This week’s edition of Newsweek has a cover package/special report called “Islam in America,” which looks at the many aspects of life involving the estimated 2.3 million Muslims in the United States.
More and more everyday, I see the diversity in this country’s Muslims: a friend’s parents hail from India, yet she is as acculturated as any first-generation American I know; an African-American woman on the Metro I see frequently wears a black niqab, a hijab that covers nearly her entire face; I interact with Muslim men from Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East on a daily basis.
But it wasn’t until I read the Newsweek feature that I came to understand the real breadth of diversity that exists among American Muslims, and how those differences both strengthen and sometimes pull apart the Islamic community here.
As I read the story, I found myself being challenged: how would I react to a group of Muslim Imams bowing down to Allah via daily prayers before boarding an airplane? In my mind, do I notice people who dress in traditional Muslim clothing because what they wear is different from everyone else, or because their attire represents an image I see in the media?
There is also a quote in the story by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison — the first Muslim elected to the Congress — that really made me think about what we have here in America:
The U.S. is founded on the idea that we’re all connected to a set of ideas, not on a set of histories. For all our criticisms, the idea of America is an amazing thing — a society organized around a set of principles instead of around racial or cultural identity.
It’s well worth the time to read this insightful look at American Muslims.