Skip to comments.The 2 Worlds of Muslim-American Teenagers
Posted on 10/07/2001 5:15:59 AM PDT by sarcasm
Andrea Mohin/The New York TimesFrom left, Fariah Amin, Salam Said and Andira Abudayeh, are juniors at Al Noor School, a private Islamic academy in Brooklyn.
Andrea Mohin/The New York TimesFami Fozi, 17, left, would not fight against a Muslim country. Mazen Kased, also 17, is not convinced that Muslims attacked the trade center.
hey are Americans who feel duty- bound by Islam to obey American laws. But some of them say that if their country called them to war against a Muslim army, they might refuse to fight. They cannot be shaken from the conviction that America is intrinsically anti-Muslim. Yet they see it as the one place where Muslims are free to be themselves.
To be young and Muslim in the United States today, to hear students at Al Noor School in Brooklyn tell it, is to be both outsider and insider, to revel in both roles but see neither as the ideal. It is to be consumed by causes abroad and removed from politics at home, to feel righteous and also confused, to alternate between gratitude and resentment toward the world outside their classrooms.
As any parent knows, this is the paradoxical planet inhabited by many teenagers, whether they are Muslim or not. But in a country wounded by terrorists and preparing for war, young Muslim Americans are finding that real life has raised especially acute questions for them about competing values of allegiance and faith.
"We have a burden on us," said Andira Abudayeh, who is 16 and attends Al Noor. "We're Muslims, and we feel like other Muslims around the world do. And we're Americans."
In extended conversations last week, high school students at Al Noor spoke of their empathy for the young Muslims around the world who profess hatred for America and Americans, saying the hostility is an outgrowth of American support for Israel.
They said they did not believe that the hatred extended to them. "Muslims are all one," said Fariah Amin, who is also 16. "They kind of think of us as just living in America."
The students complained that the United States threw its weight around too much in the world, but that it also was not active enough in support of what they called freedom-seeking Muslims in Chechnya and the "true" Muslims who oppose the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
"Isn't it ironic that the interests of America are always against what Muslims want?" said Fami Fozi, a 17-year-old student who said he would rather go to jail than fight in the United States Army against Muslims.
The students also said the Koran, which Muslims consider the literal word of God, provides a perfect blueprint for their lives. Their ideal society would follow Islamic law and make no separation between religion and state.
In the meantime, they said, they want to become doctors and lawyers and teachers in the United States. Even though the American government uses taxes to finance things that are un-Islamic licensing the sale of alcoholic beverages, for example they said Muslims here should pay taxes and accept the judgments of secular American courts.
"If you want to survive in freedom, I guess you just have to pay taxes to get the benefits from America," said Ahmad Odetalla, 14. "You know you're not going to be the one who buys alcohol. So as long as you stay away from what is forbidden in religion, I guess we have to pay taxes."
The students at Al Noor may not be a scientific sampling of Muslim American youth. But their comments are similar to those posted by Muslim Americans on the numerous Internet chat rooms and message boards about Islam, and their outlook is similar in some ways to that of other newcomers.
Immigrants and their children often feel the strain between the adopted and the native culture. Their political interests may focus on the topics and debates in their homeland. In the case of these Al Noor students, they are children of immigrants from places like Pakistan, Egypt, the occupied Palestinian territories and Yemen, which have been preoccupied for years by the efforts of Islamic fundamentalist movements to gain power through violence or the ballot box.
Still, some of their comments reflect what they have been reading and exposed to in the United States, where some Muslim clerics say openly what is said underground in Muslim countries: that the United States is to blame for the ills of the Muslim world through its support of more secular Muslim rulers.
Some of the students, for example, said they would support any leader who they decided was fighting for Islam. Among those who do not fit that definition, they said, are the rulers of just about every Arab and Muslim country.
Mr. Fozi, for instance, said that he would support any leader he determined to be an observant Muslim who is fighting for an Islamic cause, and that he would do so even if it meant abandoning the United States. "I would support him with my life," he said. How would he know who is a true Muslim? "I use my understanding of Islam and see what the person is doing," Mr. Fozi said.
