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My Take: Muslims deepened their American roots after 9/11
Civic groups that American Muslims launched before 9/11 expanded dramatically after the attacks.
September 2nd, 2011
02:08 PM ET

My Take: Muslims deepened their American roots after 9/11

Editor's note: Eboo Patel is Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based organization building interfaith cooperation, and author of Acts of Faith. Follow him on Twitter: @EbooPatel.

By Eboo Patel, Special to CNN

In the early years of Islam, when the Muslim community was small and frequently under attack, the Prophet Mohammed sent a delegation of recent converts from the city of Mecca to the kingdom of Abyssinia. The Abyssinian king was a Christian and when he asked the Muslims about the faith they followed, one of the Muslims recited the Quran:

She said, "How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, either have I been unchaste?"

He said: "'Even so my Lord has said; 'Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us, it is a thing decreed.'"

These lines are about Mary, mother of Jesus. They show how Muslims revere her and that they believe that Mary was a virgin when she bore Jesus, just as Christians do.

But some enemies of the Muslims emphasized to the Abyssinians that the Muslims had a different view of Jesus than Christians did. Sure, Muslims believed that Jesus was one of God's prophets, these enemies said, but they didn't believe he was God's only son or humankind's savior.

And yet the king of Abyssinia was so moved by the commonalities between his Christian faith and Islam that he ignored those who sought to sow division, allowing the Muslims to stay and practice their faith in his kingdom.

This story is a metaphor for the path that Muslims in America have taken since the tragic events of 9/11 ten years ago. In the face of those who would paint us as "foreign" or "other," we are emphasizing the values and beliefs that Islam holds in common with other American communities.

As the American Muslim community started to grow in the 1960s and 1970s, largely through immigration from the Middle East and South Asia and conversion by African-Americans, Muslims focused their energies on establishing families, building businesses and advancing their careers.

With respect to religion, there was a huge amount of work involved in opening mosques, finding spaces to hold Muslim weddings and funerals and creating educational outfits to teach our faith to our children. Like Jews and Catholics before us, Muslims also showed concern for family and the faithful back in the countries of their birth.

But by the 1990s, Muslims began looking outside our own community, launching projects to strengthen ties between us and the rest of the country.

The idea behind these new organizations was simple: Muslims were now calling America "home" and Islam called us to cooperate with and serve neighbors of all backgrounds.

In Chicago, the INNER-City Muslim Action Network was formed to run community development programs, ranging from anti-violence interventions to feeding the hungry.

In the San Francisco Bay area, Muslims launched a group called ING to send Muslim speakers into schools and to community groups to emphasize shared values. In Washington, the Muslim Public Service Network got going to provide fellowships for young Muslim interning in the nation's capital.

As opposed to focusing solely on the Muslim immigrant community, this new generation of groups worked closely with African-American Muslims. And the groups' model of reorienting the Muslim community toward the United States attracted support from Muslim leaders.

"Home is not where your grandfather was born," says one of those leaders, Muslim Public Affairs Council founder Maher Hathout, "but where your grandchildren will be buried."

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslims grieved for fellow Americans who perished in the attacks, whose ranks included Muslims. We were shocked when some of our fellow citizens threatened mosques and pointed their fingers at Islam, treating us as if we were in league with the terrorists, rather than as fellow victims and mourners.

Those accusations made us realize that too many of our neighbors knew too little about us and our religion. In turned out that the event most Americans associated with Islam was 9/11. The Muslim figure they were most likely to recognize was Osama bin Laden.

This problem was exacerbated by a small network of activists and intellectuals intent on spreading ugly misinformation about Islam, presenting our religion as inherently violent, its adherents as dangerous fanatics.

For all the pride we Muslims took in having established our mosques and families and businesses in the United States over the past generation, we had the same realization that largely immigrant religious groups like Jews and Catholics had in earlier decades as they strove to deepen American roots: we had to invest more energy into bridge-building efforts with the rest of the country, to place more emphasis on commonalities.

Just as Jews and Catholics deepened American roots by launching an array of civil society organizations, from schools to universities to hospitals to social service groups that have benefited the broader American public, so would Muslims.

As a result, the American Muslim organizations launched in the years leading up to 9/11 have moved to the center of the American Muslim consciousness. Many of them grown dramatically since 9/11, expanding staffs, budgets and programs.

The change the groups have inspired has been remarkable.

A new generation of Muslims are becoming public policy experts, writers and social entrepreneurs, launching organizations that seek to build understanding and cooperation between Muslims and the rest of the country. These American Muslim leaders will be the architects of a network of civic organizations that will one day look like the networks that Catholics and Jews have established.

Muslims are not the first faith community to experience discrimination in America and we're not the first to respond by building bridges outside the community. It's precisely the path that Jews and Catholics walked before us, and it's a crucial part of the American story: a nation defined by its diversity and built by the contributions of its many communities.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Eboo Patel.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (823 Responses)
  1. ChRIST TEMPLAR

    They had just told us that USA will get humble to Islam. Look at this. This happen in USA soil, in Colorado.

