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Developments After 9/11
Muslims in America
Muslims in the American Army
American Government Officials and Politicians are Intrested in Islam
Islam in the American Media
The Qur'an Has Become the Best Selling Book in America
The Rise Of Islam Will Continue

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND POLITICIANS
ARE INTERESTED IN ISLAM

The interest of the American people in Islam is shared by government administrators. Often, speeches made by government officials and politicians praising Islam and urging people to find out the truth about it have drawn people toward Islam.

America's foreign relations often require forging close relationships with Muslim countries, despite various disagreements between them. For this reason, the American public has been talking about Islam and Muslims. Thus 9/11 can be accepted as a turning point in American history. With this tragic event, Islam has become a matter of discussion and study as never before in America, and Muslims have come to gain a share of influence in the country.

For the first time, Muslims living in America in the 1990s, under the first Bush presidency (1988-1992), began to have some influence on American politics. Under Bill Clinton (1992-2000), direct relations were established between the White House and the Muslim community. George W. Bush's administration (2000- ) has established the closest relations so far with American Muslims. The well-known Middle East expert Daniel Pipes describes this situation as follows:

And since September 11, the president and his team have devoted intensive efforts to explaining what role Islam did and did not play in the recent tragedy. "Islam" now trips off the tongues of American statesmen, politicians, and diplomats with an almost dizzying frequency. 1

According to Pipes, no matter how new the present situation may be, the present Bush administration's interest in Islam is not new. The reports we hear today and the matters that capture our attention are the product of a certain policy over the past decade, one that may be characterized by four main points: There is no clash of civilizations, terrorism is not Islamic, Islam is compatible with American ideals and adds to American life, and Americans must learn to appreciate Islam. 2

This approach outlined by Pipes is very important from the point of view of showing the White House's attitude toward Islam, for it is positive and thus is a starting point that will bring the American people and Islam closer together. This may be the beginning of profound changes in world history and in the make-up of societies, as well as the impetus for basic changes in the relations between societies.

THE AMERICAN ADMINISTRATION: "THERE IS NO TERROR IN ISLAM"

Some analysts have said that this policy conceals a hidden agenda and is no more than a show designed to get the Muslim world on its side. There certainly may be some truth in this, for America is pursuing this policy for its own national ends. But there is another obvious fact: No matter what the facts may be, this policy will enable Islam to become known by more people and will allow the West to correct its erroneous opinion about Islam. Signs of this are already visible.

Samuel Huntington's 1993 thesis about a "clash of civilizations" between the West and the Islamic world has never been accepted by the American administration. This is an important advance. The White House countered this claim at the outset and, in subsequent events that brought it head to head with some Muslims, made it clear that it had no negative feeling about the Muslim world or Islamic values.

America has never targeted Islam in reaction to the aggressive behavior of some circles that call themselves Muslims but have no connection with Islamic morality; on the contrary, it has stressed that there is no place for terror in Islam. This attitude was maintained in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. For example, during his 1994 tour of Indonesia, Clinton said:

We have had problems with terrorism coming out of the Middle East … this is not inherently related to Islam, not to the religion, not to the culture. 3

In a Department of State report prepared during the Clinton administration on the fight against terror, America said that there was a clear line separating Islam and terror:

Some Muslims, and others, believe that the U.S. has seemed, at times, to link terrorism with Islam. This is not U.S. Government policy… Islam and the West are not in confrontation. While we may have political differences with some countries whose populations are mostly Muslim, most Americans and most Muslims share fundamental values such as peace, justice, economic security, and good governance… Terrorism is not a principle of any major religion, including Islam. There are over one billion Muslims in the world. Among that number, one finds a few extremists who misuse Islam as a justification for their violent criminal acts. 4

The same view was stated several times by variously ranking members of the government. In a speech made in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, John Beryle, acting assistant secretary for the American State Department's Bureau of Newly Independent States, explained his government's attitude toward Islam:

