Third, even if Muslims were to try to pass some Shariah ordinance such as a prohibition on alcohol, would this be any more "un-American" than passing the Eighteenth Amendment, banning the sale and consumption of alcohol, into law was in 1920?

Apart from such unlikely scenarios, Muslim Americans live by and uphold the laws of the United States on a daily basis. Muslims who get married in the mosque must first provide a marriage certificate from their respective state registry, and divorce is conducted according to state law and not the Shariah. Even if a Muslim couple wanted to enter arbitration to dissolve their marriage and divide their assets according to Shariah norms, would this totally voluntary act be any less acceptable than a non-Muslim couple entering arbitration?

I am stupefied that public voices in the United States believe that the religion of 1.3 billion people worldwide is somehow perverted or violent despite the fact that the vast, overwhelming, undeniable majority of those people live normal lives like the rest of mankind. I am bewildered by the palpable fear that Muslim Americans are going to "Shariah-fy" the United States when the only way this could ever conceivably happen is through the very democratic process that Americans hold so dear.

Beliefs that Islam or Muslims are the problem are so far from reality and so clearly driven by a mixture of fear, xenophobia, and racism that I am left much more worried about the future of America than the future of Islam. Muslims worldwide, whether a doctor in California or a farmer in Bangladesh, continue to derive a variety of meanings from their faith even as they struggle with the same tensions over Tradition-and-Modernity, Reason-and-Revelation, Religion-vs.-Culture that task the minds of all people of faith. The Cordoba initiative is an attempt by of a group of mainstream Muslim Americans to establish themselves as part of a diverse, religiously tolerant, and ultimately united America, just as religious and national groups from Jews to the Irish have done in the past. The question is: will the mainstream of America accept them?


Jonathan AC Brown is Assistant Professor of Islam and Muslim Christian Relations in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Dr. Brown has studied and conducted research in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, and Iran, and he is member of the Council of Foreign Relations. His book publications include The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (Brill, 2007), Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Oneworld, 2009), and Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He has published articles in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory, and Pre-Islamic poetry and is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islamic Law. Dr. Brown's current research interests include the history of forgery and historical criticism in Islamic civilization, comparison with the Western tradition, and modern conflicts between Late Sunni Traditionalism and Salafism in Islamic thought.