Can a good Muslim be a good American? Brian, a constitutional scholar, put the question to Michael, a national security expert, as we passed the Washington office of Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim to serve there. Ellison’s decision to be sworn in on the Quran still echoes controversially.
Holy war proclaimed against the United States in the name of Islam by Osama bin Laden in 1996 was not taken seriously until his terrorists struck here in 2001, shouting Allah’s name as they died. Even since then, President Bush has insisted Islam is a religion of peace and the global jihad is a perversion. But is it? Uncomfortable as the issue is, we need to ask ourselves.
Almost one percent of our US population are now Muslims, about 2.35 million in all. Most people know some, and we find them decent folks, pleasant to be with, no less than any other religious group. Unfortunately, that’s beside the point for Brian’s question to Michael.
Muslims can obviously be Americans. More and more are, by birth, immigration, or conversion. The qualifier “good” is where it gets uncertain. If a good American is one who lives in fidelity to our nation’s founding principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and a good Muslim is one who lives in fidelity to his God-given scripture, the Quran, the concern is whether you can do both.
If you can’t, American liberty might wither in a world where Islamic dynamism is high, Western self-confidence is low, borders are porous, and multicultural tolerance reigns supreme. We’d face a nervous future where individuals must choose between being loyal citizens or Quranic literalists. Nobody wants that, but wishing it away won’t do. We must look at the evidence and have the conversation.
Researchers William J. Federer and Robert Spencer are troubled by the evidence they’ve found. Federer’s well-documented book, “What Every American Needs to Know about the Quran: A History of Islam and the United States” (Amerisearch, 2007), questions the compatibility of the two belief systems. How can Muhammad’s teaching that women and unbelievers, especially Jews, are inferior square with Jefferson’s “all created equal”? Spencer raises similar concerns in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam” (Regnery, 2005).
By some interpretations, the Quran forbids a good Muslim from giving any allegiance whatsoever to the nation-state, and hence from obeying civil laws made by any secular government. Sharia, the religious laws proceeding from Allah’s books and clergy, alone warrant obedience according to this strain of Islam.