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/09/colorado-american-flag-lowered-replaced-with-saudi-flag-in-greeley-elementary-school-classroom.html

    September 6, 2011 at 4:40 am |
  2. ChRIST TEMPLAR

    http://quran.com/9/29
    Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah (Security Tax) willingly while they are humbled.

    1. Islam will not kill us except you pay Security Tax for your life.

    http://quran.com/9/30
    The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of Allah "; and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the son of Allah ." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?

    2. Allah only in Arabs? Only Arab Jews that think Ezra is the son of God.

    http://quran.com/3/67
    Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists.

    3. So be it with Jesus and Christians.

    http://quran.com/2/115
    And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.

    4. Allah not live in Mecca so why you turn your prayer to that place.

    http://quran.com/5/51
    O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

    5. If so, why all Muslim immigrant are trying to migrant to west. You are disobey your own law, you must not be come and live among us. You have a plenty oil and water there with your camel. We have our dogs.

    September 6, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • Dane Harden

      You are a slave to that which, by nature, is no god at all. Your beliefs are false; Mohammed was a liar and an antichrist. You who follow that man do not know God. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. He lives, and those who believe in Him will live also. All other religion is false, like it or not. May the one true God, the father of the Lord Jesus Christ touch your heart to know the truth and turn away from Islamic nonsense. I left my full name. Come get me.

      September 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  3. ChRIST TEMPLAR

    oh what a running naked around around and around black basalt stone!!! Someone trying to pi5sing at my history and location. I had done anything yet to Christiany and Atheistm. Only Islam that suppose to burn me.

    D4aam you Islam hacker!!!

    South Sudan free at least!!!

    http://www.persecution.org (legal)

    http://quran.com/5/51 (actively stat your visit – use privacy private tab)

    http://faithfreedom.org/ (blocked nad banned by most Islam majority ISP)

    Remember, those Islam maggots are not welcome with free speech idea. If you not with them then you against them.

    September 6, 2011 at 3:57 am |
  4. LuVislam

    Wow the only terrorists I see are the trash that post negative comments! Get a life!

    September 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  5. oyvavoy

    Hate and anger eat the body from within. Until that last bite, it remains standing, creating the illusion of wellbeing. Comes the last bite and it collapses. The illusion evaporates..

    Ignorance, hate and anger lead to ruin. Hate is the consequence of fear. Hating other people translate to hating your self Anger and intolerance are the enemies.

    September 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Scott

      Very poetic/thoughtful...however, the Nazis could have applied the same premise to the Allied Powers who defeated them.

      September 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  6. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Sounds eerie but appears very relevant here:

    Termites eat a structure from within. Until that last bite, it remains standing, creating the illusion of wellbeing. Comes the last bite and it collapses. The illusion evaporates..... Humayun Gauhar, Noted Pakistani Columnist

    “Is there an inch of ground in any Muslim country today where one can stand up and speak a word of truth without fear? If there is, then I am an applicant for that piece of land, because that is where I would like to be buried in silence.” ..Altaf Gauhar

    September 5, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  7. oyvavoy

    gnorance, hate and anger lead to ruin. Hate is the consequence of fear. Hating other people translate to hating your self Anger and intolerance are the enemies.

    For those of you who harbor contempt, embrace instead.

    Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
    Albert Einstein

    September 5, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • AGuest9

      You can come back and tell us all about it after someone flies planes into your country, killing 3,000 people in the name of religion.

      September 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  8. oyvavoy

    Ignorance, hate and anger lead to ruin. Hate is the consequence of fear. other people translate to hating your self Anger and intolerance are the enemies.

    For those of you who harbor contempt, embrace instead.

    Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
    Albert Einstein

    September 5, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  9. ChRIST TEMPLAR

    http://quran.com/6/155
    And this [Qur'an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.

    http://quran.com/9/29
    Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah (Security Tax) willingly while they are humbled.

    http://quran.com/9/30
    The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of Allah "; and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the son of Allah ." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?

    http://quran.com/3/67
    Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists.

    http://quran.com/2/115
    And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.

    http://quran.com/5/51
    O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

    September 5, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • mullah hajdar

      americans are dumb

      September 5, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  10. Freethinksman

    That Islam concurs with Christianity's notion of a "virgin birth" doesn't make me feel better about Islam. Clinging to nonsense is not a virtue, whether you invent your own or parrot someone else's.

    September 5, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  11. oyvavoy

    There're a lots of Americans in the muslim world. I hope they don't harbor the same thoughts as some of you. Imagine

    September 5, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  12. becool

    And my take that Muslims deepen the root of explosions and violence in America. Their prophet ordered them to kill no matter what!!! For Christ sake wake up!

