At first, the devout Muslims who gathered in a Washington, D.C., conference center seemed like they could have come from any mosque. There were women in headscarves and bearded men who quoted the Quran.
But something was different. While mingling over hors d’oeuvres, they discussed how to change Islam’s future. A woman spoke about fighting terrorism; she had married outside the Islamic faith, which is forbidden for a Muslim woman. A Pakistani man mentioned his plans to meet friends for drinks, despite the faith’s ban on alcohol.
In a corner of the room, an imam in a long gray tunic counseled a young Muslim with a vexing spiritual conflict: being gay and Muslim. The imam, also gay and in a relationship, could easily sympathize with the youth’s difficulties.
Today, as America’s Muslim leaders debate controversial topics like political radicalism inside mosques and states’ attempts to ban Shariah law, this growing network of alternative mosques and Islamic groups is quietly forging a new spiritual movement.
They’re taking bold steps, reinterpreting Islamic norms and re-examining taboos. While far from accepted by mainstream clerics, these worshippers feel that the future of the religion lies not solely with tradition but with them. Women are leading congregations in prayer, gay imams are performing Islamic marriages, and men and women are praying side by side.
Poor Lowe’s. The do-it-yourself chain made room in their budget for TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” a reality show about life in the Muslim American community in Dearborn, Mich., but the company ended up catching some focus for supporting a show that depicted Muslims as something besides terrorists. As it turned out, the protest was hardly broad based, with most of it coming from one guy. Still, the Florida Family Association, as David Caton’s Web site is called, claimed 65 companies agreed to stop advertising on “All-America Muslim.” That didn’t turn out to be precisely true.
But Lowe’s pulled back and jumped directly from the frying pan and into the fire. This weekend, Muslims and many non-Muslims in Dearborn showed up in force to protest the decision, according to The Detroit Free Press.
‘About 100 people of various faiths gathered at the Allen-Born Shopping Center on Outer Drive to chastise the hardware giant for what they described as caving to the demands of a right-wing Christian group who said TLC’s “All-American Muslim” does not include depictions of beliefs that appear to promote an anti-American agenda.’
The Florida Family Association ended up with a hacked Web site and the chief executive of Lowe’s is now in receipt of a letter from Congress asking the company to stand up to religious intolerance. And, perhaps worst of all for Lowe’s, a few people came to its defense at protests over the weekend: Armed members of the Michigan Militia.
As the FBI pursues one alleged terrorist plot after another, Muslim Americans are grappling with a widespread sense that the government thinks they all could be terrorists.
In dozens of interviews across the country, McClatchy Newspapers has found that the government’s search for the enemy within is threatening to divide and destroy America’s Muslim communities.
“It’s not a guilty complex; it’s the stigma of being a Muslim and constantly having to defend religion,” said Edina Lekovic, the communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “It causes people to give up and say, ‘Why should I bother? No one likes me. Why should I keep trying?’ ”
In an op-ed to the International Herald Tribune, Roger Cohen explores Islamophobia in the United States, and why he believes it is important that Senator Obama reach out to America’s Muslim community, and visit mosques, just as he has visited churches and synagogues to reach out to their faithful. While Cohen is aware that Obama’s middle name of _Hussein’ has and will continue to draw suspicion from opponents and the fearful, he argues that Obama’s multi-cultural background may put him in a unique position to present, from his own knowledge and experiences, that Islam is not a monstrous specter. More on Cohen’s opinions can be read at the link below.