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Sahar Aziz: Rural America Would Benefit From More Muslim Families

16 October 2013 Huffington Post 12 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Sahar Aziz

Sahar Aziz

Rural America Would Benefit From More Muslim Families

Days before the 12th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, 40 members of the San Angelo, Texas Tea Party gathered to discuss the purported threat of Muslims in America. Requests for religious accommodation pursuant to the First Amendment were turned into doomsday scenarios of Muslims colonizing America by a representative from ACT! For America, a notorious anti-Muslim hate group. The speaker was so effective that one participant declared that four Muslim families in San Angelo was four too many.

The real problem is not too many Muslims, but too few Muslims.

Had the San Angelo residents known Muslim Americans as their neighbors and friends, they would have immediately recognized the false and hate-filled propaganda peddled by organizations like ACT! For America. Contrary to the media’s selective focus on terrorism committed by Muslims, the vast majority of Muslims in America live quite ordinary lives. Their priorities in life are the same as all other Americans – working hard at their jobs and building their businesses, raising and educating their children, and practicing their constitutionally protected faith.

Indeed, a large number of Muslim Americans are first or second generation immigrants who came to America in pursuit of educational and economic opportunity. Like many immigrants who came before them from various continents, they are an invaluable asset to the economy and have become vested in the prosperity of the United States. To accuse Muslims of seeking to destroy America exposes the thinly veiled agenda of organizations profiting from Islamophobia.

If they had dealings with Muslim neighbors and co-workers, families in San Angelo would experience first-hand the truth to a 2007 Pew poll finding that Muslims are on average middle class, law abiding citizens who mirror the U.S. public in education and income level. Like many San Angelo residents, a majority of Muslims in America consider religion to be a very important part of their lives. Thus, their mosques serve as community centers that provide important social services, after school youth programs, and a place for socialization.

San Angelo residents who interacted with Muslim women would also discover the fallacy of stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed, meek, and barred from education. Muslim American women are one of the most highly educated female religious groups in the United States. Indeed, a 2008 Gallup poll found that Muslim women earn incomes at a rate higher than the average U.S. female population, second only to Jewish American women. As such, they would meet Muslim women who are doctors, engineers, and business owners who, like their non-Muslim women counterparts, juggle their work and family obligations.

All of these experiences would expose the intentional de-humanization of millions of people in the United States by a cottage industry of hate groups that exploit fear and hate to enrich themselves. The spread of such hate leads to discrimination against Muslim children in schools, Muslim men and women in workplaces, and Muslim families in public accommodation. Personal interactions with Muslims would cause many of these San Angelo residents to realize that the most American thing to do is support equality for all, regardless of one’s religion, rather than propagate un-American ideals of intolerance and hate.

The best antidote to hate is education and dialogue. Hence more Muslim families may be just what San Angelo and other small towns in America need.

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Sahar Aziz is an associate professor at Texas A&M School of Law where she teaches national security, civil rights, and Middle East law. She is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association.

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12 Comments »

  1. I was born and raised in this country and I can trace my family back to the Confederate side of the so called Civil War. I am Muslim and so is my wife. I hate to break it to Brigitte Gabriel but this is not Lebanon and in America we have the right to practice whatever religion we want and if she really wants to preach about how great Christianity is she might want to take a long hard look at what the U.S. was like in the 1970’s when so called Christians would have killed her just because of her skin color.

    Not all Muslims are terrorist or even follow the salafi idealogy. Dio Vindice

  2. you mean to say there are more than 10 people that actually live in San Angelo?

  3. I live in Middle America, in the city but not too far from rural areas. Not infrequently, I’ll be in a store and see women who, because of their dress, I’m able to identify as either Muslim or Mennonite but can’t say for sure which of the two it is (and it truly could be either). Just a fun observation this article brought to mind. :)

  4. Muslim Redneck Association

  5. Rural America would benefit from an atom bomb.

  6. This is Iran in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
    Then the muslim’s moved in.
    First they created pocket societies as the ignorant greeted them as friends, then when their numbers grew they declared civil war. After they won using terrorist tactics, sharia law was declared, and now there is nothing positive or beautiful in modern day Iran.
    http://iransnews.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/iran-in-1960s-and-1970s/

  7. Rural America would benefit from less religion. End of story.

  8. I don’t see how. I don’t see how the person’s religion would have anything to do with whether or not the community benefits. I would think it matters more how they act

  9. beotch: drop dead!!!!

  10. And urban America could also benefit from having more Muslims!

  11. I find it somewhat ironic given the current nature of small town and rural America that it was the rural United States that first interacted with Islam; first through the many slaves who were Muslims, then through the first freestanding mosque in the U.S. founded by Lebanese farmers in very rural Ross, N.D., with two more founded in Biddeford, Maine, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, relatively soon after.

  12. @ Brad King Lida: your ignorance of Iranian history is rather astounding. Muslims have been the majority of the population in Iran since the late ninth- or early tenth century, so the Muslims didn’t just move in. Additionally, Iran has gone through cycles more conservative (or even fundamentalist) and more liberal (or even secular) governments since their final breakaway from the Caliphate around the time of the Mongol invasion. Sufi Islam in the greater Persian cultural sphere produced some of the world’s most important and, to this day, popular poets such as Omar Khayyam, Hafez, Sa’adi, and the United States’ number one selling poet, Rumi (nearly 800 years after he was alive mind you).

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