Table of Contents

ISPI Statement

Azam Nizamuddin

On Being an American and a Muslim: Dilemmas of Politics and Culture
Ali A. Mazrui

Muslims, Islamic Law and Public Policy in the United States
Sherman A. Jackson

Muslims in America: Identity and Participation
Dr. Aminah McCloud

ISPI's Accomplishments
Dr.Javeed Akhter


ISPI's Accomplishments

Dr.Javeed Akhter

The Nature and Structure of the Islamic World

Book published in 1997 and revised edition in 2000.
  • Prof. Ralph Braibanti: "The Nature and Structure of the Islamic World".
    This is a well-written and extensively cited monograph. It's main objective was to show that the Islamic world is complex, heterogeneous, and overwhelmingly positive.
           "The most optimistic hope for the Muslim world lies in the differential in piety and dynamism which now exist between Islam and the non-Muslim world. The Muslim value system appears more pristine, more intact than the doctrines of Christianity which are increasingly relegated to the realm of myth or fanaticism" - Braibanti
           Picked up as a part of their curriculum by a number of universities including North Western University in Chicago by Professor Hunwick. Attracted the attention of the University Of Chicago. Nice reviews in couple of publications including the "Washington Report" and AJISS.
  • Javeed Akhter: "Afterword". The afterword contains a brief summary of the quintessentials of the Islamic belief system" as well as a description of the objectives of the think tank. The second edition of this book was printed in October of 2,000.

Muslims in America: Opportunities and Challenges

Book published in 1998.
  • Dr. John E Woods: "Imagining and Stereotyping Islam".
  • Prof. Asad Husain (With help from his son Imran Husain): "A Brief History and Demographics of Muslims in the U.S.".
  • Dr. Sulayman Nyang: "Foreword". Commentary on the way the Muslim community has evolved in this country with special emphasis on the Sufi and the African-American movements.
  • Javeed Akhter: "Pro active vision for Muslim Americans"
       "Structurally, stereotyping takes the form of a "vicious regression". Rooted in ignorance, misconceptions, and negative images or attitudes, the stereotype provides a distorted mental picture or set of images which develop through reductionism into prejudice, bias, and eventually racism." - John Woods
       This book has been used as source material by many authors and speakers. Being used at least three institutions, the University of Chicago, North Eastern Illinois Univ. and the Benedictine University, in their courses on Islamic studies. Additionally has been used in at least one course at the Medill school of Journalism at North Western.
       "Muslims have a vision of the US, where there is a paradigm shift in emphasis from "individual rights" to "duties and obligations". The Muslim vision is of a nation that is mature and genteel, a nation that is cognizant of the enormous power it has, and wields it responsibly" - Javeed Akhter.
       This publication earned ISPI a two-paragraph mention in the "Chicago Tribune" citing the "Think Tank" as a sign of the maturity of the relatively young and small Muslim community in this country. It also generated an understanding with the U of C to conduct one joint seminar a year.

Race Relations in the US ('99):

       Speakers at this meeting included Prof. Inamul Haq, civil rights attorney Kamran Memon, and the editor of the "Muslim Journal" Ayesha Mustafa.
       Speakers were able to demonstrate that Islam categorically rejects racism. Muslims have handled race better than others and by and large avoided the worst effects of racism.
       A seminar was done in an urban location in a town hall type format on the anniversary of Mayor Harold Washington's death. Diverse group in attendance and coverage by the TV station WGN in their evening news.
Select abstracts from this conference will be part of “The Handbook for Congress”.
  • Muslims historically have been able to avoid the holocaust type of race-based violence against fellow humans.
  • There is nothing in Muslim theology that would allow them to rationalize racism. This fact is in direct contrast to the theologies of at least three other major world religions.
  • There is need to combat stereotyping, that leads to racism, at many levels. The conference provided specific recommendations for achieving these goals.

A Colloquium on Pluralism ('99):

(Muslim role in the changing face of the US public square).
A truly eclectic group of scholars participated in the seminar.
  • Hashim Ali: Islam and Pluralism
  • Sulayman Nyang: Muslims and The US Pluralistic Model
  • Zia Sardar: Pluralism and The Location of Eurocentricism in the West
  • Diana L Eck: Harvard Pluralism Project. A multi media presentation on the faiths and traditions in the US.
  • Panel Discussion: Moderator Prof. John Woods. Additional discussants include Peter Miniarik (U.S. Race Relations) and Bruce Lincoln (Prof. Divinity School). The discussion centered on ways of strengthening pluralism.
       There was a large attendance by the University faculty. Write up in the "Chicago Tribune" under the banner "Bridge Work", half-page article in the "Suburban Graphics" and a nice little piece in the "Islamic Horizons" the ISNA publication. Edited versions of Prof. Hashim Ali's and Sulayman Nyang's articles and a summary of the suggestions to improve pluralism will be part of the “Handbook for Congress”.
  • Pluralism is essential for the health of the American society and is as essential for the majority as it is for the minorities.
  • US education and analysis of history as well as current problems suffers from a largely Euro-centric bias.
  • In the final analysis pluralism means sharing of power. Minorities need creative tools of making sure their voices are heard I the policy-making circles.

