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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. Al Asad

    Islam is the root of povery and the stalled growth in the Middle east, as well as in the pacific islands (pretty much anywhere Islam prevails). This is a fact my Muslim readers. Most of the Mullahs, Sheiks, Ayatollahs, Imams and other religious leaders in most of the muslim world are un-educated and a large majority cannot even read the Qa'ran. They have simply memorized it from childhood. These uneducated individuals are revered by thier followers as the one with the information and thier guidance for eternal life. That is a scary thought. The blind leading the blind. Islam definitely opresses, not only women (especially women), but also the population as a whole. There are so many loopholes for muslims to get away with violent and vicious acts that violate thier own holy book and they justify it in the name of Allah. It was created by man for man. Also, you have no idea how many times I have heard from Muslim men that men are for pleasure and women are for babies. The ones who get it the worst are the young boys. Many high level Muslims have "Chai Boys". Tell me, how was it that Mohammad ascended to heaven at the Dome of the rock? How many times did he have to go back and forth, negotiating on how many times muslims must pray. That is the most ridiculous story. Mohammad was smart in the fact that he constructed Islam in order to unite a bunch of goat herders in a big desert. There are only a very small percentage that are what progressive and civilized society consider normal.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • AZ

      You have mix of misunderstanding of minor and personal examples with major and original ones! I would recommend you to look more into it before you judge something. If you read the article in intellectual intend rather than pre-judged opinion you will get the point that the few whom spoke to the king reflected that the Islam is a continuity and revealed from the same God of Christianity! So, please give it another unbiased look and you may find it logically make sense.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Be Afraid

      AZ, after 17 attempts it was still a no go. Stop telling how peaceful islam is, try telling that to the intolerant muslims in most parts of the world.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Mullah Omar

      Do you need help my son? Mullah Omar is here to help you son.-.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  2. haha

    Sharia law and the quron shall never and I say NEVER stand against Christianity and those who try to change the law of the land shall burn in Hell and I shall help stand in the way with a can of gasoline to stop islam from changing the culture my parents and granparents brought to me, dont take this as a threat, take it as a promise.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • JK

      i am so scared....

      September 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Dieyoung

      Dude, Islam is not going to take over. You are just being ignorant and promoting violence.... So why don't you go back on your anti-psychotic medications before you actually play out your fantasy.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Haha... and people wonder on here why atheists have the audacity to blog on a belief column.. If you cannot see how religion, and I care not which one, is infecting society with so much hate then you guys are blind. Religions and their associated gods are poking harder at each other daily and it will end in tears again. We have lost so much as a species to religious myths and its time we pull together as one.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Mullah Omar

      Do you need help my son? Mullah Omar is here to help you son......

      September 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Edwin

      haha: you are a very scary human being.

      September 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Al Asad

      Liberal hippies are just weak minded individuals who live in thier own shadows. The world is over-populated anyway. It will all come to a head eventually.

      September 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Edwin

      Evolved: not all atheists are as anti-religion as you suggest. I am an atheist, but I think religions can be a source of great comfort, beauty, and enlightenment. We all need to understand and find value in the universe. My favorite direction of meaning is science, but devotion to the more wondrous aspects of religion can also provide an amazing lens for understanding existence.

      I think the pathetic ones are those who try to impose their own value system on others, whether that system is a particular religion, no religion, science, hedonism, or whatever it is. The world is better with diversity - ethnic, biological, religious, linguistic, you name it. The more ways we express ourselves, them more we express the universe.

      One world view cannot hope to truly define the entire universe, just as one life cannot truly represent all of humanity. Let those who believe continue to believe, and share your own wonderment at the universe with theirs.

      September 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Not as funny

      you are a perfect example of how muslims are destructive, and violent. Just curious, would you be paying for that gasoline, or invading another country to get it for free?

