And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses by Khaled Abou El Fadl (University Press of America) This is a substantially expanded edition of the author's seminal work "The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses: A Contemporary Case Study". Beginning with the case study of a Muslim basketball player who refused to stand up while the American national anthem was playing, the author documents the disintegration of the Islamic juristic tradition, and the prevalence of authoritarianism in contemporary Muslim discourses. The author analyzes the rise of what he describes as puritan and despotic trends in modern Islam, and asserts that such trends nullify the richness and diversity of the Islamic tradition. By declaring themselves the true soldiers of God and the defenders of religion, Muslim puritan movements are able to degrade women, eradicate critical thinking, and empty Islam of its moral content. In effect, the author argues, the self-declared protectors of Islam become its despots and oppressors who suppress the dynamism and vigor of the Islamic message. Anchoring himself in the rich Islamic jurisprudential tradition, the author argues for upholding the authoritativeness of the religious text without succumbing to authoritarian methodologies of interpretation. Ultimately, the author asserts that in order to respect the integrity of the Divine laws it is necessary to adopt rigorous analytical methodologies of interpretation, and to re-investigate the place of morality in modern Islam.
Conference of the Books by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl (University of America Press) Based on actual cases, these original essays present an honest and critical evaluation of the problems and challenges that confront Muslims in the Contemporary world. Using the Muslim experience in the United States as a lens, the author examines what he identifies as a pervasive alienation suffered by Muslims over their place in history, source of identity, and moral foundations. The author imagines himself sitting in a conference of Islamic books - the Conference convening to examine the contemporary Muslim condition. Various influential intellectual trends are represented in this Conference, but the author is not a passive observer, he is an active participant who reacts to the Conference with introspection and critical moral insight. The author positions himself on a bridge between the intellectual heritage of Islam and the oppressive Muslim present, arguing that the salvation of one is intricately linked to the other. Conference of the Books attempts to reclaim what the author maintains is a core moral value in Islam - the value of beauty.
Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Jane I. Smith (Alta Mira) (PAPERBACK) Editors summary: On "Cairo Street" at the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago, visitors were intrigued by the Middle Eastern buildings and atmosphere, and fascinated by the belly dancer, but they were less generous in their assessment of Islamic religious practices, particularly the call to prayer. In chapter 6, Garbi Schmidt quotes newspaper reports that label the faithful "bedraggled Turks;" and she cites an instance in which the audience ridicules the muezzin (the one calling the faithful to prayer by likening his call to the noise of a dogfight.
Although not all citizens of countries in which immigrant Muslims now make their home may welcome their presence, Islam is no longer a "visiting exhibition" in the Americas, Europe, or the areas of former European settlement (referred to collectively as "the West'. The call to prayer, one of the most evident signs of Islamic presence, has moved, in the United States, from the world of make‑believe a century ago to a visible, regular feature of the more than two thousand organized Muslim communities across the country. Until recently, the muezzin has called the Muslim faithful from large Islamic mosques and community centers to small urban storefront prayer halls, its volume by court decision not to exceed that of Christian church bells. On Friday, 8 December 2000, a new threshold was crossed in American recognition of the presence of Islam when the call to prayer rang
The ways in which Muslims have moved from the margins of their adopted homelands toward a more apparent public presence have been determined both by the contexts from which they have come and by the new countries and cultures in which their emergence has taken place. In some cases, Muslims are welcomed because of the host country's need for their labor, although that welcome has had to be earned; in others, they are still, and sometimes even increasingly, looked on with suspicion, fear, and prejudice. The presence of Muslim minorities in the West has raised a variety of issues that are now part of public discourse. In the process, Muslims have become more visible. This visibility is due not merely to the growth in their numbers, but more importantly, to the dynamic of the choices they and the nations to which they have immigrated have had to make.