The United States abhors terrorism and we reject extremism, but we have great respect for Islam… I draw this distinction forcefully, because so many people fail to draw it at all. Some believe that the United States opposes Islam, that the Cold War has been replaced by a clash of civilizations. Others, including some in my own country, believe that terrorism is somehow related to Islam. They are both wrong. The distinction I want you to understand is this: the United States opposes those who use terrorist methods. We do not oppose any religion. We distinguish our friends from our enemies on the basis of actions, not beliefs… Americans recognize Islam as one of the world's great faiths. It is practiced on every continent. As Westerners, we acknowledge Islam as a historic civilizing force among the many that have influenced and enriched our own culture. The legacy of Islam, which reached into our civilization via the conquest of Spain at just about the same time it arrived in Uzbekistan, brought us, as it brought you, a rich scientific, artistic, and cultural heritage, as well as a tradition of tolerance.

Beryle continued his speech by quoting Surat al-Baqara: 62 and Surat al-Ma'ida: 69, and concluded:

Those who have faith, and those of the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans - whosoever has faith in God and the Last Day and works wholesome deeds - their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be upon them, neither shall they sorrow (Surat al-Ma'ida: 69). These are the words of tolerance. They stand as a striking demonstration that tolerance is part of the foundation of Islam, that fundamental Islam should be a force for tolerance, that extremism is not truly Islamic… I wonder whether there is any other nation on earth in which so many people have been converted to Islam over the past several decades. Islam in the United States is becoming more widespread, better known, and more influential. For five years now the end of Ramadan has been celebrated with a feast in the White House. A similar tradition was established in the Pentagon and this year included the first-ever Muslim chaplains to serve in the U.S. military. The Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, held her second annual Iftaar Dinner at the State Department on December 21. Similar celebrations occur all across the U.S. Muslims are becoming an important and respected part of the American mosaic… And finally, from the Koran, Sura 2, ayat 256: "Let there be no compulsion in religion." 5

This attitude of the American administration did not change after the events of 9/11. Some days after the attack, President Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington and stressed in his speech that Islam and terror could not be mentioned together because Islam was a religion of peace:

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war. When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race - out of every race. America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect. 6

Words like these have been repeated time and again after 9/11 by high-level officials. For example, White House press spokesman Ari Fleischer, when asked whether this attack had been the result of a clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity, said: "This attack had nothing to do with Islam. This attack was a perversion of Islam." 7

American State Officials Praise Islam

The fact that American state officials recognize that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism shows that they know what kind of religion Islam is. As they get to know Islam, they naturally come to admire it and often mention it in their speeches. This has been noticeable especially in the last three presidential administrations. So, the idea put forward by theorists after the Cold War that Islam would be America's next target has come to nothing.

But there is an important point here: Some of the American government's decisions with regard to the Muslim world must be examined in the light of the advantages that it hopes to gain as a nation from its international policy and strategies. These decisions must not be confused with the American administration's and people's interest in Islam. This book examines the following topics: the approach of American state officials and the general public toward Islam in the last few years, the fact that Islam is always a topic on the public agenda, and the resulting rapid rise of Islam. This is certainly a remarkable historical development that, when considered from these aspects, should make every Muslim happy, enthusiastic, and excited.

As we said earlier, the American government's approach toward Islam began in the 1990s and reached its high point during the Clinton administration. Clinton was the first to commend Islam and its moral teachings in his speeches, and the first to issue invitations to the White House on Islamic holidays. Under Clinton, for the first time invitations were arranged at the administration's top level for Muslims to attend an iftar meal. Subsequently, this became a tradition. When Clinton spoke about Islamic morality, one of the topics that he dwelt upon was the compatibility of Islamic moral values with those of the West. Clinton believed that "Devotion to family and to society, to faith and good works-are in harmony with the best of Western ideals."8 In another speech he said;

That is why we welcome Islam in America. It enriches our country with Islam's teachings of self-discipline, compassion, and commitment to family. 9

And on another occasion, he said that Islam was highly regarded by America:

America is made stronger by the core values of Islam-commitment to family, commitment to family, compassion for the disadvantaged, and respect for difference. 10