Several of the young men said they could fight against a Muslim if they were convinced that the Muslim had committed a crime. They all said they were not convinced that Osama bin Laden or any Muslim, for that matter was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, attacks that they condemned as violating all precepts of Islam.
"It comes down to the proof," said Mazen Kased, 17. "If you prove a Muslim did it, that's a different story."
Another 17-year-old student, Ammar Arif, agreed. "If you prove it's Osama bin Laden and I was in the Army, I would go to fight," he said. "That's my duty to my country and my religion as well."
The students at Al Noor are reluctant to accept that the terror attacks were carried out by anyone of their religion. They draw on their deeply felt belief that Americans are biased against Islam and Muslims and that Muslims are victims of a prejudiced news media. Like many Muslim Americans, they said they believed that non-Muslims did not understand them and their choices.
These are also children whose parents made a conscious decision by sending them to a private Islamic school to shield them, at least during the school day, from the secularism of their adopted American culture. Girls at Al Noor must wear a loose- fitting robe and a tight-fitting scarf to cover their hair and necks. Except for the youngest children, boys and girls are separated during the school day.
They feel their separateness keenly. Since Sept. 11, rumors have raced through the school that Muslims have been shot and beaten in Brooklyn, and that it is not safe to walk the streets because of revenge attacks by Americans against Muslims.
They believe the rumors which have not proven true because they said it fits with their experience of seeing negative images of Islam in films and articles that they find disrespectful of Islam.
"A lot of newspapers write negative things, and we get so upset," said Mona Widdi, 16.
But few students said they thought that newspapers should be forbidden to write things about Islam, the prophet Muhammad or the Koran, topics that writers in most of the Muslim world stay away from out of fear of offending Muslim clerics.
"America does have freedom of speech, and it's one of the basic things," Miss Amin said. "I was taught about it since kindergarten. You can't tell someone that they can't write that. But if they can't prove it, they shouldn't put it in the paper as some kind of hatred against us."
None of the students said they had experienced any harassment since Sept. 11. Their school has received offers of guidance counselors from local hospitals, visits of support from state education officials, offers of interfaith exchanges from nearby Catholic schools and a constant stream of calls offering assistance from political figures in Brooklyn.
The principal, Nidal Abuasi, acknowledged that the students' assumption of a backlash might be misplaced.
"Maybe," he said, after recounting the number of calls from the neighborhood expressing good will, "we are too paranoid."
The more I read statements by people that practice the Muslim faith the more it appears that they are taught in their religion "either you are with them or aginst them." Or maybe "you are with us or we are against you". And a lot of them have been saying things that make them seem more part time Americans than anything else.
Now that this issue comes closer home, we realize that Islam is not Southern Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic or Greek Orthodox. Islam recognizes only one nation -- the nation of Islam. It is therefore incompatible with any other. It co-exists with others because it has to, but Koran teaches the believers that they should spread the religion, even by force. After all, Islam means submission, not peace. It treates non-believers as enemies. Koran online is availbale. Read it.
The guest was introduced as Dr. Hassan Hathout author of Reading the Muslim Mind and a spokesman for the Los Angeles Islamic Center of Southern California. This is the exchange as I transcribed it from the radio.
Question asked by Ken from Nevada:
Ken: Is Islam in conflict with the US Constitution? Specifically, does the Koran instruct the faithful to strive for Islamic rule of law or government under Islamic rule of law? The fundamental question is this: Is the goal of Muslims Islamic rule of the world?"
Hathout: For the last question, no it is not. As for the American constitution, I wish deep from my heart if all Muslim countries would take the American constitution for their constitution and live the democracy which is the essence of true Islam.
Dr. Laura: And take that Ken. Thank you. Did you have a follow-up or are you happy about that?
Ken: Well does the Koran instruct the faithful to strive for Islamic rule of law?
Hathout: No thats when you are a Muslim community. If you are a Muslim community, you are required to judge your affairs and in the Koran there is a verse that says that people of the torah should rule [unintelligible] should rule themselves with it and the people of the gospel should rule themselves with it and if you are just a Muslim majority nation, you are required by Islam to apply the Islamic law.
