June 1, 2007
The Americanization of Islam
Adapting the faith for non-immigrants.
Soon, Islam in America will no longer be an immigrant faith. It will be the faith of people who grew up attending American public schools, colleges, movie theaters, and shopping malls. "But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs." It's tough to find "culturally savvy" imams when those who are religiously educated come from the Middle East and those whose parents immigrated did not come to see their children lead a mosque.
An article in today's New York Times describes the religion's slow transition from imported to homegrown. If American-born Muslims do not find a way to adapt the faith to a new context, Muslims worry, they will either drop the religion or seek its radical fringe.
"Islam in America is trying to create a new cultural matrix that can survive in the broader context of America," said Prof. Sherman Jackson, who teaches Arabic and Islamic law at the University of Michigan. "It has to change for the religion to survive."