Hillary Clinton, who began the tradition of inviting Muslims to the White House, once stated during one of these gatherings that she admired the following things about Islam:

Universal values - love of family and community, mutual respect, education, and the deepest yearning of all - to live in peace - values that can strengthen us as a people and strengthen the United States as a nation. 11

The Secretary of State at the time, Madeline Albright, in an article that she wrote for State Magazine, "Learning More about Islam," drew attention to a very important point and said that the American people must learn about Islam.12 As a result of her comment, State Department officials prepared a report on how people could familiarize themselves with Islam:

Our society can solve it through education, people-to-people exchanges, and by encouraging responsible reporting in the mass media and accurate portrayal in the movie industry. 13

The decision of the Clinton administration that the people should be taught the truth about Islam is extremely important. As we shall see in the following pages, priority has been given to this, especially since 9/11, and newspapers, television, and other media outlets have presented news, programs, and inquiries.

President Bush's approach to Muslims began with his election campaign. Known to be a religious person, Bush received support from a significant section of American Muslims during his campaign. For this reason, he is constantly engaged in dialogue with Muslim communities. The 9/11 attack has become a vehicle by which he has been able to assert more often the closeness he feels toward Muslims, and frequently to remind his fellow citizens to understand Islam correctly and establish good relationships with Muslims. During one speech, he stated that:

The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur'an. It teaches the value and importance of charity, mercy, and peace. And it is one of the fastest growing religions in America, with millions of American believers today… The Holy Qur'an says: "Piety does not lie in turning your face to the East or West. Piety lies in believing in God." (2: 177) 14

The American Government's Iftar Invitation

Another important development that shows the coming together of the American administration and American Muslims is the iftar invitation, which has become a tradition in the last few years. Each invitation provides the opportunity for dialogue between the two groups. The tradition of hosting of Muslims in the White House was started by Hillary Clinton, who received them to offer them Eid congratulations. For the first time in 2001, Muslims were invited to an iftar meal in the White House that the president had organized.

As stated earlier, these iftar invitations began in the State Department with the participation of the then-Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. It is often said that these invitations were very important for developing relations between Muslims and the American people, a project on which Albright laid great importance. In Ramadan 2000, at the second iftar meal, she described these efforts:

I am very, very pleased to welcome you all to the Department of State. And as many of you know, we had a similar Iftaar Dinner here last year for the first time, and tonight we continue what I hope will become a tradition that lives on for many years to come...

The month of Ramadan and the daily fast are powerful reminders for Muslims of the centrality of God and of the potency of the message conveyed through the Prophet Mohammed...

I am pleased that since last year the State Department has inaugurated a new website entitled "Islam in America." Its purpose is to help people everywhere learn more about the positive force that Islam has become in American life and about the growing role of Muslim Americans as they are there to play a role in ensuring the security, prosperity, and freedom of our land.

Equally vital are the international exchange and people-to-people programs we conduct with Muslim-majority nations. These efforts bring distinguished Muslim visitors to our shores to exchange views and promote understanding...

We are strongly encouraging young Muslim Americans to apply to the Foreign Service as part of our overall effort to attract talent and promote diversity, and we have had a lively discussion at my table on that subject.

Together, during the past few years, we have made an important beginning in providing that answer, not only through these dinners but also through our religious freedom roundtables, open forums, conferences, and seminars. We have established and expanded a dialogue, but obviously much more remains to be done. It is vital for Muslim Americans to know and have access to American policymakers. It is even more vital to become policymakers. 15

As we see, the State Department regarded it as its duty to build a bridge between the Muslim community and the American people and administration. This played an important role in the rising interest in Islam. This speech was very important, for it showed what an influential position Islam had gained in America. Ten years earlier, American Muslims had lived a cloistered social existence encountering many difficulties in their daily lives, but now they have been invited by the Secretary of State to be directors of American policy.

