A Great Moment for Muslims
Will we look back on Sept. 11 as the day Islam entered the American mainstream?
BY: Steven Waldman
The attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon might be the best thing that's ever happened to Islam in America.
This may seem like a strange thing to say, given that we're witnessing a grotesque backlash against American Muslims. But in the long run we may view this as a positive turning point for Muslims in America.
First, Americans are now learning about the religion. Bookstores report big increases in sales of the Qur'an and books about Islam. Oprah Winfrey devoted a show to Islam 101, and Beliefnet has gotten huge interest in itsIslam mini-courses.
Some Americans are merely curious, but many are also feeling a moral obligation to learn. We know that our current view of Islam--is that the religion that promotes terrorism?--isn't quite right. But that's about all we do know. Normally, our civic ignorance doesn't have horrendous consequences; if we don't know the capital of Montana, no lives will be lost. Now, ignorance of Islam could lead to mistreatment of fellow Americans or ill-conceived foreign policy.
Another historic milestone: The President of the United States has repeatedly, vocally, and persuasively embraced Islam, making clear this isn't a war against the religion. To some extent this may be geopolitical tactics--he wants to prevent certain Islamic countries from turning against us. But whatever the reason, it is extraordinary that this evangelical Christian has embraced as a "great religion" a faith that many of his own supporters have viewed as destining millions of souls to hell.