Issues of Integration and Assimilation
Migrant laborers in Western countries in the early and middle years of the twentieth century often came with the understanding that they would remain only so long as it was economically advantageous and then they would return home. As they began to realize that the dream of return was not to be fulfilled and that their futures were to be in the new country, most tried to integrate into their new society to whatever extent possible and to emphasize no more than necessary those things that would set them apart as different, such as religion. As is illustrated in these essays, large groups of Muslims in America, Europe, and areas of European settlement still hope for integration. Some have felt the need to assimilate into Western culture for their personal success so strongly that they have paid the price for their initiation by giving up their Muslim identity completely.
Others opt for a kind of median visibility somewhere between full identification with Islam or with their ethnic roots. In their essay on Muslims in the Detroit area, one of the most dense concentrations of Arabs and Muslims in the United States, Gary David and Kenneth Kahtan Ayouby discuss the "gray area" in which some Muslims find themselves as they seek a middle ground between identifying with their cultural heritage and trying to hide it. Muslim youth in Detroit confidently affirm their visibility as they "Arabize" or "Muslimize" cultural elements that appeal to young people in general, such as wearing tattoos using Muslim symbols or phrases or conspicuously posting signs of Islamic identification on their cars. Enhanced visibility itself may serve to foster the processes of integration, as illustrated in the case of the Emory call to prayer. John Voll describes the public commemoration in the Caribbean of the death of Imam Husayn, noting that, as a great variety of activities came to be associated with the event over the years and more local people began to participate, religion itself was downplayed in favor of cultural attraction. Muslim identity thus became contained within a cultural or ethnic association.
For African Americans in the earlier part of the twentieth century, attempts at assimilation into white society were common. The process of "passing;' which Robert Dannin refers to as "invisible migration;" was precisely an attempt to cover up one's true identity and assume another. Some accomplished it by saying they were of Semitic (thus darkcomplexioned heritage. Others found conversion to Islam to be a more viable alternative, although many of those who identified with the Nation of Islam, for example, emerged more visible than ever. A number of African Americans, as Danmris article indicates, opted to establish isolated and contained communities in which strict Islam was practiced, where they were separated from the dominant culture and were free to define their identity, culture, and behavior. Examples of such communities include Dar al‑Islam, Cleveland's University Islamic Brotherhood, and Ezaldeen Village in Philadelphia. Khalid Fattah Griggs in his essay talks about the hope of the Islamic Party of North America to establish a "Muslimtowti" in Washington D.C.‑a kind of replica of Chinatown, a separate Islamic community that is culturally distinctive. The relative isolation of such communities gives participants a sort of societal invisibility, on the one hand, and on the other, provides opportunities for these individuals to be more visible than is possible in white society. Such communities represented an Islam that expressed a faith of resistance and liberation and a rejection of Western domination and enslavement. Members were visibly separating themselves not only from the white context but also from the ghetto itself, as they sought liberation from the lives of despair, drugs, and dehumanization to which American culture had consigned them.
Today, in many parts of the world, Muslims who are members of minority communities are increasingly aware that when they congregate, become visible, they may invite various forms of retribution. Visibility may lead to identification as dangerously foreign, ominous, and threatening given the anti‑Muslim atmosphere that currently permeates Western society. Many Muslims, therefore, conclude that by assimilating and remaining invisible they will not be seen as a threat to society and can live their lives without fear of harassment. Despite these concerns, however, growing numbers of immigrant Muslims in all areas of the Western world are now opting to be more visible. Until recently, many Muslims wanted to stay away from kafir (unbeliever) society; now they are organizing for public participation. In America, for example, the fact that Muslims are increasingly involved in politics‑not simply voting, but forming political action committees and urging Muslims to run for public office‑indicates, as Agha Saeed points out, that Muslims are buying more fully into the hope that political participation can help determine national policies that will serve their interests and their aspirations. As citizens of a society that promotes participatory democracy, they are affirming their right to argue their own perspectives and values.
