Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor in
the Department of Political
Science and International Relations at the University
of Delaware. Prior to that he was Chair of
the Department of Political Science and the Director of International
is also associated with the Center
for the Study of Islam and Democracy and the Institute
for Social Policy and Understanding. He has been the President, Vice
President and General Secretary of the Association
of Muslim Social Scientists.
the author of American Muslims:
Bridging Faith and Freedom (Amana, 2002), Jihad
frequently comments on BBC, CNN, FOX and VOA TV, NPR and other radio and TV networks.
His political commentaries appear regularly in newspapers in over 20
countries. He has also lectured in North America, East Asia, Middle
is from Hyderabad in India. He is married to Reshma and has a son Rumi,
and a daughter Ruhi.
The American Muslim community is at a crucial crossroads. It is experiencing an existential crisis. Students of Islam in the West are beginning to ask questions about the future of Islam, and Muslims in an increasingly Islamophobic West are growing wary of the unrest and growing tide of extremism in the Muslim world. At the same time, American Muslims have reached a critical mass. This gives them a presence that promises influence in the mainstream society, and a visibility that also attracts a backlash, as people fear its growth and influence. Some scholars, such as Fawaz Gerges, maintain that the contemporary Arab and Muslim experience is similar to that of communities such as American Jews and Irish Americans, who too were assimilated only after being discriminated against, marginalized, and oppressed.2 The difference is that the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, and the open-ended "war on terror" has exaggerated and traumatized further the potential for Muslims to become fully participating members in the greater American society.
The determination of the American Muslim community to make an impact on the political, theological, and cultural scene on North America, and the growing fear and prejudice against Islam and Muslims in the United States, has created a unique situation for Muslims. Unlike Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and others, American Muslims do not yet have a place in American society.
This is a chapter from a new book on religious pluralism in America. It explores how the American Muslim community has negotiated the idea of pluralism and America's public sphere while mainstreaming Islam.
M. A. Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at University of Delaware. He is also a Nonresdient Fellow at the Brookings Institution. His website is www.ijtihad.org.