Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Golden Opportunity: Religious Pluralism and American Muslims Strategies of Integration in the Us after 9/11, 2001

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Golden Opportunity: Religious Pluralism and American Muslims Strategies of Integration in the Us after 9/11, 2001

Article excerpt

Abstract: In the course of the founding history of America, the American Sacred Ground has been a contested territory where people who do not share a single history or a single religious tradition have engaged in the common tasks of civil society to broaden the contours of religious pluralism in the US. This paper studies the post 9/11 phase of the public debate on America's religious identity as the Muslim moment in the long-standing pilgrimage in American religious history towards participatory pluralism. It underscores the challenges that both Americans and American Muslims have had to face to help one another make sense of the startling religious diversity incurred by the 1965 immigration reforms. My contention is that, compared to the Jewish and Catholic experiences, it is only since 9/11 that American Muslims have carried through the traditional role of religious outsiders, abiding by the principles of the American Sacred Ground.

Key Words: Religious Pluralism, American Muslim, religious identity, the American Sacred Ground, responses to diversity, Jewish and Catholic contributions

Introduction

This paper is part of a research project I have conducted on religious pluralism and the American Muslim responses to 9/11. My interest in religious pluralism in the US as the theoretical framework for my study stems from the great contribution made by the US to global religious life by demonstrating, as many scholars of religious pluralism have already shown, that "however vast the pluralism, a vital religious culture can flourish"1. The US has a culture of pluralism because, as an "E Pluribus Unum," it has been the setting for a multitude of responses to religious diversity2. Most of these responses reflect attempts on the part of Americans at redefining their religious "Unum" (unity) in light of the changing face of the American people. This paper, which has been stimulated by the protracted and contentious history of religious pluralism in the US, studies the post 9/11 phase of the public debate on America's religious identity as the Muslim moment in the long-standing pilgrimage in American religious history towards participatory pluralism. In tracing the major steps in the development of the pluralist state of mind, we will focus on the experiences of the American Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic Communities for comparative reasons.

What is Religious Pluralism?

The term pluralism, as applied to religion and American society in general, has surged into prominence and common usage over the past decades to underscore its multicultural aspect3. Pluralism has always been associated with the term diversity and understood as the acceptance and encouragement of diversity. It is with this understanding that some social critics and religious historians have worked since the mid-80s to chronicle the diversities that their predecessors ignored or slighted4. Yet, pluralism is more than simply chronicling or mapping diversity. Pluralism is a culture, a state of mind that evolves as communities revise their conceptions of ethnicity, refine their responses to diversity and broaden the meaning of such widely accepted concepts as religious freedom and mutual respect as they are passed on from one age to the next. Pluralism is not a given, but an achievement.5 It is more than toleration and inclusion of "deviant" groups; it means engaging in the common tasks of civil society people who do not share a single history or a single religious tradition. How is this engagement possible with people coming from so many different places of origin, holding different world views, and not sharing the same language?

One interesting answer to this question was provided by the American scholar, Barbara McGraw, in Rediscovering America's Sacred Ground: Public Religion and Pursuit of the Good in a Pluralistic America (2003). She shows us that the common language can be derived from the political framework and the principles on which America stands. …

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