Magazine article Newsweek

The New Islam

Magazine article Newsweek

The New Islam

Article excerpt

The children of Muslim immigrants who came to

America in the `60s are coming of age. Both pious and

modern, they are the future of the faith

In El Cerrito, Calif., Shahed

Amanullah knows it's time to pray, not by a

muezzin's call from a mosque minaret, but

because his PowerMac has chimed. A verse

from the Koran hangs by his futon. Near the

bookcases--lined with copies of Wired

magazine and Jack Kerouac novels--lies a red

Arabian prayer rug. There's a plastic

compass sewn into the carpet, its needle

pointing toward Mecca. At the programmed

call, Amanullah begins his prayers, the same

as those recited across the globe--from the

Gaza Strip to Samarkand.

In his goatee and beret, 30-year-old

Amanullah wouldn't

remind anyone of Saddam.

Hussein or a member of

Hizbullah, the sort of Muslims

who make headlines. He has

never built a biological

weapon, issued a fatwa or

burned Uncle Sam in effigy.

"You think Muslim, you think

Saddam. Hussein, you think

ayatollah," says one

MuslimAmerican

twentysomething.

Not after meeting Amanullah. A native

Californian, Amanullab grew up running

track, listening to Nirvana and reading the

Koran. He is a member of a burgeoning

subculture: young Islamic America. The

children of the prosperous Muslim

immigrants of the '60s and '70s are coming of

age, and with them arrives a new culture that

is a blend of Muslim and American

institutions.

Online and on campus, in suburban

mosques and summer camps, young

American Muslims are challenging their

neighbors' perceptions of Islam as a foreign

faith and of Muslims as fiery fundamentalists

or bomb-lobbing terrorists. That image

problem may be this generation's biggest

challenge in the New World. Within hours of

the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995,

Muslims were prime suspects. "You'll die,"

was one of the printable messages left on

mosque answering machines around the

country.

America's Muslims are not only taking on

stereotypes, they're taking on the status quo.

As it was for Christians and Jews before

them, America is a laboratory for a re-examination

of their faith. America's Muslim

community is a quilt of cultures: about 25

percent are of South Asian descent, Arabs

represent another 12 percent and nearly half

are converts, primarily African-Americans.

U.S. society allows them to strip away the

cultural influences and superstitions that have

crept into Islam during the past 1,400 years.

By going back to the basic texts, they're

rediscovering an Islam founded on tolerance,

social justice and human rights. Some 6

million strong, America's Muslim population

is set to outstrip its Jewish one by 2010,

making it the nation's second-largest faith

after Christianity. Richer than most Muslim

communities, literate and natives of the

world's sole superpower, America's Muslims

are intent on exporting their modern Islam.

From the Mideast to central Asia, they'd like

to influence debate on everything from free

trade to gender politics.

At home, it is a generation committed to

maintaining its Islamic heritage while finding a

niche in the New World. America's 1,500-odd

mosques are spread from Alaska to Florida.

Muslims pray daily in State Department

hallways, in whiteshoe corporate law firms

and in empty boardrooms at Silicon Valley

companies like Oracle and Adaptec. Last year

Muslim organizations made life miserable for

Nike when the company marketed a shoe

with a design resembling the name of Allah in

Arabic. …

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