Shaping a Future for Muslims in America - Part II

Shaping a Future for Muslims in America

by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane


This monograph on “Shaping a Future for Muslims in America” presents three of Dr. Crane’s essays in Part One, entitled “Inter-Faith Perspectives,” two of the colloquia in Part Two, entitled “Intra-Faith Perspectives,” that he has initiated as a forum for Muslims to debate their own future, and three of his regular shorter essays in Part Three on applying the insights of the above perspectives to specific hot-button issues.

The introductory chapter in Part One of this symposium of Crane’s essays contends that the major challenge in the world is not terrorism per se but the gap in understanding between those who pursue the ideology of freedom and democracy and those who call for justice.  Crane writes, “We operate from different premises of thought.  America and the rest of the world are like two ships passing in the night.  They see each other at a distance, but the captain of the American ship has no idea what is in the other ship, where it came from, and where it is heading.”  The common purpose of all eight essays in this monograph is to acquaint the captains and passengers in the two ships with each other.

The common paradigm of classical thought in all the world religions begins with awareness of a higher source of truth than human reason and is expressed in the traditionalist wisdom that order, justice, and liberty can be pursued effectively only in balance because they are interdependent.  The challenge for both Muslims and others in America is to broaden the premise and framework of American policy from the pursuit of stability through undue reliance on coercion to the pursuit of justice as a moral obligation and as the best means to promote order and liberty. 

For this purpose, the classical scholars of Islamic thought worked for centuries to develop a sophisticated code of human responsibilities and rights, known as the maqasid al shari’ah or universal purposes of jurisprudence, to spell out the meaning of justice.  The challenge for Muslims is to fill the intellectual gap that for the past six hundred years has permitted Muslim cultural and political leaders to ignore this code of human rights and imprison those who invoked it.

At the same time, both independently and through a process of borrowing, the founders of America developed a similar framework, which was summarized in Thomas Jefferson’s preamble to the American Constitution.  After stating the motivating purpose at hand of forming “a more perfect union,” the American Preamble lists five purposes.  The first is “the establishment of justice.”  This is followed by security and peace (“domestic tranquility”), then prosperity (“the general welfare”), and lastly freedom (“the blessing of liberty”).  This order is designed to prioritize cause and effect.  Without liberty, justice can never be more than a dream.  But, without a framework of justice, liberty has no meaning other than license and anarchy.  The genius of America’s founders was to institutionalize this paradigm in a system of human governance.  The task of Muslims, both intellectuals and popular opinion leaders, is to do the same in reliance on the classical framework common to both classical American and classical Islamic thought, which may be disappearing in modern America and disappeared in the Muslim world centuries ago.

The second essay, entitled “Oneness of Being: Fact or Fiction,” in Part One on Inter-Faith Perspectives develops the spiritual framework that precedes in one way or another the political and economic in all of the world religions.  This essay, entitled “Oneness of Being, Fact or Fiction,” clarifies the distinction between orthodox understandings of personal identity and the increasingly common cultic exaggerations.  This essay warns against the “spiritual consumerism” that may constitute the major cultural baggage of so-called “American Islam.”  Failure to appreciate the distinction between subjective experience and objective reality can lead to the search for spiritual “experiences” as a goal in itself, without the higher purpose of applying higher understanding to promote justice in the world.

Maintaining balance in the spiritual quest is essential to appreciate the transcendent identity of every person and the legitimacy of its different expressions in other faiths.  This, in turn, makes possible progress from mere tolerance in the sense of “I won’t kill you yet,” to a slightly higher level of diversity in the sense of “I can’t stand you but you are here so I can’t do anything about it,” to the highest level of pluralism in the sense of recognizing that we have so much to learn from each other because we each have so much to offer.  This is also essential in order to overcome the temptation to adopt a form of multi-culturalism that pursues the false god of relativism and thereby denies the very possibility and existence of truth.

The third and final essay in Part One of this monograph introduces a “new frontier” in conflict management.  In an era when conflict resolution with terrorists is almost an oxymoron, the first goal of every government must be to stop them with whatever force is legitimate under the universally recognized doctrine of “just war.”  The method is not conflict resolution but conflict management.  The second and longer-range goal must be to marginalize the violent extremists, because in their autistic alienation and cultic hatred they cannot understand or communicate and cooperate with anyone who does not worship the extremists’ own false gods.

One effective way to marginalize such extremists is to hang them by their own petards by demonstrating to potential supporters that they are violating the basic teachings of the religion they purport to represent.  This is the best way to dry up the ocean of passive support in which the terrorist fish can swim.

