Terror Arrests Compel US Muslims to Talk about Their Faith

By Guarino, Mark | The Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

Terror Arrests Compel US Muslims to Talk about Their Faith


Guarino, Mark, The Christian Science Monitor


The shooting death of a Detroit mosque leader who authorities say advocated a separate Islamic state within the US is pointing up a reality for Muslims in America: Such incidents are forcing them to talk about their faith in public - more so than people in other US faith communities talk about their religion.

Luqman Ameen Abdullah was killed in a shootout Wednesday with FBI agents who sought to arrest him and 11 others on federal charges including illegal possession and sale of firearms. According to an affidavit from an FBI agent, Mr. Abdullah was "advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States."

The incident follows two recent cases. Two men were arrested in Chicago this month, accused of helping to plan an attack on the offices of a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed. And Najibullah Zazi, a Denver airport-shuttle driver, was charged last month with conspiring to detonate explosives.

Given the high-profile nature of a number of such incidents since 9/11, many Muslims feel compelled to explain their religion, some say.

"Muslims had no other choice: They had to go out and talk about their faith; they had to condemn violence. It's a matter of survival for them," says Malika Zeghal, associate professor of the anthropology and sociology of religion and Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.

But because religion is so integrated in American society, Ms. Zeghal says, the dialogue is more natural than it might be in European countries such as France, which has derided some public discussions of religion.

Muslim groups like the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago often find they are forced to play offense whenever news of an arrest is linked to Islam. "The council rejects any association between the alleged plot and Islam," said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, the council's chairman, in a prepared statement regarding the Chicago arrests. …

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