Loosening the Ties that Bind
Influences from overseas, and connectedness with the Islamic countries from which immigrants have come, affect visibility in the new lands in several ways. Chain migration tends to retard the integration process. Those who have immigrated earlier often help new immigrants in negotiating living space, finding jobs, and adjusting to a new rhythm of life. At the same time, they, in turn, are influenced by the new immigrants who serve to deter assimilation by reminding the earlier immigrants of overseas values and cultural taboos and holding them accountable for maintaining those values and taboos in the new environment.
In certain instances the host country itself may contribute to a solidification of cultural particularity in which identity with the country of origin is affirmed. Anthony Johns and A. Saeed, for example, tell us that in Australia the assimilationist model that fosters invisibility has been replaced by government policies favoring multiculturalism. As a result, religious and ethnic communities are encouraged to speak with their own voices. Such cultural and ethnic identification can foster a visibility that subsequent generations might want to reject. First‑generation Muslim immigrants are often reluctant to leave behind particularizing dress, or language, or religious practices that are essential to their own sense of identity. This reluctance sometimes frustrates their children who are in search either of greater invisible assimilation or of a more essential Islam, not colored by regional variations and practices.
International events almost inevitably increase the visibility of immigrant Muslims. At the time of the 1973 oil boycott, for example, general feelings of hostility among Westerners increased indiscriminately toward the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims and were expressed in the press and other forms of the media. The oil boycott put Europe and America, seen by Muslims as perpetrators of colonial hegemony before and after World War II respectively, on notice that oilproducing countries are capable of independent action that might serve to threaten Western interests. Such concerns inevitably heightened the visibility of immigrants from these countries, as well as of Muslims in general, and tended to increase the stereotypical presentation of Arabs and Muslims in the Western media.
Another area of impact has been the growing association of Muslims with terrorism. Unfortunately, terrorist acts become associated with the whole community, rather than those individuals who perpetrate the acts; however, it is also true that there are certain interests that find it expedient to promote such ideas, especially as they relate to the foreign policy interests of some nations. Because of this, Muslims are depicted as enemies of what the West stands for, and Muslim residents become the scapegoats of right‑wing and racist elements in Western society.
As they seek to determine the extent to which they want to be visible or invisible in a new culture, Muslim immigrants must think carefully about the nature of their ties with their homelands. Naguib argues that in Norway, for instance, discussion of such issues did not occur until recently. Now, some twenty‑five years after Muslims began to establish themselves as a community in Norway, younger Muslims are heard talking about multiple cultural identities. It is not dear as yet, Naguib says, whether such conversations are moving Muslims toward more self‑conscious Islamic identity (visibility) or toward increased secularization (invisibility).
It is the fate of immigrants to face a variety of forms of discrimination based on a great many factors: race and ethnicity, inability to speak the language of the land, dress, customs, and religion. For Muslims, this discrimination has been aggravated as a consequence of growing hostility towards Islam in the West, sometimes called "Islamophobia" Recently, the religion factor has been especially significant. The stereotyping that has come from media responses to international events usually has repercussions on Muslims living in minority communities in the West. They become the focus of attention and of scapegoating.
Islamophobia results from the religion being depicted as violent, and the attribute of violence then stigmatizes minority Muslims. The situation gets even worse when, as has been the case in Chicago and other U.S. cities, Muslims are accused of being connected to and financing radical Islamic groups in the Middle East; accusations that receive great attention from the local and national press as well as from government security agencies.
Efforts of the host country to demonize Islam or its citizens have served to pave the way toward common religious identity and an affirmation of common beliefs and practices as symbols of distinction. During periods of crisis, many Muslims have tried to seek invisibility by extreme measures such as dissimulation, passing as members of other ethnic groups or religious affiliations (as American blacks did after Reconstruction), or even using peroxide to lighten their skin, as was reported of some women during the Iranian Revolution. The learned response is that visibility at such times invites further discrimination. All the studies in this collection confirm that it is more the cultural and political affirmations being promoted by various groups in the name of Islam and less the religion of Islam that cause fear and concern.
