American Muslims Influence Practice of Islam Around the World

December 29, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On December 29, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that "American Muslims are slowly but steadily carving their mark on the Islamic world." Although only 3 to 10 million of the 1 billion Muslims in the world live in the United States, academic and religious freedom in America have helped to make them the "most educated, affluent and diverse Muslims in the world [and have] given them an impact greater than their numbers." The flourishing numbers of provocative Islamic thinkers in America "are tackling taboo subjects such as spousal abuse and highlighting the aspects of their nearly 1,400-year tradition that embrace women's rights, human rights and democratic practices." They are trying to "restore their faith to its essence of tolerance and pluralism." "American Muslims also are expanding their influence by bringing modern education, business practices and economic development to their homelands through a mushrooming number of nonprofit organizations." They have created a new model of modernization to the Muslim world, "a society in which the faithful are free to be both modern and religious." Through such means as websites, they offer foreign Muslims "the neutral presentation of differing views within the vast Islamic tradition" that equips them "to think through their own Islamic practices rather than simply accepting the rulings of the local scholar." In fact, "the Internet, satellite TV and steady gains in literacy are prompting a quiet but dramatic shift in the source of Islamic authority throughout the Muslim world....Led by Muslims in the West, unprecedented numbers of believers are debating the fundamentals of their faith and practice in a new Islamic reformation." Nevertheless, change is slow, because people tend to get set in their ways. In addition, American Muslims have many weaknesses. They "are divided and sometimes fractious. They struggle with discrimination and comparatively weak political clout at home. They are seen by Muslims elsewhere as generally lacking in the classical Islamic education that would undergird their authority." Assimilation threatens the formation of a strong American Muslim identity. Nevertheless, they represent what Muslim jurist Murad Wilfried Hofmann calls "the hope for an Islamic renaissance worldwide."