      September 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Al Asad..better to be weak minded than totally mindless though.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  3. jhon

    to know muslims it is not necesary to belive their propaganda .the only way is reading what qoran their book teaches .i read the boook it is all about forcing non muslims make them by force and other wise kill them .we have that experience in my country. after few years the americans will know how this evil will come and be trouble to all generations of this country. i know this article is wiritten by thier propagandist

    September 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  4. bert the fig

    hey allah! (wish i could have a picture!!!)

    since all of these muslim types think that going to visit you in your dirt house in the sky is so cool, could you please take them all.... right now? that would be like super cool.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • I_am_your_teacher

      We will then come back with more and take over the foreclosed houses you can't own

      September 3, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  5. oskhos

    I born in a country of majority are muslims, I have seen how they compelled the people of my faith to leave the country as the majority muslims are so intolerant to other faith. Non muslims has no rights o practice their religion in a muslim majority state but they want more than 100% rights in a nonmuslim majority country. When certain threshold is reach they will push so hard to make change the rules in islamic way, that has been there whole strategy all over the history. Liberal America will be fooled.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  6. hawaiiduude

    the facts: http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/l032001.htm

    September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  7. CG

    "My make-believe story is better than your make-believe story"

    It blows my mind that people argue about this crap.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  8. mullah hajdar

    palin/bachman for president/vp.they are our dream.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  9. Dieyoung

    I am not Muslim, but I think that a lot of Americans are too thick headed and angry to believe how positive this article is. There is nothing that hints any violent attacks against Americans. Unless they are under the FBI watch list, then I say good for them. People who spread hatred and fear (hence, terrorists – Not these people) will cause those who fear and hate to become violent towards even the innocent people. As far as I know, the murder of anyone regardless of religion and nationality is illegal.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  10. DB

    Sorry, bad link before: Try this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=tCAffMSWSzY#t=28

    September 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      lest we forget about another devil religion check out the talmud..hey whose book is the talmud anyway? yikes! http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/l032001.htm

      September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Peter

      Read the very quickly posted legal disclaimer at the beginning of the video. Oh, this is TOO funny!

      September 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  11. danny

    more propaganda from the news media...

    September 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Edwin

      danny: do you believe that any articles that disagree with your world view are propaganda? Or just articles about muslims?

      September 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • danny

      its propaganda – they are not telling the whole story

      September 2, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Peter

      The author is correct. Catholics and Jews went all through this in America in the 19th Century.

      Danny: I suspect if it were 1880 you would be railing against Catholics and/or Jews.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Dieyoung

      What whole story? Are you really so dense into believing that this could be the whole story? Or are you just hoping to prove yourself correct in your ignorant claim that these people are terrorists out to kill people?

      September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • danny

      @peter not exactly, first of all i am catholic in heritage so obviously i wouldn't be against myself, second of all, catholics have generally tried to assimilate and be loyal to this country first, not true of muslims. now as for jews, there are many who do put israel's needs/goals over that of America's and that is a problem that must be addressed, but again, good luck doing that with all the zionist neo-con propaganda pressure groups.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Guest

      New video of the Pentagon attack surfaced on the internet, which shows the American Airline Boeing was actually a missile.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  12. Conrad Miller

    Islam is not a religion–it is a cult that denies its adherents the option of changing faith, practices genital mutilation on its female children, and keeps women in a subservient role (to the point of killing them). I cannot believe we are falling for this in the USA; political correctness will be our doom.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • BlindIdiocy

      And whats catholicism is also not a cult?

      September 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • BlindIdiocy

      if*

      September 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • kyrunner

      Haha BlindIdiocy wants to ridicule and act as if they are the objective truth in human flesh and can't even spell when a right click now has spell check LOL

      islam is a cult and Christianity is a religion. End of story. 🙂

      September 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • danny

      the sheeple are falling for all kinds of stuff in the USA. Hardly anyone one considers the source of their info in the USA, thus they fall for this kind of stuff.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • danny

      @blindidiocy no one is stopping a catholic from ceasing to practice or changing their faith

      September 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Dieyoung

      Mormonism is a cult... Scientology is a cult... Islam is a religion that is just as old as Christianity.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • abuyasmine

      "Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them – this is the essence of all true religion."
      To all who claim that you are Jesus followers! ye workers of iniquity is that what Jesus taught you? hatred? most of you know about Islam as much as your racist ignorant parents have told you! I can sit here and type an article to educate you about Jesus and his teachings pbuh! but i know that would be a waist of time ! Don't criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others, and the measure you give will be the measure you receive
      Simply put: your foundation is weak
      P.S as far as the nuking comments!!!!!!!!!! You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days, 'You shall not murder', and anyone who does must stand his trial. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother must stand his trial; anyone who contemptuously calls his brother a fool must face the supreme court; and anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction.
      I guess now you know where you belong!