However, Muslims in a number of countries are also coming to learn that affirming their rights as citizens in visible reaction and response to negative portrayals of Islam can be very effective. It not only consolidates the community in a visible way, but it serves as an effective counter to the continued propagation of negative images. The Council for American Islamic Relations in the United States, for example, has done a great deal to raise the visibility of American Muslims, both immigrant and African American, precisely through its efforts to identify and redress instances of discrimination against Muslims in the workplace, in schools, in hospitals, and in other public contexts. African American prison inmates have fought what they perceive to be prejudicial circumstances by using the legal system to gain recognition for Islam and to achieve the right to eat, fast, dress, and pray in an Islamic manner. The result has been a raising of consciousness about Islam, and even a growing appreciation for the faith, in ways that are unprecedented on the American scene.
Events overseas have also precipitated violent attacks on the Muslim community (such as mosque burning, bombing, and trashing), which have sometimes evoked a sympathetic and helpful response from many churches and synagogues. Religious institutions have worked cooperatively to repair and rebuild mosques and have helped foster a community image of a moderate and socially responsible Islam. Arguably, it is the very visibility of Islam that has made it the target of such attacks, particularly in times of international crisis. Ironically, perhaps, the more extreme such violence has been, the more it has served to enhance both the cohesion of the community and the community's willingness to be visible, as well as bring about the cooperation and recognition of other civic and religious groups. As both the visibility and clout of Muslims have increased, the Muslim community has become recognized as a legitimate part of various national identities.
It is also obvious to Muslims in many different minority situations that race plays a significant role in questions of religious discrimination, and that such discrimination also can work insidiously within the Muslim community itself. In South Africa, as Tamara Sonn points out, Muslims share the double invisibility, as well as the double discrimination, of being both colored and Muslim. African Americans experience the same thing. Is sues of visibility and discrimination also arise within Muslim communities themselves. Sylviane Diouf's chapter shows how Sahelian Muslims in France are overlooked within the Muslim immigrant community because of prejudice among North Africans, Middle Easterners, andTurks against sub‑Saharan Africans. In the United States some African Americans express frustration about what they see as the attitude of immigrant Muslims. Many blacks feel that they are the "original" Muslims of America, both because they are descendants of slaves, some of whom were Muslim, and because the Nation of Islam and other so‑called Muslim groups have been present in the country since the 1930s. Nonetheless, they sometimes are treated by their immigrant Muslim brothers and sisters as if they are invisible.
Women in Immigrant Muslim Communities
Perhaps no topic relating to issues of visibility and invisibility for Muslims is more beguiling than that of women, particularly given Western perceptions of Muslim women as traditionally absent from any kind of public view. It is a fact that circumstances for Muslim women throughout the twentieth century in predominantly Islamic countries have changed over the years, at different paces and in different ways, depending on state policies, current ideologies, and the impact of war. This is reflected in the immigrant communities in the West. Many Muslim leaders argue that a primary task facing immigrant Islam is determining what kinds of visible roles women are to play. Increasingly, women themselves are active participants in that discussion.
There is no question that the presence of Muslim women as part of the immigration process has made the Muslim community as a whole more visible. While early immigrants were predominantly men, those who chose to settle generally married local women who often did not adhere to the cultural practices of the immigrant husbands. Sometimes the only women available for marriage were themselves from "invisible" parts of the society, as SameenaYasmeen relates of Aboriginal women in Australia. In the process, the men became less visible because they accommodated to local culture. Rarely did any of these women adopt forms of Islamic dress. The situation of single men coming alone as immigrant workers to Western countries changed for a number of economic and social reasons. Families of workers were brought for reunification, and other workers immigrated as family units, so Muslim men no longer sought partners from the host culture. In most cases, however, the immigrant women chose to remain at home, finding their identity as wives and mothers rather than as public participants in the new society. Thus, they stayed publicly invisible while at the same time remaining very important internal players in the task of creating new parameters of identity for the immigrant community.
