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Is the West Inherently Un-Islamic? is very real in this post 9/11 world—no one with objective ears and eyes can deny that there is a massive campaign to distort or vilify mainstream Islam and Muslims. Unfortunately, a segment of the population doesn’t see it as bias propaganda; rather they take it as exposing information regarding the inherent evil of Islam! It is our responsibility to respond to that by properly portraying ourselves by word, deed and activist movement.

In the following series of articles, I invite you to take a deep look at the other side of the coin, which actually goes back further than the rise of Islamophobia in the last decade. There is undoubtedly a Western-ophobia common among devoted Muslims, which is sometimes just as misplaced and unfair toward Western people and values as Islamophobia is to us.     

The presence of Muslims in the West was quite insignificant until the last few decades in which we have seen exponential growth. At the same time, through mass media, globalization has brought Western values and culture to the heart of the Muslim world.  The imprudent emotional reaction we’ve seen from the Muslim world is quite polarizing. Many Muslims have developed somewhat of an inferiority complex in the face of the achievements, progress and ultimate power of the Western world. Some express this by wanting to do everything Western and copy the model, thus hoping to achieve success or nobility by assimilating into the “modern” world. The other extreme is using religious identity to protest everything Western—pessimistically looking for a way to condemn it as immoral.

Obviously there are aspects of American culture that are in conflict with Islam, but still there are too many issues that are misunderstood, unfairly presented or based on false assumptions. This is particularly true regarding the basis of many imported fatwas (religious rulings) from overseas. Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah (may God have mercy on him) said in his authoritative book “Informing the Signers on Behalf of the Lord of the Universe,” advising those who would issue or pass on a religious ruling:

ولا يتمكن المفتي ،والحاكم من الفتوى ،والحكم بالحق إلا بنوعين من الفهم: أحدهما: فهم الواقع ،والفقه فيه ،واستنباط علم حقيقة ما وقع بالقرائن ،والأمارات ،والعلامات ،فالعالم يتوصل بمعرفة الواقع ،والتفقه فيه إلى معرفة حكم الله ورسوله في المسألة” (إعلام الموقعين 1/  17

“A scholar (mufti) or judge is not to give a religious ruling (fatwa) unless they fully understand two issues. The first of the two is a thorough understanding of the details of the reality in which the ruling will be applied. Through understanding the reality, the scholar can know the ruling of God and His messenger on the matter.”

فصل في تغير الفتوى ،واختلافها بحسب تغير الأزمنة ،والأمكنة ،والأحوال ،والنيات والعوائد. هذا فصل عظيم النفع جداً، وقع بسبب الجهل به غلط عظيم على الشريعة، أوجب من الحرج والمشقة، وتكليف ما لا سبيل إليه ( إعلام الموقعين 3/13

“The applications of rulings in Islamic Law will be different according to the different eras, places, circumstances, intentions and customs. This is a hugely beneficial point of reference. Major mistakes have been made against Islamic Law as a result of ignorance in this point. Much hardship, difficulty and near impossible legislations have been caused by ignorance of this point.”

We will only be proper witnesses for our religion to ourselves, our families and to the rest of the world if we have the superior path of balance and moderation in practicing our religion.

وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا

“With this scripture, We made you a superior moderate nation so that you may be witnesses upon mankind and the messenger a witness for you.”(Qur’an 2:143)

Before moving forward, let’s agree on something in full honesty and neutrality. There are many corrupt immoral common practices in the Muslim world and there are also many noble moral virtues in American culture that need to be revived in the Muslim world. This series is an application of two very famous verses commonly quoted because of their foundational vastness:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاء ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Certainly God commands to justice, moral excellence and preserving family ties. He forbids immorality, sin and hostility. He reminds you so that you will keep this in mind.” (Qur’an 16:90)

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

“Dear Mankind, We have created you from a male and female and made you into races and families so that you may get to know each other. Truly the best among you to God are the most pious. Indeed God is Omniscient and Fully-Aware.” (Qur’an 49:13)

Issue #1: Referring to Non-Muslims as “Americans” or “the Americans”

Time and time again, I have been hanging out with young Muslims and we start talking about school or hobbies and they will say, “My American friends…” Now these kids are born and raised in America and have maybe visited their parents’ birthplace for some months in the summer. I’m sure when their parents take these children to their birthplace, all of the people there will know after any sort of interaction that these Muslim kids are indeed American. Many of these parents talk about “back home” as if they haven’t chose America as their new homeland, pledged allegiance by adopting citizenship, and will most likely die and be buried here! What’s crazy is that there are close to 5 million American Muslims which is more than Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar combined!

The root of this problem is the crux of the series we are starting; the idea that there is something un-Islamic in being American. Let’s call a spade a spade; many Muslim parents and religious folk often refer to America and American people with a negative connotation. This is the land that gave them the freedom to practice and promote Islam, it gave them other freedoms they probably didn’t have in their birthplace and it gave them equal financial opportunity regardless of race or religion. Sure there is a corrupt foreign policy which doesn’t value innocent Muslim lives as much as Americans or Israelis, but at the same time there are many great things about this country, which is why out of all countries they choose to live here.

