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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. lackofjudgement

    CNN has insulted the american public and their sentiments by publishing this article. The article was not written in the interest of interfaith religion harmony but to glorify the powers that destroyed the world trade center.
    Hope the editors have mature journalsim and ethics before trying to rekindle and rub the raw wounds with more salt.
    No matter what said and done the sad fact remains that the perperators of 9/11 crime were influenced solely by their religious motives. This not only destroyed their young lives, but also of innocents and their family in the world trade center.
    Mr. Eboo the islamist would not have written this article, god forbid if he was one of the victims of the horrendous 9/11 crime ,who had to make the choice of jumping from the world trade burning center or take the stairsfilled with smoke. He would have exercised wiser judgement if he was the passanger of those unfortunate airlines who had to make the choice of fight and lose life versus hope for the good ending.

    September 4, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • guest

      The CNN would have shown itself as a mature channel , if it had published about the heroes of 9/11, who lost everything but then with their personal resiliance stood back up. Or even the lives of the people who sacrificed in this brutal tragedy. CNN has now reduced itself to a channel subsidised by the petrodollars

      September 4, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Wzrd1

      I see! So, CNN was a traitor by respecting the ENTIRE first amendment!
      Very well, it shall be repealed and if you speak again you and your family will die.
      ALL HAIL BIG BROTHER!
      Moron.
      The amendment exists for a GOOD reason, you denigrate it and the founding fathers with your foolish abuse of free speech.
      Perhaps we should eliminate THAT "right". Call anything said against the const i tution or government treason.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • BG

      Let's see. That'd be ...

      6 morons
      5 BIG BROTHERS
      4 abuses of free speech
      3 secret missions
      2 family deaths
      and 1 secret 'gigaton' disarming key...

      September 4, 2011 at 6:31 am |
    • BG

      Oh, sorry. I misunderstood. You -detonate- the gigaton nukes in the invaders' faces.

      They're getting close... wait until you can see the red in their commie eyes ! On my count ! 3...2...1

      September 4, 2011 at 6:39 am |
  2. Catholic

    Catholic Present....!!! always!!...muslim..islam..? what is that..? i dont care to know.!! mohammed ..? i dont care who he is..!! and only the weak minded changes religion...its called being brainwashed...!! stand by what you believe..and stop brainwashing other people...... and every religion has people focusing on forming a family..openning a business....advancing in their careers...... and by the way these are personal goals...... has nothing to do with religion...

    September 4, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • Anonymous

      exactly! that is what they article is trying to tell us. That Muslims of today are no different then Christians that came here hundreds of years ago. They are human too, and want the best for their family in a country with some opportunity for a better life. That is what America is about.

      September 4, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  3. Anonymous

    Pretty sad to read such a good article, then read these comments. Again people, go read the article. No where does it say, 9/11 is the best day for muslims etc. All they're trying to say is muslims share the same anything as a christian and jew. Whether you believe it was hijackers to did it, or whatever conspiracy you want to believe. Just remember the sad day, it is to stop hate, not spread it.

    September 4, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  4. harry

    There are violent passages in all religious books. Many people have quoted Quran here.
    If you are interested in what kind of violent or cruel passages are in the Bible, please go to this link and read all
    1310 passages including the one that says Jesus loves war.
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html

    September 4, 2011 at 2:20 am |
  5. RK

    I am disgusted at how the media has latched onto portraying Islam in the most positive of lights while criticizing and smearing Christianity at every opportunity.

    Islam is not a religion of tolerance or peace. If you think that Islam is tolerant of Christianity you need to study the history of the Ottoman empire at the very least. As was said by other posters, Islamic nations do not tolerate Christians within their borders. They kill them.

    September 4, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • take on me

      Yes Correct. Open http:\quran.com\5\51

      September 4, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • harry

      And thousands of those who dies during the Spanish Inquisition? Was this an example of something done by the Jews or the Muslims?

      September 4, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  6. Cyphonix

    OK, can any muslim dare to deny that Islam is not a religion, but in stead a form of government? Or better yet, can the people that are under the impression that Islam is a religion, please go to Iran and tell us under that rules does the government functions?

    If you are an American and are among those (like the media and Obama) who believe that Islam is a "religion of peace". You should have been on killed by Muslims instead of the innocent people that died and had no choice. What is it going to take for you to get the message?

    September 4, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • harry

      Innocent people are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places and among those who dies on 9/11 were Muslims as well. Any violence where innocent people die is not good, whatever the reason.
      Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, also killed many innocent people. Terrorists in Ireland (Christians) killed many innocent people.

      September 4, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  7. Justice786

    the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), an Islamic juristic body, issued a fatwa or religious ruling on July 28th, 2005 which affirmed its long standing position on this issue, and was unequivocal in its condemnation of terrorism by stating: “Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism.” Stating that it was issued “following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him”, the religious ruling confirmed the following salient principles: [1] All acts of terrorism, including those targeting the life and property of civilians, whether perpetrated by suicidal or any other form of attacks, are haram (forbidden) in Islam. [2] It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or prohibited violence. [3] It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to undertake full measures to protect the lives of all civilians, and ensure the security and well being of fellow citizens. Significantly, a similar declaration against terrorism has been issued by religious scholars and leaders in the United Kingdom on July 15th, 2005..

