Michael Wolfe, a convert to Islam, was largely responsible for PBS’s hagiographical biography of Muhammad that appeared about a year ago. Now he is touting a coming Islamic moment in the United States. This from Beliefnet.com via Al-Jazeera (with thanks to Nicolei):
The U.S. began as a haven for Christian outcasts. But what religion fits our current zeitgeist? The answer may be Islam.
Americans tend to think of their country as, at the very least, a nominally Christian nation. Didn’t the Pilgrims come here for freedom to practice their Christian religion? Don’t Christian values of righteousness under God, and freedom, reinforce America’s democratic, capitalist ideals?
True enough. But there’s a new religion on the block now, one that fits the current zeitgeist nicely. It’s Islam. Islam is the third-largest and fastest growing religious community in the United States. This is not just because of immigration. More than 50% of America’s six million Muslims were born here. Statistics like these imply some basic agreement between core American values and the beliefs that Muslims hold. Americans who make the effort to look beyond popular stereotypes to learn the truth of Islam are surprised to find themselves on familiar ground.
Is America a Muslim nation? Here are seven reasons the answer may be yes.
Islam is monotheistic. Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians. They also revere the same prophets as Judaism and Christianity, from Abraham, the first monotheist, to Moses, the law giver and messenger of God, to Jesus–not leaving out Noah, Job, or Isaiah along the way. The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition only came to the fore in the 1940s in America. Now, as a nation, we may be transcending it, turning to a more inclusive “Abrahamic” view.
In January, President Bush grouped mosques with churches and synagogues in his inaugural address. A few days later, when he posed for photographers at a meeting of several dozen religious figures, the Shi’ite imam Muhammad Qazwini, of Orange County, Calif., stood directly behind Bush’s chair like a presiding angel, dressed in the robes and turban of his south Iraqi youth.
Islam is democratic in spirit. Islam advocates the right to vote and educate yourself and pursue a profession. The Qur’an, on which Islamic law is based, enjoins Muslims to govern themselves by discussion and consensus. In mosques, there is no particular priestly hierarchy. With Islam, each individual is responsible for the condition of her or his own soul. Everyone stands equal before God.
Notice: “The Qur’an . . . enjoins Muslims to govern themselves by discussion and consensus.” The extension of these principles to non-Muslims on an equal basis with Muslims is not found in Islamic law.
Wolfe also rather predictably corrects “misunderstandings” of the term jihad:
Islam is often viewed as an aggressive faith because of the concept of jihad, but this is actually a misunderstood term. Because Muslims believe that God wants a just world, they tend to be activists, and they emphasize that people are equal before God. These are two reasons why African Americans have been drawn in such large numbers to Islam. They now comprise about one-third of all Muslims in America.
Remember: those “activists” around the world today carry rifles and bombs.
Perhaps most egregious of all, in light of the Qur’an’s injunction to husbands to beat their disobedient wives (Sura 4:34), and of a host of other Sharia regulations that discriminate against women, is this:
Meanwhile, this egalitarian streak also plays itself out in relations between the sexes. Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, actually was a reformer in his day. Following the Qur’an, he limited the number of wives a man could have and strongly recommended against polygamy. The Qur’an laid out a set of marriage laws that guarantees married women their family names, their own possessions and capital, the right to agree upon whom they will marry, and the right to initiate divorce. In Islam’s early period, women were professionals and property owners, as increasingly they are today. None of this may seem obvious to most Americans because of cultural overlays that at times make Islam appear to be a repressive faith toward women–but if you look more closely, you can see the egalitarian streak preserved in the Qur’an finding expression in contemporary terms. In today’s Iran, for example, more women than men attend university, and in recent local elections there, 5,000 women ran for public office.
Islam encourages the pursuit of religious freedom. The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is not the world’s first story of religious emigration. Muhammad and his little band of 100 followers fled religious persecution, too, from Mecca in the year 622. They only survived by going to Madinah, an oasis a few hundred miles north, where they established a new community based on a religion they could only practice secretly back home. No wonder then that, in our own day, many Muslims have come here as pilgrims from oppression, leaving places like Kashmir, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where being a Muslim may radically shorten your life span. When the 20th century’s list of emigrant exiles is added up, it will prove to be heavy with Muslims, that’s for sure.
Not a word about dhimmi laws which mandate discrimination against non-Muslims in Muslim society. Because such laws exist, Wolfe’s vision of a Muslim America would in reality not be quite the paradise he imagines.