American Public Policy and American-Muslim Politics

(Book published in 2000)
       Articles by Ali Mazrui, Sherman "Abdul Hakim" Jackson and Aminah McCloud on the dilemma of political participation and double identity are discussed in an analytical as well as a dialectical manner. This book is addressed largely to Muslim audience has a foreword by Azam Nizamuddin, who shepherded the project. Salient points made in this book that I summarized as an ISPI statement are:
  • Muslims should actively participate in the political process as it is consistent with requirements of Islamic law and fulfills the demands of common sense.
  • Muslim should be active in building bridges with like-minded people of all traditions and faiths and in particular with other minority groups.
  • The Muslim community should initiate an active and ongoing dialogue to identify and remove stereotyping and misunderstandings between African-American and immigrant Muslims.
  • Muslims should try and formulate agendas based on interests common to the entire community rather than allow ethno or religio-centric considerations to prevail.
       If Muslim community is successful in putting its house in order it is possible that it can become o of the two or three major influences in giving direction to the national and foreign policy makers in the U.S.

Muslim Civil Rights in the U.S. ('99):

Seminar with papers, among others by Cherif Bassiouni, Ramsey Clark and Abdul Muqtadar Khan. The talks at this seminar have been transcribed and will be edited. This will also be a section of the “Handbook for Congress”.
  • The Muslim Arab-American and the Muslim Asian American are the new ethnic and religious minority groups whose civil rights are increasingly under siege. Low immigration quotas, and discrimination in employment and education are not uncommon. The new draconian laws, “The omnibus anti terrorism act”, the “Secret trial against undesirable immigrants”, and the application of “RICO” (Racketeering influenced corrupt organizations) to alleged terrorist groups, appear to be violating the spirit if not the letter of the 5th through 8th amendments. These are a confirmation of the problems facing the Muslims in the US in their struggle for civil rights-Javeed Akhter.
  • The Congress should begin to repeal existing laws that infringe on the liberties of Americans.

U.S. Public Policy and Minority Civil Rights (2000):

Seminar at the U of C with Mumtaz Ahmed delivering the “Fazalur Rahman” memorial lecture. Other participants include Ayesha Mustafa, Jocelyn Cesari and Jacquline Bhabha. Proceedings will be recorded and hopefully published.
  • International agencies have very little power to enforce the human rights of citizens within their own countries. They essentially have only the power of persuasion by bringing the violations into the light of the day.
  • In many countries the dissenting citizens are asked to play the role of the “loyal opposition” and yet when they have a chance to come to power either they are illegally or suppressed are co-opted.
  • Amongst Muslims in the US those have come from pluralistic societies are predictably adjusting to their minority situation in this country better than those who have lived in countries with a single religion and often a single ethnicity.
  • Muslims in this country are much better off at many levels than those in the continental Europe.
  • Muslims should continue to be active and keep their profile high.

Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad's Life

Book published end of 2001.
A holistic analysis of Prophet Muhammad's life and mission described by John Voll as “inspirational”. John Voll also wrote the forward for the book. It has 8 pieces of original calligraphy by Md. Zakariya. The book is written with new Muslim and those who are interested in Islam in mind. It responds to the need to introduce the persona of Prophet Muhammad to those who are uninitiated in his life and struggle.

Town Hall Meeting With Elected Officials And Candidates

(January 2002)
A town hall meeting was held at the Islamic Foundation where a presentation was made on the data detailing Muslim-American demographics, participation on political system and position on various domestic and foreign issues. It was a well attended and very well organized meeting.

Handbook for Congress

In progress.
       This project is in its early phase. The first section will be on demographics of Muslims in the US, the second will list scholars who are part of ISPI's academic advisory team with their areas of expertise, and the third and largest section will be based on Cato's handbook for congress format. It will have articles on a handful of topics with concrete suggestions for Congress on what they should do about those issues. It will include articles by Robert Crane on the similarities between the US constitution and Islamic principles, articles on pluralism, race relations, civil rights and other relevant issues.
      Recently we met with three of Muslim congressional aides and sought their help in how best to reach the Congress. We will target the Congress using many of their suggestions. Our initial target will be the Illinois delegation.
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