Missing the ghosts of Muslims in NYC

american muslimsSome ghosts are just too obvious to miss. But sadly, in an attempt to cram reams of issues into an eight-minute radio broadcast, National Public Radio did what so many media outlets do in attempt to write about Islam: give theological issues the short stick. NPR's Anne Garrels did a relatively interesting piece Thursday that made the network's "story of the day" on a former New York City elementary school teacher who is a Muslim. Nearly five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this former teacher, Debbie Almontaser, is struggling to explain to people that not all faithful Muslims have terrorist sympathies.

I don't have any text to paste into this post, so I'll post a short summary.

The article talks about how these American Muslims, devout enough to wear head coverings, are generally decent people rather than terrorists bent on committing atrocities. People around Almontaser do not always understand this, and she has even been reported through the Justice Department's tips program, which resulted in an investigation.

The story is striking. Almontaser's eldest son was in the National Guard, and performed rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center. "He did his job as an American, as a soldier and as a Muslim," his father says.

It's also a story that needs to be told. But this attempt lacked a basic sense of the controversies raging in Islamic communities over the proper response to Islamic terrorism. The issue is not as simple as a few crazy terrorists doing despicable things in the name of Islam.

Here are some questions that I would have tried to answer:

  • What type of soul searching did Almontaser engage in when she decided to embrace Muslim-American culture (whatever that means)?
  • Why did she start wearing a Muslim head covering? What does that have to do with being a good Muslim-American?
  • Do the teachings in mosques reflect what Almontaser believes Islam teaches?
  • What did Almontaser do, if anything, that led somebody to launch a Justice Department investigation? (Nothing came of it, by the way.)
  • Are the terrorist attacks the only reasons Muslims struggle in connecting to the rest of American society?
  • Why would some Muslims object to secular music, and why does Almontaser believe it is OK?

Feel free, after listening to the story, to post your own questions.

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