Beliefnet launched the "Defining an American Islam" boards to help members create an American Muslim identity and to determine a future for Islam in the U.S. in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Member justpeace30 wondered if the Muslim world considered Muslims in the U.S. to be true Muslims. He wrote, "What REALLY is the Islamic take on all this? I mean do the Muslims in Pakistan, Indonesia & other parts of the world realize that there are over 6 million Muslims that live here in the United States? Because I feel that when they chant "death to America" in their protests they want me, a Muslim, dead too.
"Do Muslims outside the United States realize that these "so called" Muslims killed hundreds of Muslims that day? Do people know that there are over 4000 Muslims who served in the United States military? Are Muslims who were born here in the United States considered true Muslims by rest of the world?"
Other Muslim members agreed with justpeace30. "I can understand your feeling of betrayal because I kind of feel the same way," AbrarAlsayed wrote. "It's ALMOST like (and I hate to say this) if you are an American Muslim, you don't count. Like only the Arab or Middle Eastern Muslims are 'true' Muslims."
Beliefnet's Muslim members also used the "Defining an American Islam" boards to extol the U.S. as a country that supports what they see as true Islamic ideals. "The US is a lot more 'Islamic' in beliefs and ideologies than many of the so-called 'Muslim' countries," AbrarAlsayed wrote. "We have a democratic form of government, we have women's rights, we have the 'innocent until proven guilty' thing, we have freedom of speech and freedom to worship any way we choose." She later continued, "All of these things are prescribed and highly recommended in the Qur'an."
Member mnn agreed, "Despite our problems in the U.S., this is a great country to be Muslim. Our freedoms to worship are guaranteed by the constitution...our freedom to NOT worship is also guaranteed. In these other Muslim countries where ritualistic adherence to Islam is the law, I could never live there. Plemin el-Amin, one of the spiritual leaders of the Muslim community in Atlanta, commented once that you can never exercise true faith without the ability to make choices. In the U.S., we can make those choices."
"I feel, as do other African-Americans, that I am treated like a second-class citizen when I attend a masjid that is predominately Middle Eastern," wrote member motherofhasan
Other members recognized this challenge of diversity and encouraged Muslims to overcome it. NadjaofNewark wrote, "What is important is to avoid the 'ethnic ghetto' syndrome...Go out and encourage diversity within the masjid--Arabs, IndoPak, Americans, Africans, Europeans, all worshipping together."
Several members suggested that the challenges presented by living in America often make Muslims' faith grow stronger. AbrarAlsayed wrote, "It is very easy to pray 5 times a day when the call to prayer is heard around your city at the appropriate times. It's easy to abstain from alcohol when it is illegal in your country. It's easy not to be easy when your culture dictates you dress moderately as to not provoke or arouse the opposite sex.
"To be a Muslim in America takes willpower. It's like living above a chocolate factory and going on a diet. Temptation abounds, and it tests our faith on a daily basis."