Dr Laura: However if you live in the United States of America?
Hathout: "I belong in the law of the land. And thats what Islam tells me."
Dr. Laura: "And thats what Judaism tells us too."
After hearing this I returned to my Encyclopedia Britannica (1992) section on Islam and reread the material on Jihad. This is what it said:
Because the mission of the community is to enjoin good and forbid evil so that there is no mischief and corruption on earth, the doctrine of jihad, in view of the constitution of the community as the power base, is the logical outcome. For the early community it was a basic religious concept. Jihad, or holy war, means an active struggle using armed force whenever necessary. The object of jihad is not the conversion of individuals to Islam but rather the gaining of political control over the collective affairs of societies to run them in accordance with the principles of Islam. Individual conversions occur as a byproduct of this process when the power structure passes into the hands of the Muslim community.
I think the conclusions are clear. If and when Muslims are in the majority, they will use the power of the vote to conform our laws with Islamic law. This is what our leaders are ignoring. However "moderate" Muslims in America may seem, their religion recognizes no separation between church and state and is therefore fundamentally inconsistent with our political principles -- indeed with all of Western civilization. If America continues the open door immigration policy we may find that it is our political and religious principles that are merely "tolerated" by a Muslim majority while they pursue Islamic rule.
Not really down with anyone not willing to fight for the very country and lifestyle they enjoy.
This is what all of America needs to understand about these people. Their goal is the overthrow of the US Government and to impose their way of life on us. Mohammedans will get along with anybody else, as long as it is on their terms, fully and completely
"Maybe," he said, after recounting the number of calls from the neighborhood expressing good will, "we are too paranoid."
Their worldview is totally dependent on wild conspiracy theories. They believe the Mossad and the CIA were behind the attacks.
Sorry kids - Freedom of Speech is a basic right in this country - If you don't like it go home to your country and see what you're missing out on by living at home. Their parents are isolating them by sending them to an Islamic school to shield them from our American culture. I sense that these kids are starting to become anti-american.
Not just when they are in the majority
When they are a significantly large minority (say, 5-10%) they will use violence and threats of violence to get their way. Media outlets that are judged "anti-Islamic" will either change their tone, or face an endless series of assaults, sit-ins, protests, etc
Any author who speaks out will risk getting murdered, with the murderer either getting sprung by an "OJ jury" or becoming a celebrity on Death Row (like Mumia Abu Jamal) while filing endless appeals
Any teacher who says anything disliked by Muslims will be hounded from the school system, etc, etc
This piece demonstrates the bitter fruit of "diversity" and "multiculturalism." In the past, all immigrants, who became U.S. citizens, were Americans first. Now, we have an enormous fifth column of traitors who bear no allegiance and will fight against the rest of America.
I will never again trust the allegiance of any Muslim in America. Their religion has no place for national allegiance.
They have no respect for the religious freedom allowed in the United States, and under which they practice their faith HERE, in contrast to the murderous intolerance toward non-Muslims in predominately Muslim countries.
Islam is a dangerous faith and the enemy of freedom throughout the world.
I sure hope all the Islam apologists here on FR read this.
And once again remember;in any war,there are only two sides.
For an example of a level of proof that still would not satisfy these people, look at the OJ trial
I would have expected it from Clinton or Gore, but I am shocked that Bush is more concerned about offending and codling of the enemy - than protecting American citizens.
Considering all the left wing Anti-Americanism being spread today in our gov't schools having vouchers would help a great deal. If that means it would fund schools like this, so be it....
One day in a discussion with a couple of mullahs, one gentleman asked me how it is that Christian missionaries will go anywhere and everywhere, but Moslem missionaries don't go to the worst places.
I told him it was that prohibition on Moslems living or working in places with legal systems incompatible with Islamic principles. After all, the places that need the missionaries, if not their religion, the most, barely have law, to say nothing of having law compatible with a high order of civilization.
