Seattle Press
Community Log & News Digest
Radical Islamic Americanism
Much is made in some quarters this season of excluding “Muslims” or “Islam” from the USA. Religious intolerance has a long and storied history in America, going back to protestant, witch hunting Massachusetts and struggles in initially catholic Maryland in the 17th Century. Supporters of this attitude are many, sadly.

Background: In Arabic, the word “Islam” means submission or surrender – however, it was derived from the root word “salam”. From this root word, you can also derive the words peace and safety. Many people feel that Islam implies some sort of enslavement to Allah, but others find it more helpful to define the word “Islam” as surrender.

Many religions have a concept of surrender to God. In Jewish history, when the ancient Hebrews obeyed God’s commands, they had a long period of prosperity and stability.

In Christianity, surrendering to God is a way of putting your life into more capable hands – in fact, Jesus asked many of his disciples to surrender their livelihoods and follow him.

So, if we look at the word ‘Islam’ in this way, we can understand why obeying Allah’s commands and trusting in Allah’s wisdom could bring about peace for a Muslim.

The word does not represent a one-sided relationship, where the believer is enslaved to Allah. Rather, the word Islam indicates a covenant between Allah and his followers, where a Muslim surrenders his or her will to Allah in return for peace or safety. (Source)

In secular America, the parallel concept is that we have a social contract with one another, obliging us to consider the well-being of our fellow citizens in addition to our own. It’s a Golden Rule without God, which leaves each person to seek — or not to seek — God in his/her own way without the intercession of the state. This, and a whole lot of relatively unpopulated land (yes, I know about the Native Americans), is how we have mostly managed not to be at one another’s throats these past 200-plus years. Everyone is free to believe as he/she chooses, but no one, and not the state, may compel others to believe or pretend to believe.

Now as to exclusionary practice based on fear, let’s look not at words but at numbers. There are about 1.2 billion Muslims, which looks like a lot more expressed as 1,200,000.000. There are about 30,000 ISIS/Daesh fighters plus perhaps as many as 100,000 to 200,000 somewhat subscribe but are not actively combative, according to various sources one might cite. Dividing by the 1.2 billion, population 30,000 is about two tenths of one percent of all Muslims, and 200,000 is about 1.6 percent. Only a tiny fraction of those extremists reside in the US, and even if they did, the largest of those groups is outnumbered by loyal Muslim-Americans (roughly 2 million adults) about ten to one.

Most American Muslims are (or are descended from) people who came here for the same reasons as all other immigrants: (1) to improve their economic condition and/or (2) to escape religiously intolerant governments. They are indeed our best defense against the intrusion of intolerance and extremist ideology based on cherry-picking the Koran for its most anti-modern elements.

As we non-believers say, "peace be upon us."