Most Americans believe that 9/11 changed the world. Not only have we to put up with such inconveniences as long lines at the airport, but also we live in fear, perceived or real, of the next attack. For American Muslims too, life has changed. In addition to the things that worry all Americans, Muslims have to put up with increased scrutiny of their activities and constant second- guessing of their motives, not to mention discrimination at jobs or profiling by law enforcement. A 2004 Pew Foundation poll finds 32 percent of Americans with an unfavorable view of Muslims; 44 percent believe that Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions.
Such negative views leads to acceptance of discriminatory policies. A Cornell University poll finds nearly half of all Americans want the civil liberties of American Muslims to be restricted, while 27 percent want all American Muslims to register their home addresses with the federal government, and 29 percent believe undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic organizations. At the heart of paranoia about Islam and Muslims are two questions: Is Islam tolerant of other faiths? Can Muslims coexist with people of other faiths? Jamal Badawi, a professor of religious studies at Saint Mary's University, posits that normative Islam is not identical with the actions of its ''followers.'' Like other religions, followers are imperfect, fallible human beings.
At times the actions of Muslims will conform to the teachings of Islam, while sometimes their actions will be either independent of or in violation of Islam's normative teachings. (MORE) Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., is chairman of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy group.