Islamic Issues for Muslims
in the United States
John O. Voll
Muslims in the United States face a variety of challenges. Many of these are similar to those faced by other minority communities in America. However, Muslims also face challenges and opportunities that are tied to the character of Islam. The Islamic faith and its practice involve special obligations and responsibilities that shape the way Muslims as individuals and groups respond to the conditions of American society. Often people become involved in examining the "American" issues faced by distinctive and minority communities in the United States forgetting that the special characteristics of the community are also important. Significant Islamic issues are involved in the life of Muslims in the United States as well as important American issues.
These Islamic issues should not be viewed simply as special problems or difficulties. Some issues do involve problems, but others involve challenges that are significant opportunities as well. The ways that Muslims respond to changing conditions in the United States may provide important guidelines for Muslims elsewhere and for non-Muslims in the United States, since at the heart of Islamic issues there are universal concerns.
There are two different types of Islamic issues for Muslims in the United States. First, are what might be thought of as the "classic" issues for Muslim minorities everywhere. In these, the "key concern is how to live an Islamic life in a non-Muslim country." 1 Here the basic issues are maintaining Islam as a way of life in a context where that is difficult, and deciding the meaning and implications of community-faith concepts such as hijra (emigration), jihad (exertion), and da'wa (mission or calling) in the American context. In some ways these issues are similar to those faced by Muslim minority communities throughout the history of Islam.
A second type of Islamic issue also is directly related to the special conditions of the contemporary world. These are the issues involved in the great transformations of human society which have been taking place in the past decades. These changes have been described by some as the emergence of postindustrial society 2 while others speak of the development of postmodern