    September 4, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Sathyavrath

      Where does Islam say that terrorism and killing of innocent civilians is against the precepts of Islam. Having read the Koran, both in Arabic and English, it seems the opposite is true..that non muslims and infidels should be killed. Can you enlighten me?

      September 4, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • harry

      Mr Sathyavrath, the word "terrorism" and the concept of "killing innocent civilians" did not exist during the days of Bible and the Quran. Neither the Bible nor the Quran mentions these 2 phrases. However, all religious books imply the non violence and have passages such as this....
      "Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" Quran 2:62

      "And work righteousness" implies to be good that covers a whole lot.

      "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God is the best in conduct. Lo! God is Knower, Aware." Qur'aan, Surah 49:13:

      The noblest of you, meaning that if you are good. And God defined what good in in his 10 Commandments and many other places throughout the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, as well as in the Vedas.

      September 4, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  8. opinionguru

    Cnn needs to shut down (or be shut down); Isam is an enemy of everything not Islam.

    September 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  9. laila

    "Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" Quran 2:62

    "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God is the best in conduct. Lo! God is Knower, Aware." Qur'aan, Surah 49:13:

    September 4, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • KamRan

      The interpretation might not be correct. Although, I can agree that a Muslim is not supposed to call another person a non Muslim regardless of their religion, as no one knows but Allah to when a person can become a Muslim.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  10. chamborde

    Only CNN would post an article celebrating the Muslim faith as 9-11 approaches. Hey CNN: I'm white, I'm male, I'm straight, I'm Christian, amd I am a Republican. Is there anything else I can do or say to irritate you today?

    September 4, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • opinionguru

      Well said ... and thank you.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • Spiffy

      Yeah why try to spread understanding and peace when bigotry and hate are already so present in this world?

      September 4, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Clay S. Haslet TX

      Amen!!!! Maybe we should cancel the tribute to the almost 3000 innocent victims of 9/11 and celebrate the high-jackers and their devotion to Islam. That's about the only thing I can come up with that's actually more insulting then building a mosque a few blocks from where the twin towers stood.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • KamRan

      TO Clay S. : When Thousands of Jews and Christians died in various tragedies, we did you not know that they built many Memorial Parks? The holocaust took place in Germany, and what do you know, there are 1000 Holocaust memorial parks and Museums scattered across USA. Why? We humans feed on hate and are envy of one other. If Jews can demolish Churches and Mosques and build their place of worship, that is fine? (Isreal invades Palestine)
      And yet, when Muslims build a Mosque few blocks away from the trade center, it makes you cry? Hypocrisy is a virus, and try not to spread it in the air of freedom, love and Peace! PEACE!

      September 4, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Anonymous

      Please go read the article again, nobody is celebrating anything. Then technically America is the terrorist, we celebrate our Independence every year, right? Well guess what, this peace of land you lived on, was not supposed to be occupied by you. It was to be the Native American peoples. I do not see much of them around, oh yeah that's right, America destroyed them. I'm not against any religion, but against such a corrupt government, that has been functioning like a terrorist state since the landing of the Mayflower. I'm surprised that they at least taught us that this land belonged to Native Americans in text books.

      September 4, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  11. jenna catao

    All muslims think about is Religion. 24 hrs a day. This is western society. Give us a break. Keep your religion at home and do whatever you want at home. Give it a rest. Islam this, Islam that. Enough already.

    There are countries in the world were islam is everywhere. In the house and outside. Go and live there.

    September 4, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • lessica

      LOL.... you are hilarious! in todays society... you can be as immoral as you please but curse the person who chooses a different lifestyle or religion. jenna... YOU are the one living inside a box.... a box where everything is exactly the same.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  12. M

    To bad that didn't work the Jews in Medina who gave Mohammed and and his followers amnesty only to find out that their guest wanted to take over with a sword.

    September 4, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • OZ

      Read the history again. Makkah and Medina were not conqured on the basis of sword.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Djalal

      @Oz, mohammed was backstabber. Open wikipedia mohammed.

      September 4, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  13. Matt

    People are stupid.

    Fact: Christians and Muslims believe in the same god. Most people know this but some people dont because I just saw a comment saying that Allah is fake and that God was real...

    Fact: If you have ever studied history than you have probably read about the Islamic Empire. The empire was spread by a combination of war and assimilation. By assimilation I mean that a few Muslims would move into a region and have ten of fifteen children. Then, when the next generation of kids in that region comes along, over half of them are Muslim and eventually the region becomes dominanted by Muslims. Now, take that knowledge and look at the most popular names in the world right now. The first one on the list is Mohammed. It is obvious that the Islamic religion is spreading not only by force but also by shear numbers.

