America’s Muslims Aren’t as Assimilated as You Think From the Washington POST

America’s Muslims Aren’t as Assimilated as You Think
By Geneive Abdo
Sunday, August 27, 2006; B03

If only the Muslims in Europe — with their hearts focused on the Islamic world and their carry-on liquids poised for destruction in the West — could behave like the well-educated, secular and Americanizing Muslims in the United States, no one would have to worry.

So runs the comforting media narrative that has developed around the approximately 6 million Muslims in the United States, who are often portrayed as well-assimilated and willing to leave their religion and culture behind in pursuit of American values and lifestyle. But over the past two years, I have traveled the country, visiting mosques, interviewing Muslim leaders and speaking to Muslim youths in universities and Islamic centers from New York to Michigan to California — and I have encountered a different truth. I found few signs of London-style radicalism among Muslims in the United States. At the same time, the real story of American Muslims is one of accelerating alienation from the mainstream of U.S. life, with Muslims in this country choosing their Islamic identity over their American one.

A new generation of American Muslims — living in the shadow of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — is becoming more religious. They are more likely to take comfort in their own communities, and less likely to embrace the nation’s fabled melting pot of shared values and common culture.

Part of this is linked to the resurgence of Islam over the past several decades, a growth as visible in Western Europe and the United States as it is in Egypt and Morocco. But the Sept. 11 attacks also had the dual effect of making American Muslims feel isolated in their adopted country, while pushing them to rediscover their faith.

From schools to language to religion, American Muslims are becoming a people apart. Young, first-generation American Muslim women — whose parents were born in Egypt, Pakistan and other Islamic countries — are wearing head scarves even if their mothers had left them behind; increasing numbers of young Muslims are attending Islamic schools and lectures; Muslim student associations in high schools and at colleges are proliferating; and the role of the mosque has evolved from strictly a place of worship to a center for socializing and for learning Arabic and Urdu as well as the Koran.

The men and women I spoke to — all mosque-goers, most born in the United States to immigrants — include students, activists, imams and everyday working Muslims. Almost without exception, they recall feeling under siege after Sept. 11, with FBI agents raiding their mosques and homes, neighbors eyeing them suspiciously and television programs portraying Muslims as the new enemies of the West.

Such feelings led them, they say, to adopt Islamic symbols — the hijab , or head covering, for women and the kufi , or cap, for men — as a defense mechanism. Many, such as Rehan, whom I met at a madrassa (religious school) in California with her husband, Ramy, also felt compelled to deepen their faith.

“After I covered, I changed,” Rehan told me. “I felt I wanted to give people a good impression of Islam. I wanted people to know how happy I am to be Muslim.” But not everyone understood, she said, recalling an incident in a supermarket in 2003: “The man next to me in the vegetable section said, ‘You’d be much more beautiful without that thing on your head. It’s demeaning to women.’ ” But to her the head scarf symbolized piety, not oppression.

A group of young college-educated women at the Dix mosque in Dearborn, Mich., described the challenges many Muslims face as they carve out their identity in the United States. I spoke with them in the winter of 2004, after they had been to the mosque one Sunday for a halaqa (a study circle) focused on integrating faith and daily life. They were in their twenties: Hayat, a psychologist; Ismahan, a computer scientist; and Fatma, a third-grade teacher.

Hayat said veiling was easier for her than it had been for her sister,

10 years her senior, because Hayat had more Muslim peers when she reached high school and felt far less pressure to conform to American ways. When she went on to the University of Michigan, she was surrounded for the first time by young Muslims who dared to show pride in their religion in a non-Muslim setting.

Ismahan recalled similar experiences. In elementary school, she had tried to fit in. As an adult, though, “I know I don’t have to fit in,” she said. “I don’t think Muslims have to assimilate. We are not treated like Americans. At work, I get up from my desk and go to pray. I thought I would face opposition from my boss. Even before I realized he didn’t mind, I thought, ‘I have a right to be a Muslim, and I don’t have to assimilate.’ “

Fatma described the mosque as central to her future: “What made me sane during years of public high school,” she said, “was coming to the halaqa every Sunday.” Fatma was also quick to distinguish herself from other young Muslim women who embrace American mores. “Some Muslims do anything to fit in. They drink. They date. My biggest fear is that I might assimilate to the American lifestyle so much that my modesty goes out the window.”

Imam Zaid Shakir — who teaches at San Francisco’s Zaytuna Institute, America’s only true madrassa — refers to such young Muslims as the “rejectionist generation.” They are rejectionist, he says, because they turn their backs not only on absolutist religious interpretations, but also on America’s secular ways. Many of these young American Muslims look to Shakir (and to celebrated Zaytuna founder Hamza Yusuf) for guidance on how to live pious lives in the United States.