These iftar invitations have continued under her successor Colin Powell. During his short address on November 29, 2001, at a State Department iftar meal, he stressed the following basic points:

Ramadan is a time of prayer and fasting for followers of the Muslim religion. This year, it is also a time of reflection for all Americans. Less than three months after the tragedy of September 11th, we were all examining our lives and reaffirming the importance of family, faith, and country. In fact, this year marks the first Ramadan for many non-Muslim Americans who have been made aware of the great significance of this period for the first time in their lives.

But there remains much ignorance and confusion about Islam, and that presents an opportunity for those of us who are not Muslim to learn from those of you who are. I hope that all of you here will seek out opportunities to talk with non-Muslims throughout your communities about your faith; to help all of us learn from, understand, and appreciate one another; and that you will encourage others in turn to talk to you about their faith.

And I heard some wonderful stories at my table about how you are doing that, reaching out to Christians and Jews, and letting everybody know we are all -- we are all creatures and children of a benevolent God, and we must come to understand that to love one another is being faithful to our God.

I was very moved by some of the conversations that we had at our table, as we talked about discrimination, we talked about profiling, as we talked about how we have to be sensitive to each other and to be sensitive to the diversity that we all represent. This touched me deeply, because I am a minority. I have been profiled. I will never forget my background; I will never forget what those who came before me did so that I could be in this position today ... I will always be sensitive to the issues that have been raised this evening… 16

The Defense Department also has hosted iftar meals. This tradition, which goes back officially to 1998, consists of an iftar meal ordinarily arranged by the deputy secretary of defense and attended by Muslims working in the department and the army. At the 1999 iftar meal, the then-Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Hamre, said:

I am very honored to be invited to be here tonight. A little over a year ago I was invited to address the first Iftar celebrated here at the Department of Defense. The fact that you would ask me back for a second time is a tremendous honor. I am very grateful. As I said last year, I am a Lutheran in my own religious background and not a Muslim, so I cannot fully appreciate how important this Night of Power is for all of you. But I can understand why this Night of Power is deeply important to you, because I am a religious person myself. I can understand how moving it is, in this season of dedication, that all of you have spent the entire day focusing on your relationship with God.... I believe that vision in our Constitution springs directly from our shared religious values. There is not a word in the Constitution for which a good Muslim would not fight…. It is the same ideal expressed in the Holy Koran: "O mankind, I created you from a single pair and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other, not that ye may despise each other." 17

Hamre's address was notable for his declaration of personal religiosity, the closeness and love he showed toward Muslims, and for quoting the Qur'an. The Defense Department's third iftar meal was held on November 30, 2001, and attended by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. He began his address with the words As-Sallamu alaykum, which he learned while serving as ambassador to Indonesia, and continued:

Each time faithful Muslims gather in prayer and in peace, you reclaim your faith and reaffirm the great gift that Islam has been to humanity through the centuries.

Mohammed said that those who provide a fasting person with something to eat will be blessed as though they themselves had fasted. As we gather tonight in this spirit of generosity, we are mindful of the great blessings that we enjoy. We are thankful to share them with others. 18

Hillary Clinton first invited Muslims to the White House for the Ramadan Eid in 1996, and on every subsequent occasion gave significant messages to those in attendance. Among those who attempted to explain what Ramadan means for Muslims was Huma Abedin. Mrs. Clinton said that she personally learned a lot from this woman, and frequently mentioned the special importance she placed in establishing dialogue with Muslims. At the 1999 reception, she even said she prayed for this:

I have been told that a common Muslim prayer tells us: "No struggle is easy unless you make it easy for us. And only you, my Lord, can make a hardship easy to overcome." With God's help, and with the kind of determination, courage, and hope that is lived out in the lives of all of you and millions of others around our country and throughout the world, I believe that we can do more together to help build a more peaceful, prosperous, and hopeful future in which all of God's children can live in peace and fulfill their God-given promise. 19

This tradition begun by Hillary Clinton was continued by Bill Clinton during his final year as president, when he personally received Muslim guests for the Ramadan holiday. The meal began with quotations from the Qur'an. Bill Clinton also quoted from the Qur'an in his address, and frequently expressed his interest in Islam:

And I thought it was particularly moving that the Imam read the passage from the Koran that said that Allah created nations and tribes that we might know one another, not that we might despise one another.

