U.S. Imam Questions if "American" Islam Exists

July 9, 2007

Author: Tom Heneghan

Source: Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Yahya Hendi is not sure that an "American Islam" exists. When the Palestinian-born imam talks about his religion, though, it sounds as if it has become as integrated into American life as he has.

Hendi, 40, is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution that in 1999 became the first university in the United States to hire a full-time imam. He teaches a course on interreligious dialogue there along with a priest and a rabbi.

He is also chaplain at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and a mosque in Frederick, another suburb north of the capital. He lectures around the country to explain Islam to non-Muslims and U.S. religious pluralism to Muslims.

The question of whether Islam can be "westernized" -- a key aim of European officials seeking a "British Islam" or "French Islam" to help integrate Muslim immigrants -- seems to be more than an ocean away for this pragmatic thinker.