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. Reality

    From p. 6:

    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 3, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Jagermeister

      What is your point? that this guy takes a salary working at a non-profit? He is a Rhodes Scholar and has a PhD from Oxford. He is worth more than $131K/yr. He could be at a for-profit and be earning 3 times that.

      September 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      there is no point, it's all copy paste spam.best solution,hit report abuse tab

      September 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Colin

      Hello Herbie

      I have a friend who works for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He was telling me how a new strain of Bird Flu has evolved with a resistance to the strongest antibodies we can throw at it. The best immunologists in the World believe it evolved in parts of India or China where the regular contact between chickens and humans allows easy vectoring to humans.

      Luckily, we have you to clear things up. Evolution is a lie. All life was created in its current form by a Bronze Age sky god they called “Yahweh,” who we now call “God”.

      So, the Center for disease Control will immediately stop researching the evolution of disease and close down, so their researchers can go home and read their Bibles to find a cure for bird flu there.

      Thanks Herbie, you've save us a lot of research time.

      September 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Reality

      It is not only the salary that Ebhrahim takes for spreading the idiocy of Islam but also the fact that he uses his "non-profit" as a stock/bond holding company ($~2.5 million portfolio) that pays no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains.

      September 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • reply

      that imam holds a high position, and therefore deserves a high salary. if you work for a major organization and hold a high position, you will definitely get tons of money. besides, you are talking about one imam among millions.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  2. Redneck louie

    its all on account of them commie atheists thats whos to blame

    September 3, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  3. Xenia

    America dishonors God and ridicules Christians in spite of receiving massive blessings from having Christianity, therefore the land goes to different peoples. A repeating pattern after the disobedient ancient Israel.

    September 3, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Anon

      Screw Yahweh, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Elohim, Satan, Lucifer, etc...

      September 3, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  4. Alfred E. Newman

    Muslim root in America?I'm starting to worry!

    September 3, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  5. captain america

    How deep do Muslim roots go in America?We are up to our armpits in them but how long have they actually been here?

    September 3, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  6. Xenia

    America was created by Christians for Christians. All non-Christians in USA are parasites. Muslims are far better than the blaspheming secular Americans and are more in tune with the America's founding purposes.

    September 3, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Reality

      Xenia, the "red-neck" lady of many names once again shows her abject inanity.

      September 3, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Xenia

      Reality, I said, read some worthwhile books instead of your favorite lies in the internet junk sites.

      September 3, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Anon


      September 3, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  7. John Stefanyszyn

    ...number of the name...number of a man...his number is..

    American Christian, American Muslim, American Jew, American Atheist, American Buddhist, American "religion"...

    What is the common first core belief.....to desire for and belief in one's own interest....one's own rights.

    "Religion" is secondary to the core belief...."religion" is a part, among many, of the core belief.

    This core belief in freedom of rights is also conquering nations, demanded by the people in those nations, at the cost of their lives.

    As President Obama has said that America is not a Christian nation, not a Muslim nation, not a Hebrew nation, (etc) but a nation that believes in the universal values of freedom of rights. All democratic leaders ( whichever political party) also support this belief.

    President Obama has also outlined this belief as a world vision to which he has pledged his committment in his 2009 UN speech. It is intersting to see, that only a year and half later, the effect of those words in the Egypt, Libya, and the glorious land.

    It is the belief that is embraced by all as their primary core way of life....it is the "god of fortresses" and it will soon become the "world belief".

    September 3, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  8. Xenia

    Religions except for Christianity have no salvation, but all of them are far better than the brutal atheism.

    September 3, 2011 at 3:06 am |
    • Reality

      Xenia, the "red-neck" lady of many names again shows her abject inanity.

      September 3, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Xenia

      Reality, use your retired years with reading something authentic. For the last 35 years, you read nothing authentic.

      September 3, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Anon

      Hey go read some science instead of mythology.

      September 3, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Fred1

      Bishop – condoning genocide in Rwanda
      On 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites. "On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed." (Indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against former Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana).

