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Le Monde, France

Islam, a Subject of Tension in the
United States


By Marc-Olivier Bherer

Conservative anger would have left no stone unturned, and it would have also seized the theme of Islam to challenge the liberal elites and to attack "secularism" and the state’s neutrality in religious matters.

Translated By Deonca Williams

4 June 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

In the aftermath of the April 15 incident in Boston, a phrase, or perhaps a supplication, dominated the social networks: “Please let it not be a Muslim this time.” That prayer, however, went unanswered. The main suspects of the Boston incident are Muslim. Their motives are still unknown, but some American ultraconservative figures, such as Republican Congressman Peter King, immediately took advantage of this situation to question how loyal Muslims are to the United States.

In her work “Islam, an American Religion?” researcher Nadia Marzouki discusses this suspicion. The survey she conducted at the European University Institute in Florence does not directly address the teachings of the religion itself, but rather how the public views Islam.

Muslims are an ultraminority community, comprising only 0.6 percent of the population of the United States. Yet they are the subject of controversy again and again. One example of such controversy is the Cordoba project, a Muslim center in Manhattan near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Opponents felt that the building of the center, which is awaiting a permit, did not take into account the suffering of victims' families. They asked its promoters to abandon the project. Others went a step further and claimed it was fueled by Muslims' desire to assert their conquest of this site.

Although the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are at the root of this widespread suspicion of Muslims, these feelings reached a zenith after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Conservative anger would have left no stone unturned, and it would have also seized the theme of Islam to challenge the liberal elites and to attack "secularism" and the state’s neutrality in religious matters.

The legitimacy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects religious freedoms, is not disputed. However, the opponents of the Cordoba project claim that the attitude of American Muslims shows evidence of a moral failure — that is, an inability to understand and respect the rules of the majority.

This reproach of Muslims goes beyond a simple civilization or culture clash. According to Marzouki, the supposed lack of sensitivity toward Muslims is simply barbaric. Such a perception originates in Europe, claims the author, where many people doubt the ability of Muslims to be civilized and others question Muslims’ humanity.

Islam in America loses a little. The paranoid and nativist face of the United States seeks to take over. Distrust of religious minorities such as Mormons, Catholics and Jews has been given new life. Therefore, what society needs is a little education. In-depth sociological and historical discussions about Muslims in America would provide better answers to the question posed by the title of this book.



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