Crane writes in this third chapter that, “It would be a fatal mistake to over-emphasize the objective causes of terrorism of whatever kind at the expense of appreciating and targeting the evil inherent in the subjective terrorist mentality itself.  There is perhaps merit in the argument that, after Communism imploded, Muslims provided a convenient target for Cold Warriors who needed a new enemy.  But, the spread of religious exclusivism and extremism, which had been funded for two decades by the Saudi government for its own political purposes, clearly stoked the terrorist paradigm of thought and the nihilism of suicide bombing.  This led inevitably to what amounted to a new Fourth World War against the traditions of all world religions and against the civilizations built upon them.”

In this third chapter Crane details some distortions of the Qur’an and the spurious hadiths that many Muslim extremists have marshaled in support of their hiraba, which is the classical Islamic term for what we nowadays call “terrorism.”  Crane warns counter-terrorists that in their efforts to expose the extremists among Muslims they run the risk of buying into the same distortions of the Qur’an that feed terrorism.  They interpret the Qur’an as the terrorists do and thereby lend them support, when they should be attacking the terrorists’ distortion of their own religion.

Part Two of this monograph on Shaping a Future for Muslims in America reproduces two of the dialogues or colloquia among Muslim intellectuals that Dr. Crane has initiated for publication in  Both of the selected colloquia are in the January-March issue of 2005.  The first poses a question in its title, “’Progressive Muslims’ Call for Abandoning Religion in order to Survive?”

This colloquium started by Dr. Crane’s reply to an article by the very articulate Junaid M. Afeef on the liberal webpage and blog, entitled “Dangerous Alliances: Islam Can Survive only in a Secular America.”  Dr. Afeef advances two theses.  The first is that, “without a secular society there can be no freedom.”  The second thesis of his article is that Muslims must oppose the Christian/Republican social and family values agenda, which MUW says consists of “anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-school prayer, school vouchers, and references to God in public places,” because to work in interfaith alliance with such “conservatives” would merely strengthen the enemy of Islam.

This first volley of a seeming campaign to push for a secular Muslim bloc vote was followed by an even more articulate blast by Professor Muqtedar Khan who urged Muslims to abandon all ideology.  If this referred to the triumphalist and closed system of thought adopted by some extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood and to their seeming commitment to conquest in a clash of civilizations, then certainly Dr. Khan’s rejection of ideology was well based.  If this, however, would mean abandoning the commitment to justice and both societal and institutional transformation in America then this would be a call to abandon the essence of Islam. 

Dr. Crane argues that the abandonment of human dignity and human rights as articulated in the classical principles of Islamic justice “as a paradigm of thought and action is precisely why Muslims in past centuries have been defeated and colonized and oppressed and now are being bombed like snarling animals in a cage.”  Crane reminds Muslims in America that spiritual and intellectual power shapes history, so their future depends on reinvigorating both, not on abandoning their interfaith educational mission to transform whatever land they have chosen for their home.

Further Dr. Crane argues that, instead of hunkering down and abandoning their activism as spiritually inspired and religiously committed citizens, Muslims in America need to bring their classical wisdom even more effectively to the public square in order to survive.  He argues that Muslims need to avoid assimilation at all costs, because this is group suicide.  Instead, he writes, they “need to integrate with others in America so that Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and those of other world religions can help perfect our country and thereby counter the totalitarian minded who increasingly are perverting every one of these world religions and threatening global civilization.”

Dr. Afeef replies in this colloquium first by denying that he can be pigeonholed as a “progressive Muslim” and than clarifying that his principal concern is about those on “the American Muslim street” who call for an “Islamic state” and “have an affinity for a Taliban-style government.”  He calls instead for a society that is imbued with the values of enlightened religion and therefore is in a “state of Islam.”  As Dr. Crane repeats in almost every lecture that he gives around the country, this is nothing more than a country governed by democratically elected leaders who are governed by God, which is precisely what America’s founders had in mind.

Professor Khan likewise rejects the branding of himself as a “progressive Muslim.”  He writes, “I have claimed, however, that I am a moderate Muslim who believes in peaceful resolution of conflicts within the community and with other communities.  The key issue that defines moderation for me is the preference for ijtihad [intellectual effort] over military Jihad as the instrument for socio-political transformation in the Muslim world, … always in the middle following the Qur’anic injunction for the middle path (Qur’an 2:143).”