I spent several days at one of the institute’s “mobile madrassas,” this one in San Jose, and watched hundreds of young Muslim professionals sit on cushioned folding chairs and listen intently as Yusuf delivered his lecture. “Everywhere I go, I see Muslims,” he told them. “Go to the gas station and the airport. Muslims are present in the United States, and that was not true 20 years ago. There are more Muslims living outside the Dar al-Islam [Islamic countries, or literally the House of Islam] than ever. So we have to be strategic in our thinking, because people who are our enemies are strategic in their thinking.”

The “enemies” Yusuf referred to that day were not non-Muslims, but rather those who use Islam as a rationale for violence. For the students at this madrassa and for many Muslims I interviewed, their strategy focuses on public displays of their faith.

Being ambassadors of Islam is daring behavior when you consider that American Muslims live in a country where so many people are ignorant of — if not hostile to — their faith. In a Gallup poll this year, when U.S. respondents were asked what they admire about the Muslim world, the most common response was “nothing” (33 percent); the second most common was “I don’t know” (22 percent).

Despite contemporary public opinion — or perhaps because of it — Muslim Americans consider Islam their defining characteristic, beyond any national identity. In this way, their experience in the United States resembles that of their co-religionists in Europe, where mosques are also growing, Islamic schools are being built, and practicing the faith is the center of life, particularly for the young generation. In Europe and the United States, young Muslims are unifying around popular imams they believe understand the challenges they face in Western societies; these leaders include Yusuf in the United States and Amer Khaled, an Egyptian-born imam who lives in Britain. Thousands of young Muslims attend their lectures.

In my years of interviews, I found few indications of homegrown militancy among American Muslims. Indeed, thus far, they have proved they can compete economically with other Americans. Although the unemployment rate for Muslims in Britain is far higher than for most other groups, the average annual income of a Muslim household surpasses that of average American households. Yet, outside the workplace, Muslims retreat into the comfort zone of their mosques and Islamic schools.

It is too soon to say where the growing alienation of American Muslims will lead, but it seems clear that the factors contributing to it will endure. U.S. foreign policy persists in dividing Muslim and Western societies, making it harder still for Americans to realize that there is a difference between their Muslim neighbor and the plotter in London or the kidnapper in Baghdad.

On August 4, 2006, the Al-Hesbah website published instructions on “How to Kill a Crusader in the Arabian Peninsula.” The document was signed by Amer Al-Najdi, and dated June 15, 2006

Special Dispatch Series – No. 1263
August 25, 2006 No.1263

Islamist Al-Hesbah Website Plan of Action for the Jihad Fighter: How to Kill a Westerner in the Arabian Peninsula

On August 4, 2006, the Al-Hesbah website published instructions on “How to Kill a Crusader in the Arabian Peninsula.” The document was signed by Amer Al-Najdi, and dated June 15, 2006.

Al-Najdi instructs his readers in some possible ways to kill a Westerner, from choosing the victim through following him through the stage of the actual killing.

The following are excerpts from the document: [1]

“Before Carrying Out the Operation, Pray for Guidance”

“Below I will explain the jihadist way of action and the security measures to be employed by the jihad fighter [when he wants to kill a Westerner]:

“First of all, before carrying out the operation, pray [to Allah] to guide you on the good path.

“[Regarding your] external appearance – Try as much as possible to look like someone who is not religious. For example, wear [a kuffiyeh] with an ‘aqal instead of a turban, and wear cheap dark glasses during the day and regular glasses at night. Your clothes must be long, and try if at all possible for them to be heel-length, or longer; don’t be afraid of this. Wear a sport suit or a regular suit. Similarly, it is greatly preferable to be shaven.

“[Regarding] the items or the clothing in [your] car – Immediately get rid of everything in your car that indicates that you are religious, such as jihad cassettes, small papers such as post-its… The most important thing there must not be anything in the car indicating that the owner is a religious man… so that if the dogs of the security [apparatuses], the emergency [apparatuses], or the other [apparatuses] stop you in a suspicious place and search your car they will find nothing proving that you are religious, and will release you right away.

“While you are carrying out the operation, be careful not to take your cell phone with you – especially if it has a camera – so that it won’t cause you, or your friends whose numbers are in the phone, problems with unknown consequences.