    September 5, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Allocer

      Yeah, you should wake up from your stupidity.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Carla

      Muslims are far safer and much more normal than the murder-game-crazed rotten youth of anti-morality in the secular West.

      September 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  13. Reality

    And the idiocy of it all is that Muslims like Eboo aka Ebrahim Patel, believe in and are driven by the myths of the OT, NT and the koran especially in mythical Abraham and a mythical "pretty, wingie, talking, thingie" aka Gabriel!!

    But there is money to be made with such idiocy.

    e.g. Eboo Patel pays himself well ($131,000/yr) from his Interfaith Youth Core "non-profit" group's receipts (government grants, donations etc.) which, based on the group's IRS Form 990, appears to be more of a stock holding company ($2,335,960 portfolio in 2008- guidestar.org) for Mr. Patel than it is a "non-profit". Non-profits do not pay taxes on dividends, interest or capital gains.

    And did Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core work for Obama's election campaign as we see Eboo is not only on the recent Chicago Council of Global Affairs' task force but also on Obama's Faith advisory council?

    And did a Faith Initiative grant from the State Department help defray the cost of CCOGA's reports and Mr. Patel's task force pay? (Mrs. Obama was a former member of the CCOCA).
    ------------------------------------------------------

    September 5, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  14. FredF

    Islam is not a religion, but a suffocating, totalitarian inhuman political system.

    September 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • i wonder

      FredF:

      Yes it is, in many countries... just like Christianity was in the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) in many countries in Europe. We managed to survive and tame those tyrants. We must do the same with Islamic tyrants... and we won't have 1000 years to accomplish it - because of the devastation caused by modern weaponry.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  15. FredF

    There sure is a deepening of Islam in America since 9/11. Since 9/11 the US has stopped 35 attempted attacks by American radical cells. Scarey stuff...

    September 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  16. oyvavoy

    Tolerance and rising above our fears,hate, anger and ignorance are the challenges we're facing in this country.

    “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”

    -Ralph W. Sockman

    September 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  17. oyvavoy

    Amy don't pretend to be a scholar when you don't know the basics. To those of you who can't live without a villain? Who want to channel out their anger and hate towards muslims. There's a director/conductor somewhere in the world sitting on a sandy beach in front of his/her laptop pretend to be one of you whose sole purpose is to use your raw emotion to get the best of you. Hate, ignorance and anger are the path for self destruct.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  18. George

    Islam, I SPIT on you.

    September 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • 666

      When 9/11 occured, did Moslems publically voice their solidarity with the West? NO! Moslems, if you're not with the USA then you are against the USA. I also spit on Islam.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • SquareRootOfMinusOne

      Eboo, with all due respect you are advocating post-modern, reductionistic, and nihilistic Religious Pluralism. You are a wolf in sheep's clothing!

      September 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Erin

      George- u r what you eat......a pig

      September 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  19. Monbois

    The king of Abyssinia probably saw tax revenue in allowing Muslims to occupy his land, as well as a counter-balance to the church's power. Kings may inherent their undeserved power, but successful kings are smart and shrewd politicians and know how to move around pieces on a chessboard.

    The king of Abyssinia probably would've accepted any argument the Muslims presented:

    MUSLIM ENVOY: Your highness! We also believe that Jesus could rub his belly, pat the top of his head, hop on one foot and whistle Yankee Doodle Dandy all at the same time! Surely he was divine!

    KING OF ABYSSINIA: You're in!!!

    September 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • kim jung

      If you see some Muslims not being peaceful then you can't judge the teaching of Islam according to what the Muslims do or what the Muslim society does.Again...Islam means justice, fairness, equality, humanity and kindness! Many people used to be enemies of Islam and at the end of the day they themselves became defenders of Islam.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • talezspin

      Kim Jung

      Many people are leaving Islam! You are being lied to and deceived.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrHAGAXX230

      September 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  20. kim jung

    The real Islam is hidden from your eyes.It is simple.Peaceful and true.I wish you would believe it but I understand the things which are in front of everyone's eyes.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Monbois

      Is it peaceful to women who don't wear a rag on their head? Is it peaceful to gay men and women? Is it peaceful to anyone who refuses to share their religion?

      In Islamic theocracies can women be legally beaten for not obeing their husbands? Female relatives murdered by a male relative for displeasing him? Gay teens hanged in the public square (as happened in Iran a few years ago, where it's also legal to hang "sinful" girls as young as 12, though the youngest a boy can be hanged is 16, not that it matters since the two boys hanged were only 14 when they committed the so-called "crime" of kissing each other).

      All religions are inherently oppressive, but Islam is particularly NUTS!!!

      September 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • talezspin

      http://www.youtube.com/user/allahaleg?blend=3&ob=5#p/u

      September 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • emperor palapatine

      Peaceful? Equal?
      your women are considered inferior.and your koran says kill the infidels.
      put down your crack pipe alice, your dreaming

      September 5, 2011 at 2:55 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.