A lack of training and funding is creating a Muslim leadership vacuum in the U.S. That’s bad for everyone.
One of many ugly patterns since Sept. 11, 2001, is that those who say they are worried about Islamic terrorism often fight to keep mosques out of their communities. It has happened in Tennessee, in Texas, and, most infamously, at the so-called ground zero mosque in Lower Manhattan, which became a national rallying point for conservatives. A recent poll found that 27 percent of Republican primary voters support the idea of shutting down all mosques in the United States.
What we have now is what one expert in American Islam described to me as “a leadership vacuum,” created by the low status and low salaries of imams in America. Extremist foreign leadership is attractive in part because local leadership is so sparse. If you want to integrate Muslims into American culture, these experts say, expand the pipeline of American imams by training them better and paying them more.