“Some Ways to Find a Crusader [i.e. a Westerner] or a Dog From the Security Apparatus

“In order to carry out the operation when the time comes, you must have a weapon (a pistol or a submachine gun) or a good knife, if you are interested in slaughtering this infidel or this [Saudi] dog…

“[How to find a target] in the Crusader settlements [i.e. compounds] that are found everywhere:

“The first method: At about seven AM, pass by the settlement and check only how these Crusaders leave it, and what road they take. Beware, my jihad-fighting brother, to pass by only once, because the military dogs at the gates [of the settlement] might suspect you and detain you.

“Two or three days later, pass by the [same] settlement, but don’t go near it as you did the first time. That is, go straight to the road where [the settlement residents] go, and wait for them by the side of the road, and when you see one of these Crusaders, follow him.

“It is best to change vehicles each time, if you can. While following the Crusader, be very careful not to be exposed. For the most part, especially these days, they are feeling safer, because there are not many operations against them. But the jihad wave is approaching, and Allah will conceal this matter from them….

“When [the Westerner you have selected] stops at a traffic light, try to be behind him, in the same lane, with at least two cars between you and him, or alongside him, but not exactly alongside him. While waiting at the traffic light, refrain from casual glances, and try to occupy yourself with something (such as arranging your ‘akal…). When you two turn onto the highway, try to pass the infidel on the right or left, and then slow down so that he will pass you, so as to remove suspicion for the next time.

“When you and the infidel move to the secondary road, and you are following him and there is no one on the road but the two of you, first slow down and pretend you’re looking for a shop or a place or a person, by turning your head right and left as if searching for something, [thus showing] that this infidel does not interest you at all.

“A second way to find [a Westerner]: Sometimes there is no need to follow the infidel first thing in the morning; often we see them next to traffic lights or at the big marketplaces… (such as Karfour, Extra, and so on); often, they shop there, particularly in the morning, between 9:30 and 12:00. When you see [an infidel in one of these places], follow him carefully, and you will [quickly] notice that for the most part he will be going to a settlement or to a house in one of the neighborhoods…

“A third way to find [a Westerner]: Sometimes when you, the jihad fighter, are sitting with your colleague or with family, someone comes and says: ‘We have an American working for the company, who receives [a salary of] 150,000…’ When you hear this, you must find out the following things:

“1) If you know where your colleague works – fine. But if you don’t know where he works and where his company is, immediately address your colleague, saying: ‘That’s not true, this [salary] is exaggerated.’ He will immediately say, ‘You’re wrong, and I can prove it.’ Tell him, ‘I know someone who works for such-and-such a company (give a name) and they have an American who gets [paid] 40,000, and their company is in (give a place). Then tell him, ‘Your company is probably in the such-and-such area (north, for example).’ And he will reply: ‘No, our company is in such-and-such a place.’ If the description so far is [still] unclear to you, say to him: ‘Oh… next to (give the name of a place)?’ He will reply, ‘No, our company is in such-and-such a place’ exactly. Then say to him, ‘This American you have must be a director if he gets [paid] such a sum,’ and then he will tell you what this infidel does [in the company]. Then say, ‘Surely he has a fancy car if he gets such a salary,’ and then he will tell you the kind of car. Thus you have gotten the information that will help you in the future, without your colleague or anyone around him noticing. Then pretend that the matter doesn’t interest you, and try to change the subject immediately.

“2) If you know where your colleague works but you are interested in information about this infidel, question him in the manner I described above, and take care that they don’t notice that you are looking for this infidel.

“How to Kill the Infidel and What Security Measures to Take

“The best way to carry this out is to forge an ID card and a work ID, in order to rent a car. If you can’t do this, act as follows:

“1) Take the license plate from any car that is the same model as your car. Be sure that the region from which you take the license plate is far away from the region in which you live. For example, if your car is a white Camry, look for a white Camry that is far from the region [in which you live], and take its license plate.

“2) Take the car of one of the ordinary people, in some easy way, and carry out the operation that day using [this car]. Then leave the [car] in a public place, so that the infidels will find it and return it to its owners…

“3) After obtaining a suitable car, kill the Crusader, in accordance with the circumstances – if the Crusader works at a company where you work, or at a company where someone you know works, strike him on his day off, or somewhere far from [where the company is located]…; if the Crusader lives next door to you or near you, and you want to kill him, it is best to kill him when he is outside work, so as to distance you from suspicion…

“4) Take care that the windows of the car you use to carry out the [killing] operation are somewhat dark; this will help you when you stop at traffic lights.

“5) When you carry out the [killing] operation and make your escape, travel a route that you have planned in advance. It is best [to go] by the highway for five minutes, and then to move to secondary roads and then to neighborhoods, so as to distance yourself from the place of the operation… [In order to avoid being followed,] look behind you (and check) if anyone is tailing you.