In more recent years, however, that situation too has changed. Many women have had to enter the workforce for economic reasons. In doing so, they have encountered a variety of difficulties, such as issues concerning the appropriateness of a particular job for Islamic women, problems with language, concerns about who will be responsible for children and aging parents left at home, and apprehension about tightened family budgets. Many who do work have clerical or sales jobs or are laborers, with few reaching high status as professionals. Nonetheless from the 1980s on, as Sonn observes in relation to South Africa, increased literacy and economic independence have given some women more autonomy and more public visibility. Women's organizations, networks, and forms of communication, both locally and internationally through the Internet and women's journals and publications, have helped create a sense of communal visibility, at least for the more educated of immigrant women in the West. Many immigrant women are now becoming literate and, in the process, are affirming their right to participate in the process of interpreting religious texts.
One of the most contentious issues for immigrant women in almost all countries to which Muslims have moved is, of course, that of Islamic dress and, specifically, the headscarf. Ironically, while Islamic dress (long skirts, long sleeves, and the scarf renders most of the female figure invisible to the eyes of strangers, it also serves to dramatically raise the visibility of women who choose to wear it.
Conservative dress, of course, takes many forms. Labor migration from Turkey and North Africa, for example, has been predominantly from the rural areas where rural habits are maintained. Clothing, therefore, is traditional, and wearing the scarf continues to be the sign of modesty. Other women are choosing new forms of Islamic dress, often very modish at the same time that it is appropriately concealing. Many recent immigrants, particularly political refugees and asylum seekers, are from countries that have cracked down on religious practices and banned the veil from official public space. For these women, the West, at least theoretically, provides the freedom to be Muslim in the way that one chooses. For many women, wearing the scarf is now no longer an act of defiance against an unwilling government but a gesture of obedience to what is believed to be a divine commandment. Women who seek their identity in contemporary Islamist movements resonate with the ideology that insists on veiling as a guarantee of protection for those who fulfill their Islamic obligation to participate in the public sphere. Such visibility enhances the modern Islamic vision of a woman as the maintainer of culture and the repository of Islamic values. For other Muslim women, the headscarf serves to focus their creative and artistic abilities as they design acceptable, yet sometimes very contemporary and functional, dress for various kinds of activities.
Has the West in fact fulfilled the hope of many Muslim women that they will have the freedom to dress as they choose? Certainly not in all cases. In nearly all countries where Muslim minorities are growing and becoming more visible, there are clear instances of discrimination against the veil. In France, for example, women and girls are not allowed to veil in the public schools. Immigrant women in many countries report that they were not given a job because they wore the veil, or that, despite meritorious performance, they failed to be promoted. With every instance of discrimination in which women make public their complaint, especially if that complaint is publicized by Islamic groups or organizations seeking parity, the visibility of the Muslim community, and in particular that of Muslim women, in the West rises.
And yet, there is arguably a way in which the strength of Islamic movements in the West, the support given to the development of a more public Islam, and the reaffirmation of a distinctly Islamic community reinforced by instances of discrimination against Muslims also serve to make women more invisible. Rather than opting for a more culturally accepted role as simply another religious denomination in Europe, America, or elsewhere, many Muslims are insisting on creating a culturally different, specifically Islamic, community From this perspective, the veil acts as a shield against the penetration of the other. But at the same time, it may ensure that women are symbolically relegated to less visible positions, especially in the mosque. When high minaret mosques are built as the established symbol of Islamic presence and visibility, they serve as a reminder to Muslims and to the societies in which they are erected that there is a specifically Islamic way of doing things. Because traditional mosques have no place for women, their inclusion at all is an accommodation to changing circumstances. But the space women occupy, which is apart from men and the imam‑at the back of the mosque, in an upstairs balcony, or even in a separate room where they can only hear the prayer broadcast over television or a loudspeaker‑ensures that they will be invisible to the men of the community, at least for the duration of the prayer service.
