Here comes Islam

Reacting to a new player in American politics and society

Issue: "Lieberman vs. Gore," Aug. 19, 2000

Detroit - Al Gore's excellent selection of Joe Lieberman as his running mate shows the full integration of Jews in American life, but I picked up a handout here that suggests a further development in American politics: "Mike Duggan Wants the Muslim Vote!" Mr. Duggan, running for county prosecutor and asking for support from the 150,000 Muslims who live in metro Detroit, boasts that "he has made sure Muslim travelers will have a place to pray" in Detroit's expanded airport. Reasonable estimates of the Muslim presence in America now go as high as 7 million. Part of that represents immigrants to America from the Middle East, but the number of converts also appears to be growing. A trip through one corner of Detroit with a growing Islamic presence suggests why. Although storefront churches with names like Mission of Love and Jesus Only still hang on, they seem to have had little visible impact in an area of decay where wildflowers surround a pile of mattresses in one yard. The sad situation on one block of the optimistically named Joy Road symbolizes the whole: liquor stores apparently do a good business but a former Church of God in Christ building has some windows broken and others covered by faded, warped boards. Not far away, some residents are flocking to a yellow-brick building with a green-roofed tower. That minaret proclaims the presence of a relatively new kid on the block: the Islamic Center of America, which includes a banqueting room that seats 200 at 14 long tables and a carpeted, furniture-less mosque. "Please remove your shoes before you enter," a sign by the entrance to the mosque room proclaims. Across from a big aerial view of Mecca other notices advertise a wide range of activities: Friday sermon and prayer, a Sunday lecture series in English and Arabic, a Detroit Islam television program, and a weekly "Islam Night" complete with Islamic Jeopardy contests, basketball, discussions, and group prayer. An emphasis on career development is also apparent from postings about a career fair sponsored by Detroit Edison and about entry to the bidders list for county government contracts set aside for women and minorities. Faith in Action, a publication of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is full of stories about using Islamic economic clout. When a Burger King radio ad used a character with the Islamic name "Rasheed" reading a poem praising a bacon-cheddar Whopper sandwich, Muslims (observant ones don't eat pork) protested. Burger King officials withdrew the commercial and said they would rewrite it to delete objectionable references. When a college textbook, Marriage and the Family, included critical statements about the role of women within Islam, complaints led to the publisher agreeing to obliterate the offending passages. Islamic leaders are now looking to develop political clout. The Arab American News, a weekly newspaper published in nearby Dearborn, endorsed Mr. Duggan at the end of July because "he will effectively address the issue of violence at gas stations and party stores in particular." Many of those establishments are Muslim-owned, and some of those owners are becoming wealthy enough to move west of Detroit and fund a new mosque and Islamic school on Ford Road. The school, known as the Muslim American Youth Academy, has a computer lab along with a cafeteria, gymnasium, and lots of classroom space. The mosque and community center, now under construction, will feature prayer and banqueting areas that seat over 1,000 people rather than 200 and state-of-the-art video technology. Muslim political involvement is also growing. As one publication, Islamic Insights, proclaimed, "We must become a power that influences elections in such a way that our concerns are heard and our demands met." Will this be good or bad for Christians and other conservatives? On many cultural issues, Muslims will be valuable allies. When NBC in March began its profane series, God, the Devil, and Bob, which portrayed God as a beer-drinking hippie, Muslim viewers joined Christians and Jews in complaining; the network pulled the program (which had garnered only low ratings) after four episodes. When a professor at a community college close to Detroit did not allow a Muslim student to begin a class presentation with prayer, several hundred Muslims protested and community college officials rightly apologized. In the long run, Islam may prove to be tough competition for Christianity throughout the United States, particularly in inner-city areas. Churches that are teaching the whole Bible should produce positive changes in the communities around them. If that fruit is not apparent, something is wrong, and it's best that we find out sooner rather than later. Elijah showed confidence during his battle on Mount Carmel, and Christians today should not fear competition from other religions.

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Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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