Excerpt: The Growth And Development Of Islam In America

"Given this uncertainty about Muslim leadership in America, many have turned to academics to fill the gap, said Sherman Jackson, an associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan. This may be an unfortunate trend, argued Jackson, because academics must operate within the confines of the American university: their visions of Islam may be "overinfluenced" by secular constraints.

Jackson advocated instead for a focus on Islamic literacy. "The highest priority is to educate the Muslim population so they can more intelligently consume information about Islam. When a sheikh comes from the Middle East, American Muslims should not be overawed by his perspective," said Jackson.

Jackson called for American Muslims to "translate" instead of "transliterate" Islam into their own context. In particular, he pointed to the need for "home-grown ulema" who are intimately acquainted with the practical religious questions that American Muslims face daily.

But, Jackson continued, "Many of the problems confronting Muslims are not questions of law, but a question of cultural production. No amount of law will change what a veiled Muslim women experiences when she walks down the street. Instead you must change American culture, which means getting inside of it and directing it."

The Growth And Development Of Islam In America