“6) After… [you have evaded being followed] park the car somewhere, [where] you have at your disposal another vehicle, extremely clean, that you will use to return home safely.

“7) Take care not to say a word. The tongue is what will lead you to the infidels’ prison. Many brothers have been arrested because they spoke near people.

“It is desirable to film the operation so it can be presented by the media, so that it has a broader impact.

“After the operation succeeds, you will realize that this is very simple, and that there is no need for an entire squad [to carry it out] but that one, two, or three people are enough…

“You can look through the Mu’askar Al-Battar and Sawt Al-Jihad publications, [to learn from them] important things that I may not have clarified here…

“Your brother Amer Al-Najdi

“Arabian Peninsula

“Thursday

“The 19th day of the fifth month, 1427 [June 15, 2006].”


[1] Alhesbah.org, June 15, 2006.

Radical Group May Declare Islamic Caliphate in Gaza

Radical Group May Declare Islamic Caliphate in Gaza
By Julie Stahl
CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
August 24, 2006

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – Encouraged by Hizballah’s perceived victory in Lebanon, another radical Islamic party may declare an Islamic caliphate in the Gaza Strip on Friday, another step in its effort to see Islam rule the world.

The Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party) advocates replacing all Muslim governments in the world with one Islamic leader who would then declare the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate.

Although the move has been described as largely symbolic, it highlights a growing trend among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, analysts say.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Sunni Islamic movement, has gained popularity with Palestinians since Hizballah put up more of a fight in southern Lebanon than Israel and the world expected.

The group rallied thousands of Palestinians to take part in a demonstration in Gaza City on Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (the Islamic Turkish Empire that ruled the Middle East for some 400 years).

According to the Jerusalem Post, protesters called for Israel to be wiped off the map and they called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to rule the Palestinian Authority.

One observer, who asked not to be named, said the idea of declaring a caliphate is more symbolic than substantial – a sign of increasing support for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which few people took seriously before this. Many people were surprised at the turnout for the rally, he said.

Jordanian officials recently arrested members of the group in Jordan, after their leader, Ramzi Sawalhah, called for the Jordanian monarchy to be replaced by an Islamic caliphate.

Founded in Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in the early 1950s, Hizb ut-Tahrir has now spread to some 40 countries, including the U.S. Because the group believes in one Islamic leader, it has tended to shun the idea of becoming involved in local politics.

Islamic expert Dr. Yoram Kahati of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism said that although the group operates worldwide, Arab states and others have outlawed the group.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, was unsuccessful in banning the group in England, where it is believed to have its headquarters.

“They are not very active,” said Kahati. During the years of the Palestinian Authority they opposed the peace process, he said.

Kahati downplayed the significance of a caliphate declaration in the Gaza Strip, saying it would be “meaningless” since most people there are more worried about being able to buy food for their families.

The Hamas government there could have two reactions: either seize the opportunity or dismiss it as irresponsible, he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was one of the first groups to develop the radical Islamic ideology that affected many other better-known groups that are active today, said Kahati. Recently, the group did declare itself an official political party in Lebanon, he said.

The group believes in bringing about change through indoctrination and not necessarily through force, said Kahati, though it is not opposed to force. “Only once they come to the conclusion that they have enough power, then they support taking [over] by force,” he said.

In May 2003, Dr. Ariel Cohen described Hizb ut-Tahrir as “an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East” in an article on the Heritage Foundation Website.

“Its proclaimed goal is jihad against America and the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a caliphate, a theocratic dictatorship based on the shari’a (religious Islamic law). The model for Hizb ut Tahrir is the “righteous” caliphate, a militaristic Islamic state that existed in the 7th and 8th centuries under Mohammad and his first four successors, known as the “righteous Caliphs,” said Cohen.

On what is described as the official website of Hizb ut-Tahrir the group said it was founded “in order to resume the Islamic way of life and carry the Islamic call to the world.”

A commentary on the site described as “political” and dated July 25, 2006 (while the Hizballah-Israel war was in full swing and Hizballah rockets were raining down on Israel) says that weapons should be acquired to vanquish Israel and its allies.

“If ‘Israel’ is capable of hitting targets through its air force, then the intensive acquisition of missiles, especially if their delivery systems are upgraded to help them track their targets accurately, will paralyze and deter the entity of the Jews. Then they can be confronted and vanquished together with those who stand behind them…

“It has become apparent to anyone with eyesight that the armies of the Muslims are capable of curbing the freak entity of “Israel” and even wiping it out of existence if they had the true resolve and if they acquired the willpower and the effective weapons to fight their battle against the enemies of the [the people],” it said.

The religion of peace web site a must read

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