In the months after September 11, American Muslims heard the familiar sounds of Islam being defined by others. On television, from the Capitol, from the pulpit, in the classroom, and, worst of all, on videotapes from Osama bin Laden's cave, commentators, politicians, scholars, and wealthy terrorists were busily telling Muslims the "real meaning" of Islam.
Western Muslims knew something had to be done or Islam might be tarnished, even corrupted. In the past year, they have gathered informally to discuss the past, the present, and how things ought to be. Over time, they began to conceive, then voice, then, finally, put to paper ideas about how they might define Islam in this century. In the year since September 11, American Muslims began to do something extraordinary. They began to reclaim the core values of Islam.
Taking Back Islam is a bold collection of voices in the vanguard of the faith, voices of men and women who remain devout and utterly convinced of Islam's power to help create a just, ordered, and beautiful world but who are also unafraid to be critical of those who would distort Islam for violent or political ends. Many of these writers are American Muslims who benefit from a commitment to democratic pluralism as well as a commitment to Islam.
"I believe in Allah and America," writes Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar. "The Qur'an has a radical message of tolerance," says Kabir Helminski. "American Muslims have a special obligation," according to Ingrid Mattson. "Many Muslims suspect that Islam's 'traditional lands' have less to teach us than they claim," writes Michael Wolfe.
The unique nature and strength of these voices, fueled by a strong desire to tap the best traditions within Islam, offer hope for rescuing a faith that has been injured from within by extremists and demonized from without by Western culture.
About Michael Wolfe
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Published November 16, 2002
by Rodale Books.
Religion & Spirituality.