After the terrorist attacks a year ago, the Muslim community was calling for understanding and tolerance of the Islamic faith. So a year later, Whatever Happened to that effort? Have attitudes about American Muslims changed?
Nearly 7 million Americans practice the Muslim religion. The September 11th attacks catapulted Islam into the national spotlight. Since then, it's fair to say some have unfairly characterized Islam as a religion that supports terrorism. "Islam, of course, is a religion of peace. And that's regardless of a few minority who fail to understand the spirit," says Dr. Safei Eldin Hamed who is the Media Coordinator for the American Muslim Council. Because of that tiny minority, there have been setbacks for Muslims. Public perception of the religion is sometimes negative. There have been cases of discrimination against Muslims in other parts of the country. There's also a high level of suspicion about the religion by those who simply don't understand it.
"There is an old proverb that says people are the enemies of everything they don't know and they ignore. And ignorance always leads to dispute," says Lubbock Muslim Imam Mohamed Moctar. "Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, co-existence. There is a specific position for Christians and Jews in the Islamic faith. Muslims cannot be Muslim without believing in Jesus, in Moses, in Noah, in Abraham and all prophets," says Moctar.
Suspicion is also high about organizations run by Muslims. Some organizations are even being investigated for funding terrorism. Because of this, even legitimate Muslim run organizations are being scrutinized and getting limited support. "I would like to look at it, hopefully as temporary setbacks," says Dr. Hamed.
There has also been positive fortune for the religion as a result of September 11th. Many Americans are being exposed to the Muslim religion for the first time ever. Although Islam is still widely misunderstood in our country, we are making strides. Muslim leaders in Lubbock say acceptance and tolerance here is better than ever. Lubbock sits in what many commonly refer to as 'the Bible Belt', a place where more people are attached to their faith and religious institutions than in any other part of the country.
Muslim leaders say that, more than anything, makes our community more open. "For the first time in the history of Lubbock there is actually recognition through City Hall. In that respect, Lubbock has been very progressive," says Dr. Hamed.
Now Muslim leaders say it's time for Muslim Americans to mobilize and cultivate their own message. Religious leader Mohamed Moctar is telling his congregation that it's their responsibility to educate their neighbors. And Muslim leaders say Muslim Americans need to do more to condemn extremist interpretations of their faith. "Today, everybody is talking about Islam and Muslims, but Muslims aren't talking about themselves. I need them to talk about themselves," says Moctar.