Fastest-Growing Religion Often Misunderstood
Islam Rising Tide in America
The American Muslim birthrate is about 4.5 children per couple, versus the 1.9 child per couple national average.
Some sociologists predict that with 15 years, there will be more Muslims than Jews in America
By Barr Seitz
Aaron Cambel was an American kid who used to hang out with friends cruising the local mall, picking up girls, checking out the latest fashions and getting in trouble.
"I was realized if I took the same path, I would have ended up the way they did, wasting my life away," says Cambel, who lives in Washington.
So he converted to Islam.
"It was the most simple and direct to understand of the religions I looked into," says Cambel, who converted four years ago. "It taught about moral character, and ethics and the way people should be treated."
Islam Liberates Black Americans
Cambel, 23, has joined one of the fastest growing religions in the United States. Experts agree Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in America. As many as five million Muslims live in the United States and in the last five years, the number of mosques in this country has increased from 843 to about 1,300.
"I think Muslims in the U.S. find greater opportunities to practice their faiths than most Islamic countries. It’s an open society where religious freedom is protected by law and the constitution. "
Most of the growth has come from immigration, but much of it is home-grown.
Muslims Battle Prejudices
Many mainstream Muslims also have a problem with the tide of misunderstanding in the United States.
"We always need to explain so many issues, " says Hassan Qacwini, Imam of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit.
The most common misunderstanding, according to Qacwini, is that Islam fosters violence, a perception reconfirmed whenever extremist groups set off suicide bombs or massacre tourists in the Middle East.
"Islam is a peaceful religion," says Qacwini. "Some would try to connect terrorism to Islam, which is wrong."
Many Americans looked for a Muslim scapegoat when the Alfred P. Murrah building blew up in 1995.
"After the Oklahoma City bombing, people said it was Middle East terrorists," says Abdulhadi.
Several Middle Eastern men were briefly detained, and there were reports of harassment against Muslims, including beatings and a mosque burning.
Some Muslims point out that when Timothy McVeigh was arrested, no one accused him of bombing the federal building for religious reasons. "Nobody talks about McVeigh as a Christian terrorist," says Haedad.
Hostility Breeds Assertion
The role of women is another area of misunderstanding. For example, while some non-Muslims see the veil as a tool of oppression, many Muslim women see it as a reinforcement of their identity in a culture that is hostile to Islam.
"It’s empowerment," says Haedad. "Women say ‘I’m going to wear it and you’d better to put up with it.’"
While many Muslims assert their identity in a society they perceive as hostile, most have followed the pattern of practically every other ethnic and religious group in America: blending and assimilating.
"Most Muslims, you wouldn’t pick them out," says Abdulhadi. "They’re just going to work and getting along."