Sunday, January 28, 2007

The American face of Islam: The moment a lot of multiculturalism-minded Americans are waiting for is the deradicalization, liberalization of Western Islam — for what happened to American Catholics and Jews to happen in the Muslim community. It may be, if the story of one imam who moved from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to suburban Jersey is any indication. Remember that this man ministers to the middle class and to the poor immigrants. In the Times today:

To be a successful suburban imam, he found, meant persuading doctors and lawyers not to rush from prayers to beat traffic. It meant connecting with teenagers who drove new cars, and who peppered their Arabic with “like” and “yeah.” It meant helping his daughter cope with mockery at school, in a predominantly white town that lost dozens of people on Sept. 11.

Mr. Shata knew from his years in Brooklyn that the job demanded more than preaching and leading prayers, the things for which he was trained in Egypt. In America, he helped to arrange marriages. He mediated between the F.B.I. and his people. He set up a makeshift Islamic court to resolve disputes among hot dog vendors.


Many Muslims were shocked to read [in a previous article in the Times] that the imam thought oral sex was permissible for married couples (even though respected Islamic scholars in the Middle East concurred with his opinion, he said). Others objected to his view that Muslims could sell liquor or pork if they could find no other work.

One critique of Mr. Shata on a jihadist Web site in England singled out his hometown, Kafr al Battikh, which is known for its watermelons. “Oh, Allah,” it read, “preserve Islam and Muslims from the evil people of watermelons.”

In Bay Ridge, the articles prompted a fistfight outside a Dunkin’ Donuts. Fliers warned in Arabic that the imam was “a devil.”


No comments: