Wow, such a broad topic - I don't know where to begin. I'm an American Muslim, born in Michigan, of Middle Eastern descent. I was raised alongside my eight other siblings, and 8 of the 9 of us are married, most of us with children. My husband is a Canadian of Pakistani descent. We both have our businesses in the same building - he is a neurosurgeon and I am an attorney.What I find beautiful about Islam is a few things. One, the simplicity of the belief & submission to one God. It might sound boring, but really it streamlines my life. I believe that He will judge me & therefore all my actions are done with that in mind. I can't pick & choose what I like of the faith & discard the rest - because that would mean I think I know more than God & that's not true submission. Secondly, is the Muslim character. The obligations I have to be kind to people, starting with my family, then neighbors, makes for a kind personality. I'm not saying I'm such a kind person :) but I strive to constantly improve in that area. Thirdly I would say code of conduct. I don't think anyone can appreciate the comfort I have in my home - based on conduct requirements - such as no alcohol or drugs, or adultery. It doesn't mean I'm an idiot who doesn't realize it can happen, but that it's such a crime and violation of a marriage that before it happens, my spouse or I would have to think 1000 times. It's just not such an easy transgression.
In terms of challenges - I would say two. Firstly, I feel that the society around me makes it more difficult to raise my children in an Islamic manner. I know it sounds cliche, but I think the temptations are too many, & I am scared for them. What that means to me, is that I will strive hard to instill in them the belief in God so that if they do stray, one day that strength of belief will make them return. Secondly, I find the internal challenges of the Muslim community are many. With the combination of the immigrant as well as American Muslim population, it is hard to find the right formula that will become the American Muslim culture. Simple things like the proper administration of the Islamic centers & taking into account community wants & needs in a progressive manner, as well as rooting out ultra conservative views. I don't mean rooting out the views in the sense of suppression of free speech, but in the sense of not letting those views take root in the development of the community.
My family & I are involved in the local Muslim and general community around us. That's what makes me a true Muslim. Focussing on my family and my community (used in the general sense). I don't believe as a Muslim I am allowed to ignore the ailments of those around me, regardless of their beliefs. I think this requirement has taken root, and more & more Muslims are becoming involved in local initiatives.
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