Could opposition to Ground Zero mosque bolster the thing opponents fear?
Some opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque reflects concerns for those who lost family in the 9/11 attacks. But many opponents appear uncomfortable with the very idea of Islam. If their opposition succeeds, the chances of what they fear most -- more militant American Muslims -- could increase, critics say.
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Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, says that the United States has been fortunate in that its earlier Muslim immigrants were better educated and more prosperous than their counterparts in Europe, and that the presence of the African-American Muslim community already provided a template for an "American" Islam when they arrived, however small. But he also says integration was built into the fabric of America itself.Skip to next paragraph
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"It is the philosophy that religion is accepted, and people no matter what their background and religion are to be excepted as full citizens... a positive understanding that America is open," says Dr. Bagby. "Muslims regularly fall back on that to not only justify their activities in the public square and to bolster them when they’re under attack, similar to African-Americans who used that wedge for 300 years to say 'hey, America is supposed to be founded on freedom and equality for all citizens.' To me, that's the greatness of America, that the underlying principles are tools for those who want to carve out their freedom and find their place. European Muslims can’t lean on that narrative of why they belong there."
A two-year study released this month by Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina found that despite fears over the potential "radicalization" of Muslim-Americans after 9/11, "the record over the past eight years contains relatively few examples of Muslim-Americans that have radicalized and turned toward violent extremism."
Why? Largely because of Muslim-American engagement with the political system, self-policing to identify at-risk youths, and robust Muslim-American communities centered around mosque and meeting complexes like the proposed Cordoba House in lower Manhattan.
The "research reinforces the generally accepted observation that Muslim-Americans with a strong, traditional religious training are far less likely to radicalize than those without such training," the authors write. "One possible reason for the small number of radicalized, violent Muslim-Americans involves the demographics of the Muslim-American population in the United States. Unlike Muslim minorities in many countries of Western Europe, Muslim-Americans have attained higher education and middle-class incomes at roughly the same rate as society as a whole. Their lives are less segregated than in Western Europe, and their political views on most issues are similar to other Americans."