Thus there is no one American Islam, but it – whatever it ultimately is being defined as – is in a constant state of formation and growth. It is happening in a multitude of ways, some often conflicting. But, it is there. So-called religious reform cloaked in the coercive terminology of ‘Progressivism’ going far beyond tradition will be unable find a place or appreciation amongst the majority of Muslim Americans. Islamic traditionalism has authority because of its grounding in an impressive, vast and flexible scholarship that spans philosophy, sociology, theology and science as well as other disciplines. But the continuous focus in the discourse of the (re)formation of an ‘American Islam’ on groups or individuals who – despite being sometimes prominent voices and images – are a minority, will only fuel the idea that attempts to give Islam an American character will just be laden with unorthodoxy rendering the faith unrecognizable.
‘Progressive’ religious movements are neither particular to Islam nor particular to Islam in America. They are part and parcel of genuine experiences of faith, identity and circumstance that evolve into an active search for space. But is the fear of an Islamic traditionalism that does not conform to the path used in the development of the American Christianity model so riveting as to avoid other voices also searching space? By ignoring these other voices and focusing on a particular minority, Muslims who do not agree with the actions of those popularly given the charge of ‘reform’ and progress’ fall into the category of ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ – terms which have become as meaninglessly dangerous as they have become commonplace.