It is inevitably a galling experience for any ethnic or religious group to be thought of in stereotypes. Over the course of history, all minorities in the United States have been subjugated to discrimination of one sort or another, whether on racial, social or religion grounds.

African-Americans and Jews suffered their fair share of attack, as did Italian, German and Irish immigrants. By the same token, American Muslims feel deeply offended when the media or the public, suspect them of being potential terrorists.

Therefore one can only cheer Asma Gull Hasan, a 25-year-old American citizen of Muslim faith, for driving this point home with passion.

By Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI religion correspondent
New York, Nov. 5

Her briskly written book, “American Muslims — The New Generation” (Continuum, 189pp, $19.95), explains well her and her co-religionists’ beliefs.

She insists they square with this country’s traditional values, such as “self-respect, an emphasis on the family and the importance of education, of supporting oneself, of contributing to society and of individualism.”

“In essence, being a Muslim can often mean being an American,” writes Gull Hasan.

In fact, the point could be made that they are exemplary citizens. They go more faithfully to the polls (65 percent) than their compatriots of most others faiths. By and large they refrain from alcohol and drug abuse.

Muslims are well represented across the economic spectrum of the American population, Gull Hasan points out. Among the believers in Islam are taxi drivers and hotel employees, academics as well as CEOs and respected politicians.

One can easily empathize with her exasperation over the ignorance of, and the prejudice against, Islam, which she has to do battle with almost daily.

The prejudices were as “prevalent in the U.S. as the discrimination against overweight people and smokers,” she says. Well, she might have chosen more apt analogies, but the drift is persuasive.

Born in Chicago of Pakistani parents and raised in Colorado, this third-year law student at New York University recalls with amazement a college professor’s admission that he knew nothing about Islam. The way Gull Hasan tells this story, this scholar with a Ph.D. evidently found it cute to be ignorant of the faith of 1.2 billion people around the world.

If he regales in being a know-nothing, how can one fault a breakfast waitress in Denver who gave the author a hard time for not wanting bacon with her pancakes and refusing to eat them because they were soaked in grease?

Bacon is pork, and Scripture proscribes pork to Jews and Muslims alike. In one of her book’s more entertaining passages, Gull Hasan quotes her mother, “I wouldn’t want to kiss someone who’s eaten pork! YUCK!” That was in response to her daughter’s confession that she had a crush on a Christian classmate.

Gull Hasan is doing an excellent job giving her readers the basic facts about American Muslims, their beliefs and their history. Some 4 million live in the United States, chiefly in California (25 per cent) and New York (20 percent).

African-American converts and their offspring make up a whopping 42 percent of the Muslim population in the United States, although Gull Hasan seems quite ambivalent about one group of black brethren, the Nation of Islam led by the controversial Louis Farrakhan.

“The NOI agenda of economic separatism for African-Americans and Farrakhan’s racist and anti-Semitic speech seems un-Islamic to many, if not most American Muslims,” she writes. Gull Hasan reminds her readers of the ancient link between the Muslim parts of Africa and the New World. She relates “evidence that Muslims sailed to and explored North America in 1178.

“In addition, strong evidence shows that a Moroccan Muslim named Estevanico or Estephan is believed to have arrived in Florida in 1539 as part of the Spanish expedition that would take him to Arizona and New Mexico, making him one of the first men to cross North America.”

One of the author’s most compelling insights is that “of the over 10 million Africans brought to America as slaves 20 to 30 percent or more were Muslims like Kunta Kinte,” ancestor of Alex Haley, the author of Roots.

This makes fine reading. It would be even more gripping had Gull Hasan’s editors advised their young author a little more wisely. It is moving when she writes, “Muslims believe that Jews and Christians are their brothers — ‘Brothers of the Book.'”

True, that’s what the Qu’ran, the Moslem Holy Book, says, and who would doubt that most American Muslims feel that way?

A chapter explaining in detail why Muslims in general do not support terrorism and the wanton slaughter of innocent people would have been very helpful — for her readers and her cause.

Why does she not more forcefully reject Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against her country, the United States, in the name of Allah? Where is her sadness about the slaughter of hundreds of women and children by Muslim extremists in Algeria?

Why does she not say outright, “I resent these actions as inhuman and UN-Islamic I resent them also because they give all of us here a bad name”?

“I know I still live in fear of anti-Muslim hysteria,” Gull Hasan writes. Her complaint is more than justified. She should not have to live in fear nor should she be subjected to prejudice.

But a struggle against a clich