Islam in America: The United States’ historical openness towards Muslims must be upheld In the U.S. – where Islam is the third-largest religion and where, by 2030, almost two out of 100 Americans are projected to be Muslims – a growing controversy exists as to whether Islam and American values are compatible with each other.

After the 9/11 attacks, albeit for understandable reasons, Muslims were portrayed as violent and anti-Western. Fear of Islam grew after the U.S. supported war against the Islamic State group and, most recently, after the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. Yet, surprisingly for many, Muslims historically have defended our homeland, and America has had a longstanding openness towards Islam.

To begin with, we must understand that radical Islamists account for a tiny, although very vocal, fraction of the over 1.6 billion world Muslim population. In the U.S. – the bastion of religious freedom – Muslims generally represent an ethnically diverse, educated and integrated group. And only eight percent of American Muslims believe suicide bombings are sometimes or often justified.

[SEE: 2014: The Year in Cartoons]

As an example, growing up in post-Soviet Azerbaijan – where religion was banned under the communist rule – my parents allowed me to read both the Bible and the Quran. They explained to me that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believed in the same deity but in distinctive ways just like various branches of Islam have their differences in worshipping God. They also taught me to treat others as I would like others to treat me. And never in my memory had I perceived non-Muslims as infidels.


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