On October 12th, Tarek Fatah posted a conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali on The Huffington Post. In this conversation, Fatah and Ali, a former Muslim and well-known critic of Islam, discussed many issues, ranging from extremist activity among Muslims to Muslim citizenship in the West. Of these topics, I would like to focus on the place of Muslims in the West, specifically in the United States.
Ali is surprised that Muslims who spend the majority or all of their lives in the United States still adhere to Islam. She expects these Muslims to discard their beliefs in order to be truly American because in her perception there is a clear contradiction between the practice of Islam and being an American. In another context, she argued that Muslims in the United States should all accept Christianity in order to have a place in America. In her conversation with Fatah, she suggested that organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations had secret agendas because they attempt to portray a positive picture of Islam and fight for Muslims’ civil rights.
The fundamental problem with Ali’s argument is that she doesn’t recognize how dangerous her comments are for the Muslim American community. Muslims have been part of the United States for centuries. While the community was more isolated before the 9/11 attacks, they have always been loyal citizens and since 2001 have put even greater emphasis on their commitment to America and their rejection of violence in the name of Islam. There have been numerous campaigns, films, and statements issued by Muslim leaders that have all tried to relay that message.
The most recent example of this is a fatwa issued at the end of September by The Fiqh Council of North America. The “Resolution on Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans” underlined that there is no contradiction between the guidelines of the sharia, the guiding principle of Islamic law, and the American constitution; thus, anyone can definitely be a practicing Muslim and a loyal American. The fatwa went even further to emphasize that Muslims are not only required to respect the laws of the land but must participate in solving social problems.
Comments like Ali’s create unnecessary suspicion around a community that must defend its position from Islamophobia on the one hand and Muslims who use Islam as a tool to commit violence on the other. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslim Americans have demonstrated in numerous ways their loyalty to the United States and their commitment to live as peaceful citizens.
What do you think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s comments on Muslim Americans? Has the Muslim American community done enough to change the image of Islam? Does a person’s faith interfere with their ability to be a loyal citizen? Please leave your comments below.