      September 3, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  9. rajbabr

    After wasting a good hour of my life reading peoples comments.. I have one thing to say... GET A LIFE. All religions are good. Its people that are bad and misuse religion. There's is no single source of truth. If god wanted everyone to practice same religion then it would have been that way. Everyone relax, drink ur wine, burboun or ru-afza, and chill out.

    September 3, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Anon

      The three Abrahamic desert blood cults are nothing but a cancer on this planet. You're the one who has to wake up!

      September 3, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Xenia

      Without Abraham, there was no USA. Those who ridicule Abraham should be kicked out of USA and shipped to North Korea, their dream country.

      September 3, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Real Deal

      Abraham was either a fantastic liar or was a schizophrenic... or the story about his supernatural 'events' was made up by others. There is NO verified evidence for his tales.

      September 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence for Abrahams tales... except the nation of Israel

      September 3, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence for Abrahams tales... except Machpelah

      September 3, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence for Abrahams tales ...except for the recent discoveries from Kedorlaomer

      September 3, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence of Abrahams tales ...except the trading records referencing Sodom and the other cities

      September 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence for Abrahams tales... except the multiple references to places that still exist geographically.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Real Deal


      You can list any or all archeological and anthropological discoveries that you want. They are only evidence that certain places and people existed and of a primitive culture who believed certain supernatural stories. There is not one shred of evidence for the existence of supernatural beings or events.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Real Deal

      p.s. Mount Olympus actually exists, as do (or did) many of the places and people mentioned in Greek myth. Does that mean, then, that 12 gods really lived on that mountain and performed astonishing feats all over the place?

      September 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      No verified evidence for Abrahams tales...except 99.9%veracity on what we do know , but not enough for an idiot to see the balance,you are far from the "real" deal. God bless

      September 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • 5690123

      herbert is too stupid to understand reality. just ignore his posts.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      I for one find it very hard to ignore herbies excellent posts!

      September 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Fred1

      @Xena: Wasn’t Abraham the guy that did it with his wife’s maid?

      September 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  10. Anon


    September 3, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Shafi

      The video did not have anything positive to state and contained fallacies and incomplete information which changes the meaning of what Sharia and Quran intended, here are few.....it doesn't mention that Quran was sent verse by verse, which means that each verse is related to the situation at hand. paying attention to what is being described as not peaceful verses would require learning about the situation in which it was sent in.
      About the Sharia law, it is a method of governance, similar to others in this world. Its intent isn't to kill, punish as much people as it can, but instill fear in people's minds, so that they don't do bad things. Karma?
      Here is an example, it is 1:00 am, and you are waiting for the green light on the road, you waited 10 minutes, the roads are deserted. You got tired of waiting and crossed the red light. A cop came behind you, technically, you broke the law, you will have to be punished. If you have couple DUIs and have 3 strikes, you could be in deep trouble. In your head, logically, you did nothing wrong, as you waited forever. My point is, yes, in Sharia, some laws may seem harsh, but law is the law. We follow the law in democracy, why is it hard to follow another law if it was the law of the land???
      Finally, Muslims are required to live in peace and follow whatever the law of the land is, as following the examples of their Prophet (he made peace treaties with Jews, Christians, and infidels). Sharia isn't the only way of governance, it is a way.. I hope this helps …

      September 3, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  11. Xenia

    The Founding Fathers would be very happy for Muslims because they were simply theists or deists just like Muslims according to secular Americans. Muslims suit USA better than any other groups.

    September 3, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Anon

      The founding fathers are rolling in their graves at warp speed.

      September 3, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • Xenia

      Muslims are far more honorable, normal humans than the American Sodomites even to the Founding Fathers.

      September 3, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Fred1

      Washington - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that today Muslim attackers killed 17 Christians, including the wife and three children of a pastor, and burned down several Christian homes in the village of Kurum, Bauchi State, Nigeria

      September 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So a muslim has killed christians. However, let us remember how eastern orthodox catholics slaughtered thousands of muslims in Bosnia in the 1990s. People love to use religion as an excuse to kill others. That's one of the reasons that some people question or reject religion.