Dr. Khan clarifies his use of the term ideology by stating, “My rejection of Islamic ideology is rejection of the interpretations of Islam by political Islamic movements in the Muslim World and certainly not a rejection of Islam.  … I am more influenced by critical theory, which argues that power and its effects corrupt knowledge and make it an ideology that either pursues or serves power.”

In response to the argument about secularism, Dr. Khan refers to his article, “The Myth of Secularism,” which contends that “secularism is an enduring myth of modernity” and uses the term secularism not as opposing all religion but as providing a level playing field for all religions to practice their faiths freely.  He states that Islam cannot survive in an atmosphere of “political Christianity” any more than in an atmosphere of “political Islam.”  He refers us to his article, “The Rise of Political Christianity,” commenting on the American elections of 2004, where he writes, “It is time for American Muslims, American Jews, American Hindus and Buddhists, and American Christians who are moderate, secular, and liberal, to come together to form a moderate and pragmatic center, eschewing the aggressive anti-religiosity of the extreme left, respecting the religiosity of the right, to restore balance and preserve American democracy and its traditionally balanced relationship with its first institution – religion.”

The second colloquium in Part Two of this monograph is entitled “Optimism, Realism, and the Invisible Hand of God.”  It is introduced by Dr. Crane’s reaction to the New York Times report that Enron manipulated energy availability and pricing in California by deliberately arranging at a critical point for a key plant to shutdown. 

This prompted him to write, “America’s founders believed that direct democracy was dangerous, which is why they created a republic to cushion policy against the madness of the mob.  But, perhaps they succeeded too well, because now we have the madness of the political and economic elites working in tandem.  Or do the elites merely reflect the madness of the mob?  In that case, would all the talk about freedom and the democracy initiative amount to anything other than propaganda to maintain the status quo?  Unfortunately, the status quo is precisely what must be fundamentally changed for civilization to survive, much less prosper.  We seem to have some un-addressed dilemmas here.”

He continues, “The great thinkers of the traditionalist movements in both the West and the Rest have addressed these dilemmas, but no-one pays any attention to them any more.  The intellectual and moral genius of the Islamic civilization has been dead for centuries, and the American genius is now questioned worldwide for the first time.  Perhaps both need a spiritual revival, but organized religion seems to be a major deterrent to such change.  ‘Religion’ can be more of a cause than a cure for our problems.  Dilemma upon dilemma!  Perhaps now we really need an ‘invisible hand,’ and it is not the utopian one that ‘democratic capitalists’ advance to justify their rapacious pursuit of greed.”

The founder and president of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, Dr. Norman Kurland, replied, “The genius of the great American experiment lies in the long-ignored Ninth Amendment to the Constitution, which was supposed to imbed ultimate sovereignty on earth in each human being under the sovereignty of the Creator.  In other words it recognized natural law as part of the Constitution.  The founders understood that men are not angels and accepted the need for government as a ‘necessary evil.’  This led to the structuring of a constitution with checks upon the monopoly power of the state.  Rather than pure democracy, which they rejected, they opted for a structured diffusion of power, or a republican form of government, with the ultimate check on centralized power being property spread widely among the citizens.”

Dr. Kurland adds that the Founders’ wisdom was rooted in respect for “George Mason’s purposes of government in section one of the Virginia Declaration of Rights: ‘The basis and foundation of government is … that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter in a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety’.”  This is the thought that was implied and encapsuled in the statement of Federalist Number 1 that, “Justice is the end of government.”

Kurland concluded, “If we agree that power must be structurally diffused in the political arena, I think we should be applying the same formula for limiting power concentrations in all human institutions, including business corporations, from the smallest to the giant global corporations like Enron.  Lord Acton put his finger on the human dilemma by reminding us that, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.”

Dr. Crane then led off what was becoming a colloquium by replying to the group, “Norman Kurland seems to have concluded that I am too pessimistic, which misses the thrust of the entire essay hidden in the final sentence referring to the ‘invisible hand.’  Changing human structures and improving management styles, even if possible, will neither create nor save civilization.  The invisible hand of the ‘corporate bottom line’ requires what Rabbi Michael Lerner calls the radical move to a spiritual bottom line.  But, even this is not something that we can do of ourselves.  We must rely on the invisible hand of God, because without it we are lost.  Perhaps people do not want to accept that, because of their fear of losing control, which, of course, is precisely the problem of materialist thinking, even if dressed up in spiritual language.”

