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It won't happen here

November 13, 2005|Salam Al-Marayati | SALAM AL-MARAYATI is executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

AS THE DEATH TOLL rises from the suicide bombings in Amman, Jordan, and as France, Britain and other European states confront home-grown Muslim violence, it is not surprising that Americans are beginning to wonder: Is the U.S. immune?

The question has been raised occasionally during the five years since 9/11. Could it happen here? What are the thoughts and feelings of the 3 million to 6 million Muslims in the United States?

Mainstream Muslim Americans (including the group I lead, the Muslim Public Affairs Council) have repeatedly tried to answer this question, taking our message to churches, synagogues, universities and Capitol Hill: The vast majority of Muslim Americans are committed to this country, to partnering with other Americans to keep our country safe and preserve its values, to rejecting Al Qaeda and terrorism.

The reason we're not likely to see riots in the U.S. like those in France is that Muslims here are very different from European Muslims. Here, Muslims are more readily integrated; in Europe, they tend to be the disaffected and disenfranchised. As former colonial subjects, Europe's Muslims carry baggage that creates intrinsic tensions within their societies. Trapped in ghettos, they're discriminated against and treated as less than full-fledged citizens.

Muslims in the U.S. are more affluent than in many parts of the world. We contribute about $90 billion to the U.S. economy every year. Many of us have graduate degrees and have succeeded in science, the arts and business. The U.S. is home. Let that be clear to the extremists abroad and Muslim haters here.

Although there are few social or economic biases against Muslim Americans, there remain political biases that contribute to a psychological ghetto mentality. And despite our best efforts to contribute positively to public life in the United States, Muslim Americans continue to be vulnerable to discrimination and criminal hate and racism.

Of course, among the millions of Muslims in the United States, some may support extremism. It is our task to isolate them -- in partnership with law enforcement -- as fringe elements, and to prevent the isolation of the entire Muslim American community.

Oftentimes, terrorists are perceived as carrying out the precepts of Islam, yet those who use religion to foment terrorism are outnumbered by those who are motivated by religion to counter extremism. The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans denounce violence as a solution for the social ills faced in the Muslim world. The influence of these Americans -- from the mosques to the malls -- can promote the justice our community strives for both here and abroad.

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