If ever you’ve wanted an accessible and reliable primer on Islam, for your own edification or to send to your well-meaning aunt who forwards emails echoing the misinformation about the Muslim faith she hears on cable television, today’s your lucky day. On Thursday the Interfaith Alliance, together with the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center released “What is the Truth about American Muslims? Questions and Answers” (PDF), a brief nine-page primer in q&a form that will do the trick.
With nary a mention of the manufactured hysteria that’s dominated the post-9/11 political discourse and been pushed by what Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison has called the “anti-Islam industry,” the guide nevertheless seeks to answer the questions raised by the misinformation machine that’s been churning away relentlessly for the past decade, given political cover for congressional hearings on supposed creeping Muslim radicalism, fueled the citywide surveillance of whole communities and led to a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes. The smearing of Islam, American Muslims and those who are mistaken for them, has been swift and aggressive.
In clear, calm prose, the authors answer questions like: “Is Islam a political movement?” >No. Islam is a religious tradition, and adherents to Islam are called Muslim. Of course, American Muslims, like Americans from other religious groups, participate in American political life. American Muslim voting patterns generally mirror the broader American population. American Muslims are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, liberals and conservatives. There is no one political platform or agenda for those who practice the religion of Islam in the United States.
And, “Do American Muslims want to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia?” >No. American Muslims overwhelmingly support the U.S. Constitution and do not seek to replace it with Sharia or Islamic law. The vast majority of American Muslims understand Sharia as a personal, religious obligation governing the practice of their faith, not as something American governments should enforce.