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VOICES

How Muslim Americans Are Making Their Place in America

While the media pundits and political opportunists argue about the status of Muslims in the United States, conversations among American Muslims regarding their unique position have proliferated. While exploring deeper questions of identity, American Muslims have increasingly launched projects to assert their own visions for the future of their communities. Here are some ways they are doing it:

Roadtrip!

30 Mosques in 30 Dayswas the brainchild of Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, two young American Muslims who spent each night of Ramadan in a different mosque in a different state and wrote about the different Muslim communities they encountered. Their blog illustrates the ethnic and ideological diversity among Muslims in the United States. Their 12,000 mile journey has been featured on a number of news outlets, including CNN.

Liberal Arts with an Islamic Twist

In Berkely, Calif., American converts to Islam founded Zaytuna Collegein 2009 to “to restore broad-based and pluralistic scholarship to its proper place as a central priority of Muslims.” Imam Shakir and Sheik Hamza Yusuf, the co-founders of thus as-of-yet unaccredited liberal arts college, aim to preach an Islam that resonates with young Americans. "Anybody who does even a superficial survey of who we are will, I think, recognize pretty quickly that we're not radical terrorists, fundamentalists, whatever," they told NPR.

Musical Expressions

In 2008, A MAS Media Foundation produced a video that drew on the responses of 2,000 American Muslims to the question, “What they would wish to say to the rest of the world?” The music for the video was performed by Kareem Salama, a Muslim-American country rocker.

Many Muslims have turned to hip-hop to express their aspirations. Mojahid, a Virginia-based rapper, released a remix to Kanye West’s new single entitled “Monster (Muslim Remix)” that describes the mindset of a confused American Muslim who suddenly has been forced to question whether Muslim and American are conflicting self-descriptions:

Y’all wanna arrest us – never get to rest ‘cause

Security bug us — yeah we worry so much

Random check? OK — now you got my hands up

Thinking I'm exotic — I'm no belly-dancer

No I'm not your monkey, neither am I your cancer

I’m a U.S. citizen but I don't like your pillaging

No I'm not that privileged, my parents were two immigrants

The All-American Pastime

"Fordson," a feature length documentary about four Muslim high school football players from Dearborn, Mich., is currently in production. Fordson High School was built by Henry Ford in 1922, but now 'boasts a 98 percent Arab population,’ according to the producers. The largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East is in Dearborn and the documentary illustrates the ways one community is negotiation Islamic faith and American nationalism.

Adeela Tajdar, a good friend of mine working for Project Nur, an initiative that aims to create "a distinct and alternative Muslim voice: a civic identity grounded in pluralism and moderate thinking and action." While we were discussing the issues facing American Muslims, she commented, “There is a lot of bad, but there is also a lot of good.  Most of the attendees to the rallies/peace responses were non-Muslims, standing up for the freedom and equality of all in this country, eager to learn about Islam, meet Muslims, and inform themselves.  I see this as a national struggle to stand up, together, for what is right.  That is beautiful to me.  It makes me still, even among all the chaos and negative sentiment, proud to be an American.”

Kayvan Farchadi is a staff writer for Campus Progress.

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