework, whereby the wisdom of all traditional religions
informs and pervades all private and public life. The mission of
Muslims in America, like people of other faith traditions, is to deepen
awareness and love of Allah.
The dream of Muslims in America can be achieved only by joining the
Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa salam, in one of his favorite
prayers: Allahumma, asaluka hubbaka wa hubba man yuhibuka wa hubba
kuli 'amali yuqaribuni ila hubbika, "Oh Allah, I ask you for
your love, and for the love of those who
love you, and for the love of everything that will bring me closer to your
love." Everything else is fantasy.