Impact of Muslims on the West: Contemporary World
by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.
This is a very brief outline which may become a self-standing article in the future. In this outline I am going to present the impact of Muslim immigrants and Muslim visitors on the West. Since I live in the U.S. the emphasis is on this country, however, most of the points I have raised also apply to Europe, Canada and Australia. The following points are not a research-based study but should be taken as observations of the author.
1. Change in perception about Islam and Muslims: Fading away are derogatory concepts and terms, such as Mohammedan, Mohammedanism, Moslem, harems, Jihad as forceful conversions, desert tent culture, camel drivers and others. Also the misconception that Arab and Muslim are synonymous terms.
2. Muslim Food: Initially many South Asian (Indo-Pak-Bangladesh) Muslims came to the West in large numbers and their cooking was very spicy and fragrant. The stereotypical picture was that Muslim food was stinky, odorous and hot. As Arabs and other ethnic Muslims began to migrate to the West people learned that all Muslims were not the same and there were differences. Muslims began opening their restaurants representing many ethnic cultures of the Muslim world. Many Muslim restaurants have significant non-Muslim clientele who enjoy the food. There are restaurants offering food from South Asia and many countries of the Arab world. Even American food ingredients have been modified to please the Muslim customers who do not eat any pork products. For example, lard and animal shortening have almost disappeared as ingredients in the bakery products and have been replaced by vegetable oil. Even airlines are offering Muslim food in their menus.
3. Intermarriages: Muslim immigrants are finding mates in the local population. In most cases a local mate adopts Islam, which is always the case when a Muslim girl marries a local man due to the Islamic requirement. However, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish woman while she maintains her faith. A large number of local women adopt Islam. These mixed marriages are bringing a new generation of Muslims who have the best of both cultures and traits.
4. Conversions (or Reversions): Islam teaches that every person is born into Islam but the parents and the society changes his religion. It is, therefore, obvious that when a person enters Islam he is not converting but reverting back to his religion of birth. In the U.S. over three million people have entered Islam within the last thirty years. Similarly, the same number have entered Islam in a comparable period in Europe. Among them there are many well-known people, such as Roger Geroudi, a French Communist Party Secretary General; Maurice Bucaille, a surgeon and a writer in France; Murad Hoffman, a German diplomat; Muhammad Asad (formerly Wolfgang Weiss) an Austrian-Polish journalist; Aisha Lemu, a British lady; Jeffrey Lang, an American Professor of Mathematics; Malcolm X (Malik Shabazz); Muhammad Ali; Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown), an American human rights activist of the 60s, to name a few. Many rose in Islam to prominence, such as, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Hamza Yusuf, Umar Faruq Abd-Allah Weiman, Amina Assilimi, Nancy Ali, Mary Ali, Abdullah Yusuf Madyun and many others.
5. Political Arena: There is not a single Muslim congressman or a senator but there are many Muslims mayors, state congressmen and city councilmen who have been elected. Muslims stayed away from politics in any organized manner until recently. However, the year 2000 changed when Muslims decided to enter politics in an organized way. There were voter registration campaigns, interviews with political candidates and finally a recommendation for a block vote. President Bush won by a slight margin of 530 votes in Florida for which Muslims can take some credit (or blame). There are 60,000 Muslim Floridians and 91% of them voted for Bush. Muslims helped the election of Hilary Clinton in New York, Robert Torecelli in New Jersey and many other candidates.
6. The Destruction of 9-11: In February 1993 there was bombing attack on the Wold Trade Center and as a consequence, three mosques and many Muslim stores were burned, a few people were killed, many were attacked, there was vandalism at mosques and homes. Not a single American politician said a word in support of Muslims. However, in 2001 President Bush spoke in support of Muslims separating Islam from terrorism. Eventually many political leaders came to the support of Muslim and Arab Americans.
7. Christian Theology and the Bible: Ahmad Deedat began his debates with the Christians in the 1950s and became famous in the 1980s. From the beginning he was attacking the Bible as a non-reliable book. Among his objection was that the text was changing all the time. For example, he pointed out that Mark 16:9-20 were removed from the RSV and John 3:16 use of begotten son. Bible scholars put back Mark 16:9-20 and changed the meaning in John 3:16 from begotten to unique. Also, many Christian ministers became skeptical about the divinity and sonship of Jesus. As a result of attacks on the Bible, Gleason Archer wrote his book, Difficulties of the Bible, William Campbell wrote, The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science, which was in response to Maurice Bucaille's book, The Bible, the Qur'an and Science. Overall Christian response to the Muslim attacks came in two ways: defensive, as in the writings of Archer, Campbell and others; and offensive, as in the writings of Robert Morey, Anis Sharoush and many others, including the anti-Islam tracts of Chick Publications. In addition many anti-Islam web sites were developed, such as, "Answering-Islam" by Joshan Katz and numerous others.
8. Learning vocabulary, names and concepts of Islam: Ramadan, fasting, masjid, mosque, Eid, Hajj, 5-daily prayers, Jumu'ah prayer, Malik Shabazz, Muhammad Ali, and recently, Osama Bin Laden, Muhammad Atta and many others became a part of everyday language..
9. Acceptance of Muslim dress and ideas: Hijab, kufi (men's hat), thaub (men's ankle length shirt), beard, on-the-job prayers, time allowed for Jumu'ah prayers, Muslim stance on swimming costumes for girls, below knee length shorts for boys, and so on have became acceptable in schools.
10. Muslim contributions to science: The most prominent recent contributions are the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center designed by Dr. Fazlur Rahman. Ensure, a vitamin and energy drink was formulated by Pakistani scientists, Windows 95 operating system was developed under the supervision of a Pakistani programmer, AST Computers was established by a Muslim from South Asia. There are numerous Muslim immigrant scientists working in the auto industry, medicine, drug research and development.
11. Finance: There are over a trillion dollars belonging to the oil rich Arab states which has been invested in the U.S. This is not a small amount of money to be ignored.
12. Education and Service: There are over 25,000 Muslim medical doctors serving in the U.S. hospitals. In addition, thousands of Muslim technicians are serving in a variety of ancillary medical fields. There are thousands of Muslim professors in American colleges and universities. Many colleges and universities are offering courses in Muslim history, civilization, Arabic language and literature. Muslims are influencing social studies text books which contained anti-Islam bigotry. All bigotry parts are being taken out and replaced by material written by the Muslim scholars. Muslims are opening K-12 schools all over the U.S. and Canada. Islamic colleges are on the way, a few are already operating on a small scale.
13. Architectural Landscape: Mosques in the traditional Muslim architecture are being planned and built all across North America. Fifty years ago there was not a single mosque designed and built according to Muslim design but in 2001 over 300 such mosques exist.