Future of Islam in America: A Uniquely American Sufism

Kabir_DervishesAmerican Islam will be increasingly marked by two trends: the embracing of the American ethos through enhanced engagement in politics and service, and a shift in theological orientation toward a more spiritual Islam.

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Islam. Read other perspectives here.

Islamophobia reaching a manageable equilibrium

The future of Islam in America is bright. Even though many American Muslims are reluctant to acknowledge it, there is clearly a uniquely American Islam on the horizon. What is hopeful about this American Islam is that perceptions of it are gradually becoming immune to the violence, the human rights violations, and the political chaos that is perpetrated in the name of Islam in many parts of the Muslim World.

Many Americans today are able to make a distinction between “our Muslims” meaning American Muslims and “those Muslims,” meaning Muslims in Europe, Middle East, and generally “over there.” This is a gradual development and is apparent from opinion surveys that show low favorability for Islam — which is shaped by realities in the Islamic World — and higher favorability toward American Muslims — becausethis opinion is shaped by interaction with American Muslimswho are generally successful, devout, moderate, and increasingly engaged in interfaith dialogue and volunteerism.

Muslim activists, organizations, and scholars today are scrambling all the time to combat Islamophobic episodes or acts of violence that may engender more hate toward Islam and Muslims. Periodically we have to deal with critical moments — the attacks on soldiers in Fort Hood in 2011, the Boston bombings in 2013, and the Chattanooga shooting in 2015 — that cause setback to our efforts to fight Islamophobia.

Hopefully as American Muslims become more insulated from the negative consequences — Islamophobia — of the political and cultural realities of the Muslim World by distancing themselves from the theological and political proclivities over there, they will become safer and will thrive more than ever before over here. Surveys conducted by Pew have found that opinions of Islam and violence did not change after the attacks on the Boston Marathon in 2013, suggesting that we are reaching equilibrium and this bodes well for the future.


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