He concluded, “The Neo-Cons are not going to save the world, nor are those who want merely to perfect neo-conservative thought by introducing the paradigm of justice.  If God intends us human beings to survive and prosper, we will not do it ourselves.  This wisdom is the ultimate realism and the source of pragmatic optimism.  Everything else is utopia.  And, as we all should have learned from the history of the 20th century, all utopias fail.”

With the argument thus joined, the real discussion was carried on by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas and Charles Upton in an extended colloquy that cannot be summarized without losing everything of value in it.  A series of other colloquia are in the process of formation, partly triggered by the two covered here, and may be included in another monograph following up on this one.

Part Three of this monograph on “Shaping a Future for Muslims in America,” is devoted to selected hot button issues that spell out for contemporary Muslims and their fellow Americans how the classical wisdom of the American and Islamic civilizations might be applied today.

The first chapter in this Part Three on hot-button issues concerns the role of knowledge in the information age.  Dr. Crane’s article, entitled “Information Explosion and Ignorance,” is designed to evoke a later colloquium on the meaning of education.  This short chapter suggests that the surfeit of meaningless facts has forced persons to assert control over what they read or else suffer the fate of automatons driven by the invisible hands of blind puppeteers who, in turn, are deprived of any access to reality.  He notes, “The theory is that the more people have individual control over what they read the more they will narrow their reading to whatever agrees with their own prejudices.” Referring to his experiences with Muslim e-groups, Dr. Crane writes, “Not only are the new members already in agreement with the bias of the particular e-group, but the longer they are members the more biased they become until they become really extremists and finally only the extremists remain in the group.  The others withdraw to ‘lurking’ status or drop out.  The drop-outs then go on to some other group, which then may repeat the process.” 

This chapter adduces the evidence that the information explosion at the turn of the millennium may make people more ignorant than they were before they had theoretical access to objective knowledge.  He quotes Michael Bull of the University of Sussex in England who concludes that the growing trend toward customizing one’s interaction with the world may be strengthened by the common fear of loss of control in an era of both visual and audio overload.  Bull writes, “People like to be in control.  They are controlling their space, their time, and their interaction. … that can’t be understated – it gives them a lot of pleasure.  Those people with white wires dangling from their ears might be enjoying their unique life soundtrack, but they are practicing ‘absent presence’ in public spaces, paying little or no attention to the world immediately around them.”

Crane writes, “This all leads to what one might call the age of mass autism in which everything and everyone is so self-referential that all experience merely isolates one ever further from reality.  In a world of 500-channel TV access and digital devices like TiVo and iPod, according to University of Chicago professor Cass Sunstein, “You need not come across topics and views that you have not sought out.  Without difficulty, you are able to see exactly what you want to see, no more and no less.”

The impact on the major universal human right embodied in the universal principle of Islamic law known as haqq al ‘ilm or the duty and right to seek knowledge can be profound.  It ranges from the inability of the White House and Wall Street to escape from their self-imposed blinders, reflected in President Bush’s proud assertion that he gets all his news from “objective sources,” namely, from “my staff,” to university presidents who may encounter alumni or even faculty resistance to courses on great books that include the great books of the West but not of the Rest.  And, of course, in the Muslim world this ghettoization of knowledge is producing the mentality of the East versus the Beast, where the alleged axis of beastly evil is orchestrated by an alliance of conspirators in the White House.

No doubt the hottest of the hot button issues in the Muslim world in March, 2005, was whether women can lead mixed gender prayers.  Dr. Crane’s chapter in this monograph, “Shock and Awe in the First Intifada of American Gender Insurgency: Paradigmatic, Strategic, and Legal Perspectives,” introduced a bibliography in of a hundred articles, fatwas, and major polemics on this subject, most of which accused Amina Wadud of either deliberately ignoring Islamic law or deliberately committing an act of apostasy .  Dr. Crane believes that Amina Wadud’s “bold action is not merely a flash in the pan, here today and gone tomorrow.  It raises perennial issues and may become a landmark case in future textbooks on comparative legal systems and on the international law of human rights.”

Dr. Crane argues that, “From a strategic perspective, one must ask whether it is counter-productive to push this issue when the broader issue of women’s oppression under gender apartheid should be the focus of reform.  The tactical blunder of Professor Amina Wadud … is to set Muslims up for attack by the Muslim-bashers who can use this to claim that Muslims hate freedom.”

