The impact of Muslim immigrants and Muslim visitors on the U.S. Most of the points raised also apply to Europe, Canada and Australia.
by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.
This is a very brief outline which may become a self-standing article
in the future. In this outline I am going to present the impact
of Muslim immigrants and Muslim visitors on the West. Since I
live in the U.S. the emphasis is on this country, however, most
of the points I have raised also apply to Europe, Canada and Australia.
The following points are not a research-based study but should
be taken as observations of the author.
1. Change in perception about Islam and Muslims:
Fading away are derogatory concepts and terms, such as Mohammedan,
Mohammedanism, Moslem, harems, Jihad as forceful conversions,
desert tent culture, camel drivers and others. Also the misconception
that Arab and Muslim are synonymous terms.
2. Muslim Food: Initially many South Asian (Indo-Pak-Bangladesh)
Muslims came to the West in large numbers and their cooking was
very spicy and fragrant. The stereotypical picture was that Muslim
food was stinky, odorous and hot. As Arabs and other ethnic Muslims
began to migrate to the West people learned that all Muslims were
not the same and there were differences. Muslims began opening
their restaurants representing many ethnic cultures of the Muslim
world. Many Muslim restaurants have significant non-Muslim clientele
who enjoy the food. There are restaurants offering food from South
Asia and many countries of the Arab world. Even American food
ingredients have been modified to please the Muslim customers
who do not eat any pork products. For example, lard and animal
shortening have almost disappeared as ingredients in the bakery
products and have been replaced by vegetable oil. Even airlines
are offering Muslim food in their menus.
3. Intermarriages: Muslim immigrants are finding
mates in the local population. In most cases a local mate adopts
Islam, which is always the case when a Muslim girl marries a local
man due to the Islamic requirement. However, a Muslim man is allowed
to marry a Christian or Jewish woman while she maintains her faith.
A large number of local women adopt Islam. These mixed marriages
are bringing a new generation of Muslims who have the best of
both cultures and traits.
4. Conversions (or Reversions): Islam teaches
that every person is born into Islam but the parents and the society
changes his religion. It is, therefore, obvious that when a person
enters Islam he is not converting but reverting back to his religion
of birth. In the U.S. over three million people have entered Islam
within the last thirty years. Similarly, the same number have
entered Islam in a comparable period in Europe. Among them there
are many well-known people, such as Roger Geroudi, a French Communist
Party Secretary General; Maurice Bucaille, a surgeon and a writer
in France; Murad Hoffman, a German diplomat; Muhammad Asad (formerly
Wolfgang Weiss) an Austrian-Polish journalist; Aisha Lemu, a British
lady; Jeffrey Lang, an American Professor of Mathematics; Malcolm
X (Malik Shabazz); Muhammad Ali; Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly
H. Rap Brown), an American human rights activist of the 60s, to
name a few. Many rose in Islam to prominence, such as, Imam Siraj
Wahhaj, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips,
Hamza Yusuf, Umar Faruq Abd-Allah Weiman, Amina Assilimi, Nancy
Ali, Mary Ali, Abdullah Yusuf Madyun and many others.
5. Political Arena: There is not a single Muslim
congressman or a senator but there are many Muslims mayors, state
congressmen and city councilmen who have been elected. Muslims
stayed away from politics in any organized manner until recently.
However, the year 2000 changed when Muslims decided to enter politics
in an organized way. There were voter registration campaigns,
interviews with political candidates and finally a recommendation
for a block vote. President Bush won by a slight margin of 530
votes in Florida for which Muslims can take some credit (or blame).
There are 60,000 Muslim Floridians and 91% of them voted for Bush.
Muslims helped the election of Hilary Clinton in New York, Robert
Torecelli in New Jersey and many other candidates.
6. The Destruction of 9-11: In February 1993 there
was bombing attack on the Wold Trade Center and as a consequence,
three mosques and many Muslim stores were burned, a few people
were killed, many were attacked, there was vandalism at mosques
and homes. Not a single American politician said a word in support
of Muslims. However, in 2001 President Bush spoke in support of
Muslims separating Islam from terrorism. Eventually many political
leaders came to the support of Muslim and Arab Americans.
7. Christian Theology and the Bible: Ahmad Deedat
began his debates with the Christians in the 1950s and became
famous in the 1980s. From the beginning he was attacking the Bible
as a non-reliable book. Among his objection was that the text
was changing all the time. For example, he pointed out that Mark
16:9-20 were removed from the RSV and John 3:16 use of begotten
son. Bible scholars put back Mark 16:9-20 and changed the meaning
in John 3:16 from begotten to unique. Also, many Christian ministers
became skeptical about the divinity and sonship of Jesus. As a
result of attacks on the Bible, Gleason Archer wrote his book,
Difficulties of the Bible, William Campbell wrote, The
Qur’an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science,
which was in response to Maurice Bucaille’s book, The Bible,
the Qur’an and Science. Overall Christian response to the
Muslim attacks came in two ways: defensive, as in the writings
of Archer, Campbell and others; and offensive, as in the writings
of Robert Morey, Anis Sharoush and many others, including the
anti-Islam tracts of Chick Publications. In addition many anti-Islam
web sites were developed, such as, “Answering-Islam”
by Joshan Katz and numerous others.
8. Learning vocabulary, names and concepts of Islam:
Ramadan, fasting, masjid, mosque, Eid, Hajj, 5-daily prayers,
Jumu’ah prayer, Malik Shabazz, Muhammad Ali, and recently, Osama
Bin Laden, Muhammad Atta and many others became a part of everyday
9. Acceptance of Muslim dress and ideas: Hijab,
kufi (men’s hat), thaub (men’s ankle length
shirt), beard, on-the-job prayers, time allowed for Jumu’ah prayers,
Muslim stance on swimming costumes for girls, below knee length
shorts for boys, and so on have became acceptable in schools.
10. Muslim contributions to science: The most
prominent recent contributions are the Sears Tower and John Hancock
Center designed by Dr. Fazlur Rahman. Ensure, a vitamin and energy
drink was formulated by Pakistani scientists, Windows 95 operating
system was developed under the supervision of a Pakistani programmer,
AST Computers was established by a Muslim from South Asia. There
are numerous Muslim immigrant scientists working in the auto industry,
medicine, drug research and development.
11. Finance: There are over a trillion dollars
belonging to the oil rich Arab states which has been invested
in the U.S. This is not a small amount of money to be ignored.
12. Education and Service: There are over 25,000
Muslim medical doctors serving in the U.S. hospitals. In addition,
thousands of Muslim technicians are serving in a variety of ancillary
medical fields. There are thousands of Muslim professors in American
colleges and universities. Many colleges and universities are
offering courses in Muslim history, civilization, Arabic language
and literature. Muslims are influencing social studies text books
which contained anti-Islam bigotry. All bigotry parts are being
taken out and replaced by material written by the Muslim scholars.
Muslims are opening K-12 schools all over the U.S. and Canada.
Islamic colleges are on the way, a few are already operating on
a small scale.
13. Architectural Landscape: Mosques in the traditional
Muslim architecture are being planned and built all across North
America. Fifty years ago there was not a single mosque designed
and built according to Muslim design but in 2001 over 300 such