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Muslims at Home in America

Christians have a part to play in helping Islam adapt to democracy.

George W. Bush was the first political candidate to try to weave U.S. Muslims into America's religious fabric. At a recent panel discussion, Beliefnet founder Steve Waldman noted that where politicians traditionally speak of our "Judeo-Christian heritage," candidate Bush made a point of referring to "churches, synagogues, and mosques." Since becoming president, he has hosted Islamic leaders for a Ramadan dinner at the White House, had a Qur'an photographed on his desk, and courted Muslim countries in his foreign policy. Immediately following September 11, 2001, he assured the American public that Islam is a religion of peace. Clearly, he is inviting immigrant Muslims to become the kind of citizens he wants them to be.

Theologians at Fuller Theological Seminary are also welcoming Muslims by helping Islamic leaders work out what it means to be a "religion of peace." In the late '90s, ethicist Glenn Stassen led a team of 23 Christian thinkers (mostly just-war theorists) in creating a set of principles for finding alternatives to war. Now Stassen and his Fuller colleagues are walking Muslim leaders through a similar exercise based on their own scriptures and traditions. This effort "has important implications," Stassen says, "because it can result in Muslims teaching each other practical practices of peacemaking."

In December, we talked with American Muslim leaders who are trying to bring together Muslims from a long list of countries to form a truly American Islam. Acceptance of Islam into American culture is very important, they told us, for how Muslims overseas perceive the United States. If Muslims feel truly welcomed, they can help defuse anti-American sentiments.

These Muslim leaders drew an analogy between their situation ...

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