      September 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • I_am_your_teacher

      You're not human but a living being with 4 legs, breathe and defecate like hyena.

      September 3, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  13. DB

    Even the American President is a Musilm: look at the following link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup? V=TCAFFmsWST#T=28

    Talk about blending in to the American population, this is the ultimate way.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • DB

      Sorry bad link: try this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=tCAffMSWSzY#t=28

      September 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Peter

      Read the very quickly posted legal disclaimer at the beginning of the video. Oh, this is TOO funny!

      September 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • A Mom

      Thanks for posting that video but I now feel ill. Every thinking American needs to watch it.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  14. yfnpb

    ofcourse! just like they deepened Afghan roots by blowing up Bamian Buddha statutes.
    WHEREVER they go.. they create problems.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • levend

      Taliban are wahabis cult, similar to the Christian cults of the US. They are extreme and dangerous don't confuse them with normal muslims which make up the 99%, only difference is Wahabis get indirect support from the US. All Wahabis originate in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia gets as much weapons as it wants from the US. Saudi has provided over 60bil in support for Wahabi causes.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • kyrunner

      Like the atheist cults world wide who try and act rational and peaceful, yet history dictates it was mainly atheist leaders who caused most of the world atrocities. hitler, stalin, mao, castro, ho chi mingh, ghingis kahn, etc...

      September 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  15. JudyTTexas

    Sorry, I just don't buy the "muslim motivation"... Embed they will into our schools, politics and next you know......
    just like in the days of Nebuchadnezzar it will be... shadrach meshach and a bend we go !

    September 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  16. Be Afraid

    Islam is an STD.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • I_am_your_teacher

      Its the STD(Standard Treatment of Disease) for your Moronism

      September 3, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  17. CSnord

    The Abyssinian story is an excellent illustration of what we can expect in this country from Islam. That story dates back to 615AD. Fast forward to 2011 and one-third of Ethiopia (modern Abyssinia) is Muslim and two-thirds are Christian. The Muslims, or at least a very aggressive subset of them, are attempting to turn Ethiopia into an Islamic state. To that end, on May 17, 2011, Muslim extremists burned 69 Christian Churches in order to pressure the Christian community into accepting Muslim rule. That is how Muslims truly demonstrate their respect for other religions.

    This has actually been seen in every single country on the planet where Muslims become a significant percentage of the population - 20 to 30 percent. So, exactly why is it that if we encourage the expansion of Islam in the US this same thing will not happen here? The answer is simple, if Islam expands to become a significant political force in US culture, then Muslims will eventually attempt to establish an Islamic state. Period. It will happen if we let it.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • *frank*

      Cocaine is a helluva drug.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Be Afraid

      Nothing good has EVER com from Islam, but one can keep hoping.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • A Mom

      Very well said. But how to stop the muslim growth? Share the gospel, my friend. Only the Son of God can change a heart and set a person free.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • BlindIdiocy

      And what good has come from Christianity? Lets not just place blame on only Islam. Plenty of wars have been fought due to religion, and most involve Christiany.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Edwin

      If you are saying that in 1500 years this country will be 2/3 muslim, then I would ask you if you REALLY think the United States will be around that long?

      For that matter, what do you care? Are you so concerned that your descendants only choose YOUR particular world views? I have to let you know: eight generations from now, your kids' kids' kids' kids' (x8) will not believe the same things you do, whether or not there are muslims here.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Dieyoung

      Christians and Catholics have killed more innocent people than Muslims have.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  18. rhinoqlit1

    Let's ask the Swedes, Norwegians and Danes how that Islamization of their culture is working out.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Edwin

      rhinoqlit1: they will probably point to the christian who mass murdered their children recently, because he was upset by muslims.

      Sorry, not the answer you were hoping for, but it is the truth. Right now, most of scandinavia is less concerned with muslims and more concerned with anti-islamic hate.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Be Afraid

      Clearly it is not, but they too are building roots, ones that will strangle the host.

      September 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  19. txpeggysue

    This article is typical liberal propaganda – the author's real name is Joseph Goebbels.

    September 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  20. Red

    nuke 'em all

    September 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Allard Doug

      I agree with Red.....lets Nuke them!
      Lets start with Nuking the mOslims in Israel first.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Peter

      Red: "Nuke 'em all"????? Oh brother. What are you, a video game playing 12 year old boy?

      September 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
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About this blog

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.