To the Homegrown American Sisters
At present, our community in America, whether or not we are aware of it or acknowledge it, is engulfed in a decisive conflict, and we are taking heavy losses. Mass numbers of descendents of Muslims, converts, and spiritual seekers are forsaking the American Islamic community and many of these will inevitably abandon the religion. The confrontation is of course not military but rather is occurring on the intellectual plane. On one front our religion is being both subtly and overtly demeaned by the media. On another, anti-Islam websites are assaulting the faith with mostly discarded but now resurrected antiquated orientalist criticisms.
On another, an extreme, virulent and irrational interpretation of the faith has assumed, with a good deal of outside support, center stage on the world scene. On another, most mosques in this country impose in the name of Islam, traditions and beliefs of questionable necessity that obfuscate the fundamental message of God’s last revelation to humanity and that are driving individuals from the faith in droves, and that serve to confirm for too many youth of Muslim parentage and American converts the overriding negative impression of Islam that society seems to hold at large. Instead of seeing a path to spiritual growth, enlightenment and fulfillment, many of these disengaged Muslims start to see a stagnant, retrogressive, patriarchal remnant of a lagging culture, mired in meaningless controversies and hollow, lifeless formalism.
If this is going to be countered, it will require an immense and courageous intellectual effort, and those upon whose shoulders this challenge and duty primarily rests are the second generation and converts who have held fast to their faith despite the many challenges this has presented. It is you, the activist American Muslim youth and converts, though your numbers are small, who have been placed in a pivotal role. Through your American upbringing, you have come to fully know and understand the surrounding society, and through your love and commitment to God and your religion, in a milieu that constantly tests it, you have by nature and necessity become the crucial bridge between your faith and its future in this country. You are in the best position to rationally respond to Islam’s detractors and to communicate and demonstrate to your fellow countrymen and women what it really means to be a Muslim. You think their think, talk their talk, and appreciate their confusions and concerns. You are also in the best position to reassess the vast tradition that has come down to us in the name of Islam. It is precisely because you have not been reared in a traditional Muslim culture and because you have been taught since your first day in school to search, question, critique, and analyze that you are the prime candidates to endeavor to separate religion from culture, to distinguish the essential to Islam from time and place bound interpretations. It is you who are best able to understand and communicate to the disaffected Muslim youth. This is your jihad (struggle), a jihad for minds and hearts, a jihad of intellect and reason.
At present, our community in America, whether or not we are aware of it or acknowledge it, is engulfed in a decisive conflict, and we are taking heavy losses.
So I encourage you to arm yourselves, my younger brothers and sisters, with books, and pens and personal computers, and all the other instruments of learning. And arm yourselves with knowledge of your religious tradition and the works and thoughts of its great minds of the past. But also arm yourselves with modern techniques of critical, analytical, investigative research, so that you can better study and critique past contributions in the Islamic sciences. Learn all you can in your coursework, and especially in such fields as religious studies, history, anthropology, and linguistics. Arm yourselves also, if you have the inclination and aptitude, with advanced degrees in these areas of research so critical to the project of reappraising our community’s traditions. And arm yourselves with humility, because it is vital to objectivity, and with courage and perseverance, brothers and sisters, because you will be opposed from without and within the Muslim community.
And remember to always pursue the truth, for God is the Truth, and always pray for and trust in His guidance. And so arm yourselves also with steadfast devotion to your Lord, never forgetting that to Him, and Him only, you have surrendered – not to a tradition, or a school of thought, or a local community or culture, or scholarly legacy – and that your living, striving, sacrifice and dying, all is for
The article was excerpted from Dr. Jeffrey Lang’s book entitled Losing My Religion, an in depth analysis of the current acculturation of the Muslim American identity.