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A Jew In Conspiracy Territory

Paul Barrett, author of American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, wrote an op-ed for The LA Times describing his experiences as a Jew writing about the Muslim world in America. Throughout his four years of research, … Read More

By / February 5, 2007

Paul Barrett, author of American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion, wrote an op-ed for The LA Times describing his experiences as a Jew writing about the Muslim world in America. Throughout his four years of research, Barrett attempted to bring cohesion to the vast array of attitudes regarding American Muslims. His final assertion and a central theme of his book, "American Muslims are anything but monolithic."

Shiite Iraqi immigrants who originally supported the U.S. invasion of their homeland see the world differently from Sunnis who passionately opposed the war. White ex-hippie converts to Sufism, Islam's mystical cousin, have sharply different views from black ex-convict Muslims who embraced the faith behind bars. American Islam is an intricate mixture of devout and secular, moderate and extreme, insular and integrated.

It's true I heard some unsettling notions about American power and who wields it. In Dearborn, Mich., where Arab immigrants began arriving in the 1920s to work in the auto industry, I had a series of long interviews with Imam Husham al-Husainy, a voluble Shiite Iraqi emigre who leads the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center. Initially a backer of the U.S. invasion of his homeland, Al-Husainy had come to believe that the bedlam that has followed had to be intentional — the result of a conspiracy. He explained to me that even as a Jew, I might not understand the extent of Zionism's reach.

At the heart of the conspiracy, he told me, is "the Zionist special group" that opposes "the improvement of the relationship between Christians and Muslims."

"America itself is a victim of a special-interest group that doesn't want it to have a good relationship with the Muslim world," Al-Husainy said. "Bush himself is a victim, I believe."

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