Support and Propagation of the Faith
The growing awareness of Islam as a notable component of the religious fabric of Western societies, and of Muslims as active players in the process of making the faith more visible, is undeniable. It is not only the growth of Islam in terms of demographics that has led to that visibility but the specific efforts of some Muslims in the West to encourage and support the presence of Islam, to facilitate its practice, and to participate in its propagation both within and without the community. just as veils, and the beards that are increasingly chosen by Muslim men in imitation of the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, are the most obvious personal symbols of Islam, so the mosque is the most striking public testimony to the growing presence of Islam in the West. As a number of contributors to this book report, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, Islamic visibility forcibly burst in on the West. To a great extent, the physical manifestation of this new visibility was due to the sudden wealth of oil‑producing Gulf States and their efforts to financially support Islamic communities in lands in which Islam was a minority religion. The subsequent growth in mosque construction was due not only to the growing size of the Muslim community and its need for places of congregation and worship but to the new availability of funds. Obviously, large mosques are not a feature of every minority Muslim community‑many Muslims come together for prayer in storefront buildings, converted fiats and houses, and any other structures available to them. Nonetheless, in most major cities of the West, large mosques and Islamic community centers are present and visible, acting as reminders to the rest of society that Islam is here to stay.
One of the most significant concerns of Muslim immigrant communities (as well as of African Americans) is the availability of appropriately trained leadership. At first, immigrants did not have imams. Instead, ill‑prepared individuals would rotate in serving as leaders of the prayer. When Muslims began to grow in numbers and establish religious organizations, the situation began to change. Many minority Muslim communities have gained greater visibility through the financial support of Muslims abroad, particularly those in the Gulf States. Such assistance reached its zenith in the 1980s, when Muslims in non‑Muslim countries were able not only to construct very visible mosques, Islamic centers, and private schools, but to acquire trained leadership from overseas. While such leadership has been warmly welcomed, it has also presented the immigrant communities with some immediate problems.
The imported imams, whether sent by foreign governments or independently recruited by mosque organizations to serve immigrant communities, by definition, tend to propagate the official policies of the sponsoring government or the ideologies to which they subscribe. Immigrant Muslims have had to think carefully about the price of accepting either financial or ideological support from overseas while they struggle to understand their new environments and negotiate a place for the community. In the process, some tend to create new forms of Islamic identity that are indigenous to their host cultures. Imported leadership has not always understood or appreciated some of these new accommodations. Many communities report that their imams are not fully conversant in the language of the host country, they are unfamiliar with and sometimes quite opposed to Western culture and society and therefore are not able to be fully relevant to their new circumstances, and, especially, they alienate the youth. The need is great in all immigrant communities for indigenous leadership, especially for second generation immigrants who are coming of age and whose parents refuse to have foreign ways and interpretations imposed on them.
Meanwhile, pressures continue to be exerted for connectedness among individuals, groups. and organizations within Islamic societies. Many authors in this collection report how important the establishment of Muslim organizations at the local and national levels is to the heightened visibility of the Muslim community. William Shepard notes that FIANZ (Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand was formed to coordinate activities of local groups and to maintain contacts between Muslims in New Zealand and those overseas. Australia, during the 1980s, saw a rapid growth in organizational development, including a number of local‑and one national‑womeris groups. The Islamic Councd of Norway, created in 1992, serves as an umbrella group trying to represent the interests of all Norwegian Muslims. Such organizations are eligible to receive government funding, which would not be available to individual groups at the local level. Sometimes national organization efforts bring together groups that represent different cultures and national origins, as in Germany where Turks and non‑Turks, in banding together to achieve legal recognition similar to the recognition accorded Christian churches, have located their central authority in the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany. South African Muslims began to gain visibility when they organized in the 1970s and 1980s into movements for social justice, not only for Muslims but for all victims of apartheid. These types of movements are even more public today.