      September 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  12. Be Afraid

    Islam was the role model for the Borg on Star Trek.

    September 3, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  13. Geert Wilders

    Anyone of you hear of Geert Wilders? see you later islam!!!!!

    September 3, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Be Afraid

      Mijn vriend Geert? Be afraid, be very afraid.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  14. Reality

    From p. 1:

    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 3, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Reality

      And Ebrahim failed to note the following:

      What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

      September 3, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  15. Michael Chapel Hill

    Islam adapts to each country differently. In the US they use US laws to establish Islam; just as how Bin Laden used American property to kill Americans and destroy more property.
    When they are majority they erradicate all other faiths from their country. Eboo Patel is not an exception. His agenda is the same; you need to read between line and read his statements.

    September 3, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  16. ryan

    did u know that muslim and christian holy book is about 90 % the same thing.

    September 2, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Be Afraid

      Someone guilty of plagiarism?

      September 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • truehistory

      Then tell all muslims to read bible. Saudis to allow churchs. Pak to dismantle terror base.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Anon

      They're both mythological books that belong in museums.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Xenia

      Now Muslims can teach that the Founding Fathers were Islamic theists. Bible-illiterate, history-illiterate Americans would never find out any truth.

      September 3, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Anon

      The founding fathers are rolling in their graves at near the speed of light.

      September 3, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Fred1

      Yes Xenia, just like fundamentalests Christians teach that the founding fathers were rabid Christians

      September 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  17. donotdefamegod

    Mr. Patel please tell saudi then do allow the construction of churches synagoguesand temples. When muslim population reaches 30% goodbye to interfailth council. When the population reaches 70% goodbye to churches, temples and synagogues. When muslim population is 90% osama is worshipped.
    Patel is a hindu name. The author has forgotten the history when the caliphates of arabia invaded his counrty gujarath, fought with his ancestors and destroyed his places of worship the temples. When his ancestors were forcefully converted at the tip of the sword, they cleverly did not change their last name with the hope that thier progeny will realise who they were.
    This are all based on histroic facts.
    God can wish the way he likes to be born. If a religion is going to dictate to god that he cannot be born from a married couple, it is nt a religion.we are the idiots who will tell tomorrow to god what else he need to and need not do.
    It is like forbidding god from taking any shape , as we have told him shapeless. But then in heaven will the 72 virgins be also shapeless/

    September 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Kat

      Andres Berivik? is that you?..I guess they offer internet access to prisoners in Norway.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • truehistory

      History is accurate. You are right. Iran/ persia were zorostrians. Then came the isalmic invasion.The iranians were forcefully converted. However some zorastrians escaped and ended up in gujarath, india. The gujarath king gave them shelter to zorastrians, who are parsis. The true interfailth harmony, rather than just a whitewash propaganda. The parsis in india even today are very successful, continue to practice zorastranism, highly respectful of other religion, do not go to prison or hospitals looking for vulerables for conversion. They are highly sucessful industrialists and enterprenurs of indian economy.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • donotdefamegod

      no Mr. Kat. It is mohammad atta, who sacrificed the beautiful life, god gave me . Idid not get the virgins, but instead was made to sit in the throne of thorns. For every life have to spend 100 years on this throne of spears and thornes. Looking for the idiot who advised me to sacrifice my body with the shape, so he can share the 300000 years of misery.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  18. Kevin

    I kind of like Islam. I couldn't imagine being a Muslim in the U.S. though.

    September 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Anon

      If you're a man that is. Women are pretty much screwed over in Islam.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Be Afraid

      Go be one in Paki land and work you way up.

      September 3, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  19. Sargon


    September 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  20. mullah hajdar

    c'mon lee,make some noise,punish these thugs

    September 2, 2011 at 10:26 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.