“The paradigmatic danger,” writes Dr. Crane, “is that Muslims who focus on absolutist equality are clothing secular fundamentalist feminism, known as women’s liberation, in religious terms and thereby introducing American cultural baggage into the Muslim community both in America and throughout the world.  By adopting the standards of modern Western culture (or lack of culture) social revolutionary converts to Islam may be shifting the burden of proof from the West to the East in defining the nature of dignity and justice.”

From the jurisprudential perspective, Dr. Crane argues that the right of women to lead formal public prayer exists as an issue in all religions, but that each religion has the right within the limits of universal human rights to declare what is legal or illegal for its own practitioners.  He writes, “Traditionalist thought in all religions teaches the wisdom of respecting the nuances of competing perspectives on what is good.  These cannot be fitted into a narrow legal perspective, unless the framework is based on justice, which emphasizes the purpose of the legal injunctions.  … The distinction between the secularist demand for a blind equality and the more discriminating emphasis on equity must be understood and carried out within the framework of the universal purposes of Islamic law.

This normative approach to law, which is primarily educational in intent, differs fundamentally from the prescriptive one in Western law, according to which law does not exist unless its details are enforced by the monopoly power of the state.  In Islamic law there is a spectrum of categories from required (wajib) and good (halal) all the way to haram or forbidden.  Most acts fit into categories in between, namely, mandub or desirable and makruh or undesirable, with a large middle category that depends entirely on intention.  The same applies to “innovation” or bida’a.  Not all innovation is bad.  Some is even desirable, namely, bida’a hasana, and some is undesirable or even haram.

The differences in legal conclusion may result primarily from differences in approach.  Self-styled liberals, like Professor Muqtedar Khan, may prefer istihsan, which is the most liberal form of jurisprudence approved in the ‘usul al fiqh, emphasizing what the faqih subjectively thinks is good or hasan.  Self-styled conservatives prefer the istislah, which emphasizes derivation from the Qur’an and Sunnah.  Proceeding from these two approaches, equally competent jurists may end up on opposite sides of important issues.

Dr. Crane concludes, “If denying women the right to lead formal mixed-gender prayers would deny them their inherent right to be leaders in society, then Dr. Amina Abdulwadud would be justified both in her goals and perhaps even in her strategy of revolution through shock and awe.  But, if the gender based differences in duties or responsibilities do not cause inequities in access to human rights, then the demand for equality would carry no weight in arguing against the evidence that the forms and methods of formal worship for Muslims have been decreed by Allah and do not provide for women leading the jum’ua prayer.  The fact that women have never led such prayer in fourteen hundred years is not decisive proof that they never may in the future, but the burden of proof in overcoming such circumstantial evidence against the practice has never been met.”

In the discussion on this hot-button issue, Dr. Crane concludes, “The Muslim world is already split into many different groups.  The current gender intifada would merely consolidate and accelerate an existing trend.  The real hot-button issue may be whether the battle for women’s rights can be carried forward without splitting the Muslim umma still further.  This will depend on the wisdom of Muslim women as well as on the wisdom of their partners.  Only when women seize the new opportunities to educate themselves, even at the cost sometimes of personal heroism, can they overcome the sexist and patriarchal interpretation of Islamic law embodied in the various cultures that have submerged the original Islamic wisdom and practices in the Muslim world.

The final chapter in this monograph on the future of Muslims in America concerns the degree to which American values not only are compatible with those of classical Islam but may even derive in part from them.  A number of scholars are now exploring this issue, foremost among them perhaps Professors Makdisi and Al Hibri.  The first contentious issue is why the original practice of human rights in early Islam ended.  Professor Aziza al Hibri’s magisterial position paper, “Islamic and American Constitutional Law: Borrowing Possibilities or a History of Borrowing,” contends that the decline and fall of human rights in the Muslim world began when the weak third caliph, ‘Uthman, no longer promoted them and gave his family, who became the well-known Ummayed tyrants, the chance to stamp them out.  Perhaps no issue in Muslim historiography is more contentious than this one, because it still continues in the split between the Sunnis and Shi’a.  For countless centuries, the Sunnis generally have carried the banner of stability, with all of its injustices.  The Shi’a have countered with their demand for justice, with all of the instability that might result.  This, indeed, is the second of their five-part credo or statement of required belief, which lists justice as the essence of their belief even before their belief in prophethood and subordinate only to their belief in the existence of God.