You will notice that Moslems live in the United States. That is because our system of laws is compatible with Islam. That was determined first by the Ullema in Cairo, and by others later. With 5 million or so Moslems, that actually makes us pretty much one of the major Islamic states in the world.
All is not as it seems, eh?!
They'll tell us that this worldview is shared by only a minority of Moslems and that Islam means peace.
"Their ideal society would follow Islamic law and make no separation between religion and state. In the meantime, they said, they want to become doctors and lawyers and teachers in the United States. Even though the American government uses taxes to finance things that are un-Islamic..."
These young miscreants should be labeled MUSLIM "WHORES" because that's what they're espousing - living a lifestyle they believe is wrong solely for the money.
The sooner they are back where they belong, the better for all involved.
Early detection and treatment, we are told, are crucial if one is to survive cancer. This country, I am afraid, is in deep, deep denial as to the diagnosis.
Under the Umayyads it was certainly an excellent piece of civilization. Under later regimes where the central power had been broken up, and a federalism prevailed, you could find a community in Spain that satisfied your own personal attitudes toward law, religion and style of community.
Can't say we have yet attained that in the US. At the moment it looks like a single standard imposed from the top that forces us all into an uncomfortable conformity is the rage.
So, what was that you were saying about how Moslems will do it when they try to "take over"? Is that what they did in Spain? Is that going to be worse than a system where we have a bunch of perverts in a Supreme Court telling the rest of us we have to put up with baby killers?
They really should not mind being sent back to Islamic countries which need their skills because we sure don't.
This view is very often held by non-Arab converts to Islam.Yet they fail to explain why the majority of interviews and the actions (or non-action) of the Islamic community does not mesh with the definition of peaceful. I have been saying since 91101; there are only two sides.....I jumped for joy when GWB said basically the same thing.
This article clearly points out were these peoples sympathies lie.
On September 11th, a group of Muslims working in a computer manufacturing plant in my U.S. city, rejoiced and cheered over the carnage in New York, thereby starting a fist-fight with fellow workers.
Let me ask you this, carpet rider: how many churches do you have in Saudi Arabia? How many mosques do we have in America? Now WHO are the bigots???!!!!
Maybe America is "anti-Muslim" because Islam has shown itself to be anti-Western. Or, maybe America isn't anti-Muslim at all. Maybe that is just a convenient fiction behind which to hide a murderous agenda, and speciously justify the slaughter of 7,000 innocents.
This is what Islam teaches. "Nice," eh?
People read the Koran. Don't let those who embraced it tell you about it. Learn what's it all about from the source.
"...Islam has shown itself to be anti-Western."
Excellent point IronJack! With all the propoganda about America being "anti-Islam", we need to turn the tables and press home the point that America permits their mosques and the practice of Islam in this country. Can Muslim countries say the same about Christian churces and Jewish synagogues in their countries? The truth as you correctly point out is that Islam is anti-western, anti-anything but Islam. It is the epitome of intolerance and tyranny.
Who can argue this point? Step forward. Who in the media has the guts to ask these questions of Islamic Clerics and the liberal left?
They already do in Milwaukee, and at least two of those schools are Islamic.
One American Muslim's view of how forces of hatred find a home in otherwise beneficent mosques and Islamic centers
by Mustafa Saied
special to MSNBC.com
Oct. 3 Ever since America was attacked Sept. 11 by suspected Muslim extremists, there has been a remarkable emphasis on displaying tolerance and understanding towards Muslims living and practicing their faith in the United States. As Americans are called to show respect towards Arabs and Muslims in their midst, it is only fair that the American Muslim community take an introspective look at their own action.
THOUGH THERE ARE many sincere and observant Muslims in America, it is also a fact that in mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim student associations in this country that are funded by extremist factions in Saudi Arabia, anti-American sentiments are commonly intertwined with religious teaching.
As a longtime member of the American Muslim community, I have a unique perspective on this. Born in India, I came to the United States on a student visa. Though the adjustment was easy because it had always been my dream to live here, during my college years I became involved with some extremist Muslim groups. I must admit that some of my conversations on campus were quite insensitive and hateful towards the United States and western civilization as a whole.
