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Perspectives

LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER

Letter from the Founder

Bridging the Chasm between Islam and the West


Islam, a religion I deeply love and which is essential to my identity, is repeatedly bearing the brunt for atrocious acts being carried out in its name the world over. It is perceived as a national security threat in the United States. At the same time, America—a land I dearly love and whose values I cherish—arouses antagonism in much of the Muslim world. As an American Muslim leader put it recently, "A great mountain has grown between our cultures. Sometimes it seems that all we can do is scratch at the rock."

This is the painful place in which many Muslim Americans find themselves. While their American, non-Muslim, friends ask, "What are you Muslims around the world doing to us?" their overseas Muslim colleagues are saying, "What is your country, America, doing to us?"

But out of every such position arises an opportunity for change. The Quran states that God does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves. We American Muslims, who have harmonized the seemingly disparate American and Muslim parts of ourselves, are uniquely positioned to bridge the chasm, and to contribute some urgently needed fresh ideas on what needs to be changed on both sides. First, we must look into why these acts are being carried out in the name of Islam by addressing what's actually going on in the Muslim world. It's also time to highlight the very real concord between Islamic and American values, and this is what my new book aims to do.

Ultimately, each American Muslim is responsible for striving to embody the exalted qualities of Islam, as defined by right consciousness, intelligence and action. Personal responsibility and accountability, as well as broad-minded education, are fundamental components of Islam. In upholding this Islamic ideal, and living it in an American context, they will automatically be expressing the deep unity that exists between the Muslim world and the West. Further, American Muslims must now face the duty of being effective intermediaries between America and the Muslim world.

We must argue that "homeland security" lies in a U.S. policy that projects its superpower status in the compassionate image of Lady Liberty. A successful policy would help Muslims liberate themselves from democratic disempowerment, rather than bombing them into deeper indignity and economic malaise, which will only incite further violence in the name of Islam. Perhaps we can all learn from the Quranic concept of meeting enmity with virtue, which, in turn, leads to peace and friendship.

Given the current global flash points and critical mutual interests between the Muslim world and the West, Muslims in America have no greater cause now than to contribute to multi-disciplinary, inter-religious dialogues which strive to usher America into that era predicted by the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, a time "when nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall learn war any more."

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf