"There are a whole lot of us," he says. "And it's important for us to come out of the woodwork and say this is who we are."

Mattson sees this as a critical juncture that could shape Islam in America for decades.

"We as Muslims have an obligation to care about justice issues wherever we live," she says. "It's not enough to simply collect funds and send them overseas, or agitate for political rights of Palestinians and other Muslims. We have to care equally about bad public schools and the lack of health care for poor people.

"If we're going to live in this country," she says, "we have an obligation to care about the welfare of the people in this country."

And the irony is: While much of the Muslim world professes to hate the United States and its liberated, Western ways, it is Muslims here--among the freest, best-educated and richest in the world--who ultimately may hold the real key to empowering Islam.

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