|By John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani
WASHINGTON DC: Muslim Americans deserve a break. There are as many as six to eight million Muslims living in the United States and contributing to the country as doctors, engineers, artists, actors and professionals, but for a decade many have found themselves and their religion wrongly equated with the acts of terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Many have been the victims of fear, suspicion and prejudice, Muslim-bashing, unlawful surveillance, illegal search, arrest and imprisonment.
Efforts to build Islamic centers and mosques in New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee have been equated with building monuments to terrorism. Prominent American public figures and politicians — including Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, Congressman Peter King and Newt Gingrich — openly spoke against Muslims and encouraged unfounded social suspicion of them. The net result is an increase in anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bashing, witnessed in the hysteria that has led to a movement across some 20 states in America to ban sharia (Islamic principles of jurisprudence).
Today’s historic changes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring, offer an opportunity to redress anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bias (Islamophobia) and to reaffirm that Muslim Americans, like other mainstream Americans, desire a secure and democratic America. Despite the fact that Muslim Americans for years have had to explain that neither they — nor their religion — sanction terrorism.