I left those ideas behind years ago, when I was fortunately convinced by some friends that these extremist teachings are alien to Islam. Now, as an American resident, I feel it is time to call attention to what goes on inside some Islamic organizations in the United States that function as enclaves of extremism.
RIDICULE AND SUSPICION
Anti-Americanism takes many forms, from a general suspicion of all things non-Muslim to the ridicule of American values and culture, to, in the most extreme cases, outright statements of hatred couched in the language of religion.
In some Muslim communities, it is not unusual for non-Islamic religious or cultural observances to be ridiculed. I have attended Friday congregational prayers in the week before Christmas, Halloween or Thanksgiving in which the sermons are marked with sarcastic references to American religious and cultural practices. This strikes me as hypocritical, especially considering that greetings on the Muslim Eid holidays from non-Muslims are received with pride, but members of most mosques are forbidden to acknowledge their neighbors celebration of Christmas or return a holiday greeting.
Parents are increasingly encouraged to send their children to Islamic schools because of a rising sentiment in the American Muslim community that the nations public schools are not safe, that they teach anti-Islamic subject matter and that their children are better off surrounded by Muslims rather than non-Muslims. I have not known any of these Islamic schools to encourage or practice the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, so I still fail to see how patriotism is in any way condoned, inculcated or preserved in the minds of our children.
The most extreme manifestation of anti-American sentiment is in the handful of mosques, Islamic centers and student groups that are controlled by forces that display a particularly venomous hatred towards the Western society. The teachings of religious experts ancient ones, like Ibn Taymiyyah, a Saudi scholar of the 13th and 14th centuries or recent leaders like Saudi Sheikh Albany or Abdul Wahhab are notable for their harsh rulings and strong words against non-Muslims.
SPORTS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Much of this anti-American sentiment takes place out of sight, cloaked in language most Americans cannot understand and in communal religious activities that take place outside the mainstream. But sometimes it comes to the surface. A few years ago, for instance, when the media focused on basketball star Mahmoud Abdul Raufs refusal to stand during the singing of the national anthem, Rauf, then a player on the Denver Nuggets, received a great deal of public support from the American Muslim community.
Its hard to say exactly why Raufs co-religionists rallied to his cause: was it because a Muslim sports hero caught in a controversy deserved unconditional Muslim support? Or was it that these Muslims many of whom carry American passports felt the American national anthem did not deserve respect? In the end, Rauf came to terms with the issue by agreeing to stand, but silently pray, during the playing of the national anthem. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, I wonder how many American Muslims now regret their involvement in this cause.
FLAGS AND PASSPORTS
A prevailing argument among some Muslim critics is that the American flag stands for the various oppressions and injustices of American foreign policy. But if the American flag is problematic for some American Muslims, what does holding an American passport represent? If they feel so strongly about it, shouldnt these critics be turning in their passports?
Muslims living in this country and enjoying its freedoms should stop tolerating hate-filled speeches against the West in its centers and houses of worship. Now is the time to discourage anti-social elements within the Islamic centers and mosques. It is not enough for people to simply say that they do not agree with extremist rhetoric. Individuals have a responsibility to voice their concerns and put the pressure on the community to stop tolerating it.
And, if it comes to this, Muslims of good will should be ready to report extremists in their midst to the proper authorities, if they do not tone down their rhetoric no matter how pious these extremists may claim to be. We cannot let the brotherhood of religion outweigh the security of our country and the responsibilities we have as American citizens.
Introspection is never really painless. The time has come to step up.
Mustafa Saied wrote this commentary for MSNBC.com
Of course it is. They want out of their sh**hole Muslim nations and into the USA/ Canada/ Australia/ Europe. Once here they set up their own little colony with their own world view. Not all Muslims do this but way over 50% do. I would ban all Muslim immigration to the West.
The Muslim numbers in France are bloody frightening!
Americans need to know what they are up against.
Non-citizens need to be sent home along with their brood.
You're right!!! That's the intent by the Islamic Radical Clerics. We should not allow people in our country that would not bear arms and fight for our way of life. Read post #41