    Fact: Western Europeans have noticed the trend in the population growth of Islam. Now countries such as Belgium and France have made legal actions to try to force Muslims out by making bukas and niqabs illegal. Why are these countries doing this? I believe it is because they do not want to be over-run by Muslims and they are not afraid to publicly announce that. However, the U.S. would never be able to do anything similar.

    Fact: Some experts have predicted that upwards of 10% of all prison inmates convert to Islam. Why do Muslim missionaries target prisoners? You can decide for yourself but I believe it is because prisoners are quick to convert and they can be easily manipulated.

    One last thing, I am not anti-muslim but I do not want to see this country over-run by the religion. Look at all of the Middle Eastern Countries and their entire history. Now I want someone to name one period in time when there was peace in that region since 600 a.d. There has never been peace since the founding of Islam.

    September 4, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • aum2209

      there was never peace before it either. violence can't be blamed on the religion; its human nature.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  14. AlIshaqi Alhashimi

    Correction: Al-Ishaqi Al-hashimi wrote:

    If you study Islam with open mind and sincere heart you will not be confused by some hard words said or written by a Muslim, like: ' I proclaim in here, that we will kill all people and we are not afraid to die but it's the death that we are seeking because we are Muslims and followers of the way of Allah'; that won't make that of which he said a representation of Islam.

    Yes I could be a Muslim but Islam cannot be blamed for my mistakes.

    If you like to know the truth of Islam then study it from it's authentic sources, the Quran and the Sunnah (teachings of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him) with objectivity. Learn Islam through the Quran and the Sunnah, you will then know who is following Islam and who is not followingAlIshaqi Alhashimi

    If you study Islam with open mind and sincere heart you will not be confused by some hard words someone said with Islam. I proclaim in here, that we will kill all people and we are not afraid to die but it's the death that we are seeking because we are Muslims and followers of the way of Allah, that won't make that of which I said a representation of Islam.

    Yes I could be a Muslim but Islam cannot be blamed for my mistakes.

    If you like to know the truth of Islam then study it from it's authentic sources, the Quran and the Sunnah (teachings of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him) with objectivity.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Djalal

      i would start from http:faithfreedom.org
      and
      http:\quran.com\5\51

      September 4, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  15. Sm. s

    If The king of Abyssinia allowed the Muslims to stay and practice their faith in his kingdom. why then the King os Saudi Arabia and other Muslims countries do not allow Christians to build churches and practice their Faith?? come on ! it is against the law to build churches in Muslims countries especially the fanatic saudi Arabia !

    September 4, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  16. AlIshaqi Alhashimi

    If you study Islam with open mind and sincere heart you will not be confused by some hard words someone said with Islam. I proclaim in here, that we will kill all people and we are not afraid to die but it's the death that we are seeking because we are Muslims and followers of the way of Allah, that won't make that of which I said a representation of Islam.

    Yes I could be a Muslim but Islam cannot be blamed for my mistakes.

    If you like to know the truth of Islam then study it from it's authentic sources, the Quran and the Sunnah (teachings of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him) with objectivity.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • ari

      qu'ran 3:151 We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down [any] authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.

      qu'ran 4:89 They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah . But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.

      qu'ran 8:12 [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, "I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip."

      qu'ran 9:73 O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination.

      peace, brother.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Djalal

      http:\quran.com\5\51
      http:\www.faithfreedom.org

      a shalom malaiikum peace be with you

      September 4, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  17. James

    Sorry–Haven't convinced me that your serving our best interests here in the USA. I still remember that none of the Muslim community stood up and said this not right when 9/11 happened. What were you waiting for ????

    September 4, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Jyo

      That's because you never bothered to listen. Muslims in droves condemned 9/11.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  18. TB

    Right after the 9/11 mass murders I heard a couple of American moslems wiegh in. They dident exactly endorse what the murderers did, but they tried to sit on both sides of the fence, saying: "well, it was a terrible thing, but then again, they must have had their reasons". And for the longest time I never heard either of them or any other moslem actually condemn these mass murderers.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • ari

      that's because most american muslims, and the vast majority of muslims worldwide, do not believe that muslims carried out 9/11. the most popular theories are "jews did it", "false flag", or, most bizarrely, "india did it". according to a PEW poll, less than 40% of american muslims believe that arabs of any kind were the hijackers. according to another PEW poll, less than 20% of muslims in arab countries believe that. sad.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  19. Chris

    CNN is a radical anti american propaganda network. Do not take what you you see on this hate site seriously, its pure left wing agenda.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Hoops

      Well said. CNN has also become Anti-Christian!

      September 4, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  20. greg

    typical CNN nonsense. Go to FoxNews.com for some facts.

    September 4, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Jyo

      Amazing how anyone who doesn't know anything and who don't want to be educated go to Fox News for their (mis) information.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:31 am |
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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.