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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The American Effect On Islam

Campus Radicals: A New Muslim Student Group Tries to Rouse the Moderates
...radicalism does not appeal to most Muslim students, of course, who are simply trying to maintain a connection to their faith while they are at school. Nouri, a sophomore in Boston who asked not to be identified by his full name, recalls an outside imam lecturing his campus MSA about the "great sins" of looking at members of the opposite sex and missing prayers because of classes. "We were at a modern liberal university," Nouri observes, "listening to an imam who stepped out of the medieval period." When Muslims on his campus broke Ramadan's daylight fasts at iftars, separate food lines and tables were set up for men and women.

The result on many campuses is a binary scene, divided between what Nouri calls "hardcore Muslims and cultural Muslims." More than 70% of Muslim students on campus, he estimates, are not involved with any organized Muslim association.

Yusuf, a senior at George Washington University, notes the anger that surrounded the campus MSA's decision to partially remove a gender- divider at prayers. "There is a lot of tension between more conservative and more liberal students," he says. "We need more options for Muslim students, not a monolithic voice."

It was precisely this need that inspired a group of Washington-area students to establish a new campus initiative last fall. We were young men and women, mostly but not entirely of Muslim background, who decided to create an inclusive space where people of all backgrounds could join together to explore Muslim identity and community. We chose the name Project Nur, adopting the Arabic term for "light" and "enlightenment." [...]

Students also organized protests outside the Saudi and Afghan embassies to demand freedom for young activists jailed in those countries for expressing their opinions. We partnered with Darfur advocacy groups to challenge genocide in the Muslim world and helped organize a concert in solidarity with Iranian rock bands restricted from performing publicly. Many of these activities included non-Muslim participants and co-organizers.

Project Nur reflects the complex identities on campus -- including cultural Muslims and students with only one Muslim parent -- defying outsiders' stereotypes and hardliners' religious dogmas. Responsible leadership, on campus and beyond, is the remedy for the pressing challenges facing the American Muslim community.
Interesting thought: a liberal Islam. I'd never really considered the assimilating effect that America could possibly have on Muslim culture, simply because there doesn't seem to be much of one. Perhaps I've been wrong? Maybe we'll have the last laugh after all. Woe unto Islam if Americans - with our radical ideas of liberty, justice, and equality - get a firm hold on the faith. It'll never be the same again. Thank God. I think these Americans of Muslim faith have a long way to go - but it looks like they may be on the road.

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