Why should Americans feel unsafe
US Muslims: integrated but not popular
"We have an excellent relationship with the FBI, the Treasury Department, the State Department and various other law enforcement agencies." So it is on the website of the ADAMS center. ADAMS stands for "All Dulles Area Muslim Society". It is the religious hub for more than 5000 Muslim families, making it one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States by its own account.
Rizwan Jaka values leisure activities - not just for Muslims
"We want to make sure that people know who we are and that we oppose extremism and terrorism," said Rizawn Jaka, the community's press officer. That is why the website also states that women have equal rights here, that cooperation with other religious communities is important and that charity work is a top priority.
For good reason. The Muslim community, west of the US capital Washington, has faced a lot of hatred since September 11, 2001. On the evening of the terrorist attacks, the old mosque was broken into and the building signs for the then newly planned site were burned down. However, Jaka emphasizes, the other religious communities in the area immediately expressed their solidarity, stood guard or offered to accompany the women of the community if they felt unsafe.
Vandalism and violence against Muslims
The ADAMS Center, a religious and cultural center
According to Robert Marro, who, like Jaka, is a member of the board of directors of the ADAMS center, public discussions such as the one about the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York are politically motivated: "This way, votes can be easily caught." He also considers the burning of the Koran by a pastor in Florida to be a publicity campaign. The media are often not innocent of the excitement.
Nevertheless, he is optimistic: sooner or later the American Muslims would be integrated into society, just like the Catholics, the Italians or the Irish in the past century. Marro recalls the debate when John F. Kennedy became a Catholic for the first time. At that time it was also discussed whether Kennedy's first loyalty would be to the Pope or the USA.
But it will obviously take a while before it no longer matters in the USA whether someone is a Catholic or a Muslim. In any case, Samira Hussein still doesn't want to be photographed in front of her car. The native Palestinian lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, north of the US capital, and has had bad experiences. It began with the first Gulf War: "In the beginning they damaged our cars, stabbed the tires, destroyed the front doors, pelted us with rubbish and dead birds, and tore out our plants." Her children were beaten up at school every day and followed on their way to school. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to even more problems, suddenly the social worker was also discriminated against at work.
Informing and doing charitable work
Despite discrimination, Samira Hussein stands up for her community
Samira Hussein responded by stepping up her social commitment: in parent representatives, in schools and in the community. She explained to students why she wears a headscarf. Her weapon, she says, is education: "I want to inform people and it's best to start with the children." If the children understood their culture and religion, then the parents would change their minds too. Your work has borne fruit, says Samira Hussein today. In 2002 she was recognized by the district for her work against intolerance. Her name is engraved under a bronze statue in the hall in front of the assembly room of the administrative center.
Tufail Ahmad also calls for American Muslims to become more socially involved in order to integrate themselves in this way. "The Indians and Pakistanis have a reputation for living in big houses and not caring for the poor," he says. Ahmad was born in India, then lived in Pakistan and immigrated to the USA in 1973. As a community elder, he decided on September 11, 2001 to take action. First he organized roundtables and then the charitable aid.
Better than other parts of the country
Badminton is played on Wednesdays and prayers are held on Fridays
Montgomery County's Muslims have been collecting food since 2001. Ahmad himself is also not afraid to stand in front of the supermarket and ask for donations. Thousands of kilos of food come together every year. They have even slaughtered cows and given the meat to those in need. Ahmad is thoughtful: "The minorities are now in the majority in the area, but have you noticed that all community service in the district is done by the whites?" He asks. Ahmad continues to work to change that.
The discrimination against Muslims in Montgomery County is not that pronounced, explains Waled Hafiz. The Syrian lived in Germany for 20 years and has been working in the USA for a good ten years. He is a member of the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation, the non-profit organization serving local Muslims. 300 to 400 active members help with their actions. "People in this area are better informed," says Hafiz. "If you go to Texas or West Virginia, the people there still don't know where Syria is and where Jordan is, and who was responsible for September 11th."
Guled Kassim came to Montgomery County from Somalia in 1985 at the age of ten. He has just become President of the Muslim Foundation. What does he, who served in the US Army, answer when asked whether he sees himself as a Muslim or an American first? First of all, he explains: "You wouldn't ask a Christian that question, it's a trick question." But then he continues: "I am both." His generation has no problem saying, "I am an American and a Muslim or a Muslim and an American." And he adds: "The order doesn't matter."
Author: Christina Bergmann
Editor: Daniel Scheschkewitz
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