Newsletter #51 – “American Muslims” or “Muslims That Just Live in America”?

An article posted on the Kurdistan National Assembly website quotes MTSU’s Saleh Sbenaty – faculty advisor to the school’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association (MSA), and member of Governor Haslam’s American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC), as saying, “I considered myself an American the moment I placed a foot in this country”.  It seems, however, that his daughter Dimaa feels otherwise, or at the very least, finds living in Syria preferable:























Despite being American born and raised in the U.S Dimaa Sbenaty, self-titled “Dove of Damascus” seems like many Muslims of her generation who identify first as Muslims, then according to a parent’s country of origin (e.g., Palestinian, Kurdish, Syrian,), with the American adjective taking on a connotation more about physical location than identity.

According to both the current and proposed Syrian constitutions, the “religion” and “values” which Dimaa wants to be immersed in by living in Syria are defined in part, by Islam and Shariah law.  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development’s (OECD), 2012 Social Institutions & Gender Index ranks Syria 75th out of 86 countries surveyed, down from 59th in 2009.  The report cites the following factors for this ranking:


  • Discriminatory Family Code – the status of Muslim women in Syria is governed by Shariah law which discriminates against women in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance, all of which are decided by the religious Shariah courts with no option to be heard in the civil court system.
  • Polygamy is allowed if the husband satisfies the court that he can afford it; no consent from wife #1 needed.
  • Unilateral divorce by the husband is allowed (talaq); women have very narrow circumstances under which they can petition for divorce.
  • A child’s Syrian citizenship only passes through a Muslim father so children born of non-Muslim fathers cannot inherit, or access free healthcare and education.
  • Honor killings occur and “honor” is accepted as a mitigating factor for violent crimes.
  • Married women may only work outside the home if the husband permits.
  • All women are barred from working at night and in certain professions “deemed injurious to their health or morals.”

Dimaa, like her sister Lema from Newsletter #50, also participated in the MTSU Muslim Brotherhood Muslim Students Association.  Given her father’s commitment to that organization and all it stands for, the Sbenaty household seems steeped in the Brotherhood’s credo that “Islam is the solution”.


Reflected in any number of articles and even one college student’s thesis, Tariq Ramadam, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, claims a prized status among the West’s Muslim young adults. (see eg. Lema Sbenaty’s “Tariq Ramadannnnnnn omg”{can you link?}). Described in these circles as an “Islamic modernist leader”, others who have thoroughly studied his writings, tapes and interviews, demonstrate that his message to the children of Muslim immigrants living in non-Muslim countries, redefines what assimilation means.  His message is clear and consistent that “Muslims must bring ‘the overall philosophy of the Islamic message’ into Western education, assuming ‘their Islamic frame of reference as a starting point.’”


For this generation of Muslim young adults, Ramadan defines “citizenship” as simply a place to reside and “not a country to which one is bound.”  He says “contribution” is what counts because that is what makes one part of the country in which they reside.  He tells his young audiences to “Islamizie modernity rather than modernize Islam”;  “agree to integration, but it is up to us to determine the contents”, “accept the law, provided it does not force [you] to do something in contradiction with [your] religion”.

The core of what Ramadan professes is political by nature and action.

No different than his Islamist grandfather’s message of rigid insistence that Islam should dominate such that any and all “requested” accommodations are made.  No different than the Islamist message being advanced by Governor Haslam’s “American” Muslim Advisory Council and its lobbying organization the “American” Center for Outreach.