Becoming American: A Q and A with Yvonne Haddad
The Muslim community has responded by opening its mosques to the general public, inviting them to come and discuss common issues, to check for themselves that mosques and schools do not teach hatred. It has also led to Muslim involvement in interfaith activities, to collaboration and cooperation with social service and human rights organizations in the United States. Muslim women and youth have become more noticeable in the public sphere as they engage with the American public.
A recent Brookings Institute poll and report entitled "What it Means to be American Ten Years after 9/11" shows that cable news, and specifically Fox, plays a role in creating negative images of Islam and Muslims. How are Muslims combatting these negative images?
There are several individuals and think tanks that specialize in promoting Islamophobia. A recent study revealed that several foundations donated 42 million dollars to the Islamophobia industry. The Muslims realize that they are incapable of combating these negative stereotypes by themselves. This is why they are collaborating with other American organizations and church and synagogue leaders to try and temper the hatred that is spewed by these organizations.
You mention several estimates of the Muslim population, but not those of the more objective PEW Foundation surveys. Have these surveys (which place Muslims at only 6 tenths of 1 percent of US population) influenced Muslim self-perception?
I believe that all numbers are guesstimates. Surveys miss out on many who choose not to identify themselves as Muslim to polltakers for fear of being targeted. Muslims are aware that the FBI sought the records of Arabs and Muslims from the census bureau. That caused a great deal of consternation in the community. I have known some who use a different identity (one Egyptian woman identified herself as Greek, and a Pakistani identified herself as Hindu) in order to avoid harassment.
You describe a new discourse on religious pluralism that began amont Arab intellectuals in the 1980s, in part to parallel the Western concept of religious pluralism. Where does that conversation stand today in Arab and Muslim communities here and abroad? How has it changed since 9/11?
There is an increased emphasis on the discourse of pluralism by Muslims. A growing number of imams and scholars have published works on the topic. Muslims boast about Islamic history that has allowed religious minorities to live in peace in Muslim societies, practicing their faith and living under their own religious laws. As the Islamophobia industry has intensified its demonization of Muslims in the United States, Muslims have taken to the air to correct the false accusations. And whenever afforded the opportunity, they have attempted to correct the false information being disseminated. They have also resorted to the courts to seek redress in cases of discrimination.
The American Muslim encounter with Zionism is a theme that runs through the book. Do you see the emergence of the so-called J-street lobby among young American Jews impacting American Muslims' encounter with Judaism?
The Islamic Society of North America in collaboration with the Jewish community have launched a "twinning" program in which they identified 100 mosques and synagogues that will work together to bring about better understanding, collaboration and cooperation. Several Muslim leaders recently went on a trip to Auschwitz in order to understand the enormity of the Holocaust. And rabbis representing the three major Jewish denominations have been invited to address the annual convention.
For more conversation on Becoming American? visit the Patheos Book Club here.