For Muslims, propagation of the faith is a commandment from God explicitly articulated in the Qur'an. More than a century ago, Alexander Webb, an American convert to Islam, was preaching and publishing one of the first Islamic journals, The Muslim World, in the attempt to attract others to the faith. Today, religious Muslims, through a variety of means, are trying to tell non‑Muslims about Islam and to call back to the fold cultural Muslims who are not publicly practicing the faith. Mosques, trained imams, and Muslim central organizations all serve this purpose, as do books, journals, films, and videotapes, as well as extremely creative and widespread use of electronic media and other forms of information dissemination, which Abdul Hamad Lotfi illustrates in the chapter on communicating Islam in America. Today Muslim electronic engineers and Web page builders have "colonized" cyberspace and constructed a kind of virtual Islam that not only seeks to maintain the faithful in the religion but also declares the truth of Islam to the whole world. At least in America, the community has acquired enough sophistication to be comfortable in demonstrating its different voices. Not everyone, however, shares that comfort. The visibility of the virtual community has invited attack and criticism from outside groups who do not like Islam and from Muslims with alternative views of how Islam should be packaged for American or world consumption.
A number of international Islamic organizations, such as the Tablighi Jamaat of India, work actively for the propagation of the faith, da'wa, in various countries of the world. Muslims who are involved in interfaith activities through dialogue or cooperative social action debate the extent to which such efforts should be the occasion for an extension of propagation. In America, university campuses and prisons are especially fertile fields for potential conversion; in the latter case, proselytization is pursued especially, but not exclusively, by African Americans. Efforts to create programs for training Muslim chaplains to work in schools, prisons, hospitals, and the military are growing rapidly.
Other elements of an increasingly visible presence of Islam in the West mark, for many, a kind of "coming of age" for Islam as a minority religion. In many countries efforts to provide Islamic education for children are resulting in afternoon and weekend programs at local mosques, more home schooling provided within the community, and the construction of Islamic parochial schools. Whether or not to send children to separate schools is a major issue for many Muslims, as they debate costs, quality of education, and the relative merits of separating their children from the local learning environment. Within the public schools, Muslims are vocal in their concerns that physical education and sex education be provided in acceptable ways. These concerns raise the visibility of both the children and of the community. Islamic holidays are being emphasized, with many parents helping their children understand that Christian observances may not be appropriate for Muslims, who have their own occasions for celebration. Greater visibility is given within the Muslim community to observances, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan, at the same time that Western media are providing fairer and more sympathetic coverage of the rituals and observances of the faith.
Among the benefits of increased visibility for Muslims are public recognition, inclusion, and representation, as well as the ability to help shape public policies. Visibility also provides a platform from which Muslims can demand minority rights, mainstream acceptance of practices that differ from the prevailing norm, and equal status for alternative values and different definitions of what is morally, ethically, or even legally responsible. From their position of increased visibility, Muslims in many Western societies are being vocal about their demands for appropriate facilities in which they can practice their faith, for proper burial grounds where the dead can be interred according to Islamic law and custom, for slaughterhouses in which animals can be butchered in the Islamic way, for release time from schools and businesses to observe religious festivals and holidays, and for fair and unbiased media coverage.
It is clear that Muslim communities in Western Europe, in America, and in areas of earlier European settlement are growing both in numbers and in public visibility. As this growth takes place, accommodation on the part of Muslims to their new environment and on the part of the host culture to its new citizens, must, out of necessity, take place. Many factors still serve to mitigate that accommodation: the different cultural associations and pressures within each community; the response of Muslims to what is often perceived as a prevailing culture of Western secularism; the influence of Islamist activities abroad and of Western attitudes toward Muslims as a result of those activities; the range of views as to appropriate roles for Muslim women; and the hope of defining Islam as part of, yet distinguishable from, Western society as a whole. Many decisions have yet to be made, and the Islamic community is still dearly in transition. The question now is not whether Islam is a visible religion of the West, but haw and in what ways it will come to define itself.
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