Islamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study

Islamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study

Islamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study

Islamic Values in the United States: A Comparative Study

Synopsis

The religion of Islam is now an American phenomenon. Once thought to be primarily a way of life of the Arabs and a faith alien to the Judeo-Christian heritage of this country, it has grown to be one of the most prominent and rapidly-growing religious movements in America. This ethnography of immigrant Muslims considers five Northeastern communities in detail. Including numerous interviews with members of these communities, this investigation provides a highly personal look at what it means to be a believing, practicing Muslim in America at a time when Islam is under the critical scrutiny of international news. The authors describe the institutions and leadership of American Islam, Muslim law, and its applications in the American context, examining the kinds of problems that beset Muslims trying to observe the elements of their faith in a potentially difficult environment. Family life and the roles and relationships of men and women are thoroughly detailed as well.

Excerpt

Muslims today exhibit a range of responses in their understanding of what constitutes the essentials of Islam and Islamic law and what is required to be a good and responsible Muslim. Those living in the United States face not only the kinds of interpretive questions that are being raised across the Islamic world but are in the unique situation of having to reconcile their understanding of Islam and the way it should be practiced with the special circumstances of being Muslim in an essentially alien culture. They must, therefore, determine both what it means ideally to observe Islam in a proper way and the degree to which they as individuals feel this observance is possible, or even desirable, in the American context. The complexity of this issue is revealed as much in the excerpts from individual interviews provided in this and succeeding chapters as in the tabulated responses to the questions posed. We begin with a consideration of the kinds of answers given to the question of how strictly respondents think Islam should be observed; we then turn to some of the ways in which varieties of interpretation are expressed in opinions about the functions and operation of the mosque and the particular role of the imam in the American milieu.

Muslim Responses to the Issues of Islamic Observance

Nearly half of the Muslims interviewed for this study indicated that they feel Islam should be strictly observed, while somewhat fewer said they think "moderate" observance is appropriate (see Tables 2.1A- G). It is not quite accurate to say that those who favor a strict observance are unwilling to look for some compromise with modernity. Generally, those whom some may call "revivalist Muslims" also affirm that scripture should be interpreted to fit current times. Rather than . . .

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