There's a wonderful passage in the Hebrew Torah, which warns people never to turn aside the stranger, for it is like turning aside the most high God. And the Christian Bible says that people should love their neighbor as themselves. But it's quite wonderful to say that Allah created the nations and tribes that they might know one another better, recognizing that people have to organize their thoughts and categorize their ideas, but that does not mean we should be divided one from another...

Let me say, also, that there is much that the world can learn from Islam. It is now practiced by one of every four people on Earth. Americans are learning more in our schools and universities. Indeed, I remember that our daughter took a course on Islamic history in high school and read large portions of the Koran, and came home at night and educated her parents about it, and later asked us questions about it…

I ask all of you to help with that, to share the wellsprings of your faith with those who are different, to help people understand the values and the humanity that we share in common, and the texture and fabric and fiber and core of the beliefs and practices of Islam...

The Koran also teaches, in addition, to the fact that we should do unto others as we wish to have done to us, and reject for others what we would reject for ourselves, but we should also make a commitment to live in peace… 20

Under the present Bush administration, for the first time in American history a president organized an iftar meal. This meal was attended by the ambassadors of Muslim countries and the heads of Muslim organizations. In his address, the president commended Islam and called for dialogue and understanding among different faiths:

Ramadan is a time of fasting and prayer for the Muslim faithful. So tonight we are reminded of God's greatness and His commandments to live in peace and to help neighbors in need… All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements. Ramadan and the upcoming holiday season are a good time for people of different faiths to learn more about each other. And the more we learn, the more we find that many commitments are broadly shared. We share a commitment to family, to protect and love our children. We share a belief in God's justice and man's moral responsibility. And we share the same hope for a future of peace. We have much in common and much to learn from one another. 21

All of these iftar meals and the addresses given at them are very significant for the relationship between Muslims and the American administration, and indicate that Muslims have begun to influence American society and culture. The relations between Americans and Muslims are not limited to these invitations and various talks, for Muslims are now an inseparable part of America and active at every level of social life. A most significant example of this is their position within the American army.

1. Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2002.
2. Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2002.
3. The President’s News Conference, U.S. Government Printing Office, Jakarta, November 15, 1994; http://www.gpo.gov
4. “US Government Views on Terrorism,” Fact Sheet, December 7, 1999.
5. Department of State Beyrle’s Speech in Tashkent, February 8, 2000.
6. President’s Speech, Islamic Center of Washington, September 17, 1999.
7 . “Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer,” September 17, 2001; http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010917-8.html
8. News Conference with King Hassan II of Morocco, March 15, 1995; www.gpo.gov
9. “President Clinton’s Ramadan Message,” USIA, November 27, 2000.
10. “President Clinton’s Message Celebrating Eid Al-Fitr 2000”, US Department of State, December 22, 2000; 11. http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/islam/s122200.htm
11. Mofid Deak, “First Lady Hosts Third Annual Eid Celebration,” USIA, January 22, 1999.
12. Madeleine Albright, “Learning More about Islam,” State Magazine, September 2000.
13. “US Government’s Views on Terrorism,” Fact Sheet, December 7, 1999.
14. “President’s Message for Ramadan,” November 15, 2001.
15. Remarks by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright at Iftaar Dinner, December 19, 2000.
16. Secretary Powell Hosts Iftaar at the State Department, December 29, 2001.
17. John. J. Hamre, “2nd Annual Pentagon Iftar Celebration,” The Pentagon Friday, January 1, 1999; http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/1999/c19990115-depsecdef.html
18. Remarks as delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, The Pentagon, Washington DC, December 30, 2001.
19. “Eid Al-Fitr Celebration Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton,” The White House, January 21, 1999; http://www.amaana.org/ISWEB/ramadan.htm
20. “Eid Al-Fitr Celebration Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton,” The White House, January 21, 1999; http://www.amaana.org/ISWEB/ramadan.htm
21. “President Hosts Iftaar Dinner,” November 19, 2001; http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011119-14.html

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