Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles

Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles

Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles

Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles

Synopsis

This book fills a void in the study of Muslims in the United States, presenting the first in-depth study of the large Muslim population in Los Angeles County. It examines an array of issues facing the American Muslim population, ranging from gender and ethnicity to political and "da 'wa" (missionary) activities. This study inquires into the role Muslims see for themselves and their religious tradition in the United States and presents the diverse views of Islam held by Muslims in America today. This work will be of interest to students and scholars of Islamic culture and religion, as well as those interested in the changing face of religion in America.

Excerpt

During the past four decades, the religious landscape of the United States has undergone radical changes. in the 1950s, sociologist Will Herberg claimed that “the three religious communities—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish—are America.” Today, Islam is a rapidly growing religious tradition in America. in 1980, the number of Muslims in the United States was estimated at 3.3 million; by 1986, that number rose to four million. More recently, estimates range from anywhere between five and eight million. Indeed, scholars of religion in America are faced with a much more diverse landscape, colored not only by millions of Muslims, but also by Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, and various other religious traditions. This study focuses on Muslims in Los Angeles, a region that is a microcosm of the diverse ethnicities, nationalities, and faiths found in the United States. the Muslim population in Los Angeles is no less varied. Indigenous Muslims and Muslims from all over the world dwell here and practice multiple forms of the religion known as “Islam.”

Throughout the history of Islam, various schisms have occurred. Muslims of different sects and regions of the world have varying criteria for Islamic behavior and values. There is, however, a fundamental strand of beliefs that makes a community Islamic. Foremost of these beliefs is embedded in the meaning of the Arabic term islam itself. Islam means “submission,” specifically the submission or the surrendering of one’s will to God, the one and only Lord and Creator of the universe; a muslim is a person who is submitting to the will of God. It is impossible to describe what submitting one’s self to God means to Muslims, for Muslims struggle throughout their lives to understand what it is that God demands of them and to harmonize their daily activities with those demands.

God has aided humans in this process through prophets to whom God’s will has been revealed. Prophets, beginning with Adam, made the will of God . . .

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