American Muslim Future: Shifting the Paradigm Toward Hope

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Islam. Read other perspectives here.

I have great hope for the future of Islam in America. That hope is sourced in my belief in the untested feasibility of the great potential of our community.

In the future there will be no crisis of the Muslim American mind. Confusion will not reign supreme and the pietistic affectations of Arabism will not endow authenticity. We will re-assert the centrality of criticality and critical thinking to the development of Muslim identity and the process of acquiring knowledge. From political acumen to religious knowledge, Muslim Americans will be on a sustainable path in their journey to the flourishing of many different articulations of American Muslim identities. Mosques will liberate second-generation and convert imams from attempting to thrive in archaic and obsolete communal leadership structures. Those imams and their colleagues in academia will take hold of the courage to articulate an American Muslim posture toward the word and the world that is organic to our context. The waves of change in foreign conflicts will not affect the cohesion of Muslim American life.

Racism, misogyny, and sectarianism will be met with no mercy. Anti-black, anti-immigrant, and sectarian discourse will be relics of history. Mosques will prioritize a dignifying and equal physical and leadership space for women. Mosques will not hold events about marriage that include no women speakers. In the future we will be confident in a progressive Islamic posture. Young people will not be limited to gender segregated educational realities that dump facts and skew criticality. Their Quranic literacy will be the focus of their religious teachers with an intention of giving them the power to think and ponder upon God's message and act upon the world for its improvement. We will lead like the Prophet, with mercy and humility.

The predominant narrative at the grassroots will not be one of victimization. Today, anti-Muslim bias throughout America is real and overwhelming. In the future it will not be. Muslims feel an unrelenting siege upon their identities and their place in society. The rise of an organized and well-funded anti-Muslim coterie of terrorism/Islam experts has coincided with the surge in white supremacy during the Obama administration and the rise of ISIS. The hate is at deafening levels, washing out all nuance and texture. Every Muslim I know says it is harder to be Muslim in America post-ISIS than it was post 9/11. Terrorism fuels Islamophobia, which, in turn, fuels a retreat from intellectualism to emotionalism at the grassroots of all communities. In the future, the Muslim American reality will be one that is committed to intellectuality because it will be less preoccupied with the hate directed against it and more focused on the work of social and paradigmatic change.

I have great hope, because there is no other way. Idealism is the only practical option when presented with no other options. We will reverse the flattening of identity and exporting of authenticity. We will invest in our artists, champion creativity and innovation, and reach a level of communal security that affords a modicum of reflexivity — an ability to look inward. The vibrant diversity of Muslim America will be a powerful tool for change not a reason for disagreement.

Our paradigm can shift if our focus shifts. We can decrease our emotional need to engage the hate directed against us by enhancing the amount of positive energy and action that builds a greater America and more merciful world. By creating spaces of learning that are focused on shaping diamonds not replicating drones, we can spark the genius of our young people. Muslim Americans are doctors, rappers, and everything else. Seeing ourselves for who we really are, in our totality, will allow us to advance our contribution as a critical factor in America's plurality.

Some of this vision is our current reality. On the whole, much of it is not.

We are beautiful. We are most relevant when we engage the message of our way of life, to be a mercy to all of mankind, including each other.

Islam's future in America is bright, beautiful, and bold.