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Welcoming Muhammad

In February 2002, Chronicles’ associate editor Aaron Wolf and I spent a day at the Rockford Iqra School, a Muslim academy in Southeast Rockford.  I chronicled the events of that day in “Through a Glass, Darkly,” the April 2002 installment of The Rockford Files.  The frank expression of admiration for Osama bin Laden by the chairman of the school (the assistant director of neonatology at Rockford’s largest hospital) and the performance of Muslim raps about jihad by children as young as six were not what we, or our readers, expected.  The reaction to the article was varied, ranging from anger—either because of my supposed “intolerance” to Muslims or because of my perceived evenhandedness—to shock, as readers admitted that they had no idea that such schools existed in the United States, much less out here, in the middle of Middle America.

The 43 children enrolled at that time at the Rockford Iqra School are a small portion of the children at the more than 600 Islamic schools nationwide.  (Some estimates range as high as 1,000.)  Today, the U.S. State Department officially estimates the number of mosques in the United States at over 1,200, but that is based on a survey conducted in the late 1990’s; unofficial State Department estimates rise as high as 2,000.  CNN notes that nearly 80 percent of those mosques have been built since...

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