The third hot button issue is addressed in the final chapter of this monograph under the title “Reviving the Classical Wisdom of Islam in the Cherokee Tradition.”  It was first published in the October-December 2004 issue of in order to commemorate the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on September 21, 2004, in the last vacant space on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  This beautiful and impressive museum was created and funded by Native Americans, according to its director, Dr. Richard West, to affirm the constitutional sovereignty of Native American nations and to preserve their spiritual heritage for future generations of the American people.

For Native Americans this was an earth-shaking event, because it marked a break from the past two centuries of policy from Washington marked by ethnic cleansing and genocide through the most brutal colonial oppression in human history.  The most controversial object of oppression, only now surfacing for the first time, is the history of Native borrowing from Islam in pre-Columbian America and the history of borrowing from Native Americans by America’s founders.

Dr. Crane writes, “The spiritual heritage of individual nations in the great Native American community can be preserved only by their members, because anthropologists, government bureaucrats, and even academics, either consciously or unconsciously, have their own agendas.  Even within each nation, individual clans and groups prefer their own historical spin.  The museum was created to preserve this diversity, because this is part of the visions of past, present, and future that ancient native legends say will be passed on to enrich people from foreign lands.”

The Cherokee nation by Western standards was the most advanced of all the Native peoples at the time of the European migration.  Crane writes, “They were Grandfathers of the Great American Experiment in the holistic symbiosis of order, justice, and liberty.  Jefferson said that he borrowed the American system of government from the Iroquois confederation.  If the Cherokee religion provided a confederal model, the question then is what influence the Tuscarora branch of the Cherokee, which the Iroquois adopted, had on the federal system of government that Jefferson borrowed.”

“The traditionalist Cherokee political system was based on separate layers of sovereignty producing governance from the bottom up, rather than from the top down as in Europe where all sovereignty was concentrated in the king or the pope, depending on who had the most clout at any particular time.  In the Cherokee system exported to America by the great expeditions of Emir Abu Bakr of the Mali Empire in 1310 and 1312, the ultimate sovereign was Allah, whom the traditionalist Cherokees invoke at the beginning of every prayer by the words “Ya Allah.”  Allah governed through the individual members of the Cherokee nation, each of whom carried the amana to be a representative of the divine on earth.  The nation was composed of autonomous clans, each of which chose its leaders through a system of indirect election of functional communities representing at a minimum the warriors, the religious leaders, and the merchants.  These elected leaders in turn elected the head of the clan, and the clan heads elected the leader of the nation.”

“This system today is known as constitutional or republican federalism.  It contrasts with the system of absolutist democracy bound by popular majority rule, which all of America’s founders condemned as inherently unjust and dangerous if it excludes the ultimate source of authority in God.

“In times of trouble, women rose to prominence, especially to arbitrate between the elders, who preached non-violence in all except the greatest threats to group survival, and the young warriors who wanted to risk the lives of their sons.  Jefferson was impressed by the Cherokee traditionalists, including the women leaders, who tried to practice what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha or peaceful defense based on spiritual power.

“The Iroquois adopted the best of the Cherokee religion, especially under their great leader Handsome Lake, who twice visited Jefferson at Monticello.  Lake opposed both cultural assimilation, which is suicide, and cultural nativism, which is the continuation of a culture based on worship of one’s own ethnic group rather than on the enlightened understanding of divine revelation and natural law.  The efforts of both the Cherokees and Iroquois to conduct interfaith meetings with the Europeans as equals impressed both Jefferson and the Christian missionaries, since such interfaith outreach without any effort to convert others was almost unknown in the Christian world.

“According to the book by Anthony F. C. Wallace, Vintage, 1972, 395 pages, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, Handsome Lake’s primary message consisted of four basic principles:

1) All people come from the same source, a transcendent God, and are thus equal in dignity.

2) All religions are legitimate paths to God.  Therefore one should not blame the Christians for not accepting the divine revelation that he was reviving.  They should follow their religion until they understand that the religion that he was reviving teaches a truer knowledge of God.

3) Violence results from ignorance of true religion.  Therefore, knowledge is the most powerful weapon against war, and war is almost never the best solution to conflict; and

4) More important than knowledge is love of the transcendent God, because love is the path to knowledge.”

This Islamic wisdom was introduced to America at least seven hundred years ago.  It is still valid as the Muslims’ message in America today.

The message of the present monograph prepared under the direction of Imam Muhammad Musri at the Islamic Society of Central Florida is that acknowledgement and practice of such traditionalist wisdom, God willing, will give Muslims in America the power to unite in shaping their own future. 

Shaping]]Shaping a Future for Muslims in America - Part I[/url] was published in the March 2004 edition of TAM.