Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor in
the Department of Political
Science and International Relations at the University
He is a Non-resident Fellow at the Brookings
He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations, Political
Philosophy, and Islamic Political Thought, from
in May 2000.
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
: Identity and Strategy in International Relations (Praeger, 2004). His
forthcoming books are titled Beyond Jihad and Crusade: Rethinking US
policy in the Muslim World (Brookings Institution, 2006) and Islamic
Democratic Discourse (Lexington Books, 2006).
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.
writes a regular Weblog called Globalog.
His articles on Islam and American Muslims can be read at Ijtihad
and his commentaries on global politics can be read at Glocaleye.
Theories of Ijtihad
Victory: Positive For All
in Hijab in Belgium
the Emerging Management Giant
Foreign Policy and American Muslims
HUGHES AND AMERICAN MUSLIMS:
An Alliance Against Extremism
agents Wanted for Kidnapping:
IS there no End to US scandals?
Desecration: Far Worse than Abu Ghraib
in the West
The Threat of Internal Extremism
WITH FOREIGN FLAGS:
Islam in America
M. A. Muqtedar Khan | 6.09.06
article has been published in the Khaleej
Times [06.02.06, UAE], AltMuslim
[06.01.06, USA], Alarab
Online [06.01.06, UK], the Daily
Times [06.05.06, Pakistan], The
News Journal [06.05.06, USA], The
American Muslim [06.05.06, USA], Naseeb Vibes [06.05.06, USA], Al
Ahram [Egypt, June 15-21, 2006] and Pakistan
May 23, 2006. We entered the mosque through a large iron gate closely
watched by a score of Turkish men. Unlike most architecturally interesting
buildings in Berlin which are open and easily accessible, this mosque
which is both majestic and grand, is surrounded by a high wall and is
accessible only through iron gates. I was in Berlin for a conference
organized by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and
one of their scholars and a Berlin Parliamentarian kindly volunteered to
show me around Berlin.
As we approached the grand mosque, the Berlin Parliamentarian remarked,
“notice the Turkish flag on the mosque, do you see a German flag
The daylong conference in Berlin was about comparing the experiences of
Germany and the US in integrating their Muslim minorities. Throughout the
day, scholars from both sides of the Atlantic struggled with political and
philosophical issues involved in the absorption of large number of
minorities whose political and cultural values may be at odds with those
of the host nations.
While Muslim scholars argued for more openness, more religious and racial
tolerance and equal treatment of all religious communities, others called
for more assimilation and insisted that immigrants must make the effort to
learn local languages and adapt to the mainstream political and cultural
NEW BOOK: Islamic Democratic Discourse
As I looked at the mosque with its Turkish flag flying proudly, the high
walls, the iron gates and the stoic faces, I suddenly realized that this
was not a mosque, this was a sort of embassy, a foreign enclave, an
extention of Turkish sovereignty in the heart of Germany. In the U.S. one
may occasionally find a US flag in a mosque, but never a flag of a foreign
country. The only mosque that has foreign flags is the Islamic Center in
Washington DC which was established by diplomats from Muslim countries.
I sympathized with the Berlin Parliamentarian’s obvious displeasure with
the Turkish flag. Turkish nationalism is particularly irritating. Several
years ago I ran into a large contingent of Turks in the Holiest of Muslim
Mosques in Mecca while circumambulating the Kaaba. They were wearing tiny
Turkish flags on their shirt collars. I found this display of nationalism
even in the House of God deeply offensive. Islam is a strictly
monotheistic religion and nationalism in its extreme form begins to
subvert the very idea of One God. Perhaps these Turks did not know that
God is blind to nationality, ethnicity and race.
With Islamophobia on the rise in most western countries, grand displays of
Islamic religiosity – the mosque is indeed fabulous – combined with
overt, in your face displays of allegiance to foreign nations can only be
described as spectacularly stupid.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims are actively demanding the elimination of
barriers between western mainstream and Muslim Diasporas. While Muslims
are insisting that host societies accommodate, recognize and respect all
the differences that they bring, Non-Muslims – usually the dominant
white Judeo-Christians – are demanding that Muslims moderate these
differences. In Germany the focus is on learning the German language and
the incorporation of Islam as a German institution. In the U.S. the
challenges are more related to real or perceived sympathy of American
Muslims for anti-Americanism in the Middle East.
Muslim immigrants bring three significant challenges to Western societies
– cultural differences, religious differences and political differences.
In the U.S. the first two challenges are easily manageable. Most Americans
believe in the United States as a multicultural society and deeply value
religious pluralism. Unlike Europe where the elite talk a lot about
secularism but the State actually incorporates religion, America does
practice separation of church and State.
In the U.S. the government is neither involved nor interested in how Islam
is institutionalized or managed by Muslims, where as in Germany the state
not only teaches religion in school but also has religious clergy on
government payroll. This becomes particularly problematic since Germany
finances both Christianity and Judaism but does not even recognize Islam.
In the U.S. most people respect and even value cultural differences,
jealously guard religious freedom and consequently practice religious
pluralism at all levels of society. Primarily because most American’s
are from somewhere else, the fact that Muslims are also from elsewhere is
not a big issue.
Muslim Public Affairs
American identity is open, flexible and continuously evolving. American
citizenship is also easily acquired and hence becoming American in law and
spirit faces less cultural and political barriers. Additionally the
“American dream” is a powerful positive that all immigrants aspire
towards and often achieve. When traveling overseas, I frequently testify
that coming to America for me was like joining the marines – in America
one can “be all you can be”.
At present the key barrier to the mainstreaming of Islam in America is the
relations between the US-and the Islamic World.
Germany has a long way to go. Even though it does not have foreign policy
problems like the U.S., it has several domestic policy issues. First
Germany must recognize Islam. Germany has been for decades a multi-ethnic
society but very few Germans imagine Germany as a multicultural society.
German intellectuals brag a lot about being secular, well how about
secularizing the German State and dumping Christianity and Judaism from
the national budget.
German identity is rooted in the past and is culturally tied to race, and
ethnicity. Becoming German is very difficult even for those who are born
in Germany; speak German better than most natives but happen to look like
me rather than Boris Becker.
German intellectuals must begin to imagine a Germany as a political
community that is a composite of values, rather than a nation-state based
on a specific ethnicity. In the age of globalization, narrowly defined
identities are untenable. Germany as an integral part of the emerging
global society must define itself in terms of global values that are
sensitive to cultural, racial and religious differences and become a role
model for other European nations like Ireland and Portugal that will soon
face similar problems.
Muslims who live as minorities in the west or anywhere else, must
understand that their demand for tolerance for religious and cultural
differences is a just cause. But they must align their political and
economic interests with those of their neighbors [whose acceptance they
seek] and not with those who live in foreign lands.
There is room for Islam in America and Germany. We can and we will build
bigger and more spectacular mosques in the West, but there is no place for
Saudi flags, or Turkish or Pakistani flags in Western mosques. They have
their embassies and that is enough. They should not be allowed to use our
M. A. Muqtedar
Khan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and
International Relations at University of Delaware. He is also a
Nonresident Fellow of the Saban Center at Brookings Institution. His website is www.ijtihad.org.