If we are going to build future thriving generations of American Muslims, then we must stop this identity confusion and encourage Muslims to love their country with reverence for the good and dedication to fixing the bad by working with our fellow countrymen toward a morally better society. Obviously our love for God is the most defining part of our identity and that’s what should drive us to work with like-minded people to make our country a better place.

وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبَرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى وَلاَ تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ

“You must cooperate with each other in righteousness and piety and you are prohibited from cooperating in sin and aggression.” (Qur’an 5:3)

The reason many immigrants love their birthplace is because that’s where they were born and grew up. Their childhood and family memories are there, which is why it’s natural to love your birthplace. American Muslims are no different. Each Muslim country has its own cultural and institutional governmental corruption, as does any other country, but that doesn’t make it wrong to love your country and all the good it represents to you.

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.


  • MashaAllah a great piece laden with the bare truth about prejudice of some Muslims (including me) in labelling America un-Islamic. Yet, the American govt not Americans meddles in the affairs of other countries; law against samesex marriage is a clear recent case and America will come out blatantly to discredit it. When it comes to this, Muslims the world over will not tolerate it.

  • Firstly, islamophobia would suggest it’s an irrational fear. The wests fear of Islam is not irrational. Bombs, bombs and more bombs by a minority of muslims is not fair on the majority however it cannot be ignored. The west isn’t concerned with Buddhists or Hindus as their minority doesn’t proved the same threats.

    • You cant judge Muslims by what you see in the media. Less than 1% of all terror attacks in Europe, 6% in usa were by Muslims according to europol and fbi data. The west isn’t concerned with Buddhist and Hindus because the west will support anyone who isn’t Muslim. What about the atrocities in Burma against rohingya to name just one instance? Or the organizational murder of Muslims buy the police in India villages? Open your eyes and your mind and seek the truth, not what coporate media feeds you.

  • I love this article for the simple fact that it calls for introspection. We cannot be expecting from a non muslim world what even we as muslims fail at most of the times. Being a convert from the subcontinent, I see too many fingers pointing outwards.
    We are quick to react to anyone being ignorant towards Islam that we say “blame muslims because islam is perfect but muslims are not” but at the same time forget this very thing when we judge other cultures, religions or environments where we are too imperfect to be judging them harshly. What ever evil we face in the world is because what our own hands have put forth whether it be being spectators to a wrongdoing or part of it or even failing to speak up for good inside our own community.This happens too much even at the grassroot level in our own backyards from what I have seen, stemming out of a contrary culture may be. Speaking bluntly but its the truth

    “By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You will enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, or Allah will send a punishment on you from Him. Then, you will supplicate to Him, but He will not accept your supplication.”

  • Lets be honest with ourselves and with God swt. One of the reason islamophobia exist is that people from middle east have not been representing Islam very well. Many criminality och acts of dishonor are related to imigration related to these people from middle east. The muslim ummah has failed to update and reach to those individuals and to remind them about Islam is about love and peace. More importantily fear Allah swt and not spread mischief. So how you expevt non muslims to adopt islam and welcome it when we got mass corrupted individuals among us.


  • Assalaamu ‘alaykum, this might be helpful. “Sharī’ah is based on wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife. Sharī’ah is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus, any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to the Sharī’ah, even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretation.”
    [From: Shamsuddin Ibn al-Qayyim, I˒lam Al-Muwaqi’n, ed. Taha Abdul Rauf Saad (Beirut: Dar Al-Jeel, 1973) vol.3, p. 333. , link;

  • I think perhaps the article should make a distinction between “Westernophobia” and “Americanophobia”.

    Outside of the US, there is undoubtedly at least a latent dislike of “Western” values, generally interpreted to mean only the part that involves hedonism and oppression even though to a Western person the range is more complex than that and varies by nation. Nonetheless, the negative impression of Western cultures outside of the US (chiefly in Asia) draws from colonial experience in Muslim nations, and the historical memory lingers even if the context is no longer relevant in the current age. I understand that a lot of the South Asian religious opinions should really be understood by assuming a time and place where Muslims are living under coercive and missionary colonial oppression, and may not fit a world where this context is absent.

    The negative view of America is probably more recently born than the one for “Westerners” in general. Insofar as the two interlink because America is of the “Western” cultural group, they may often merge and the one group may assume empathy for the other, but the two have different roots. So it’s better to be clear on whether you mean anti-American, or anti-Western.

    Although in the big picture, I rather think the distinction grows less and less meaningful in today’s world, given that there are Muslims living and growing up in any and all of these hemispheres, and there are converts joining the ummah from any and all of them, who then teach each other, travel to and from each other, etc. It may better serve everyone if we stop passing on the baggage from the last century to this century’s generations, while passing on the awareness that *other people* may still be carrying theirs.

  • The christian west has developed far ahead of islam which has created a fear in Muslims that they will be taken over thats why we see the intolerance in Muslim countries towards non muslims unfortunately I dont think Islam is compatible with western values and that if Islam in the west does not change then in the future there will be a clash of cultures that will decide the issue once and for all.

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