You may get a hundred different answers from a hundred American Muslims about what it means to be an American Muslim. The controversial Islamic center near ground zero, while pouring salt in a yet widely open national wound, did begin to awaken us to the yet unfought war of ideas within the "House of Islam." Many of us reform-minded Muslims have been waging that war of ideas for most of our adult life, long before 9/11. But time has shown that we cannot wage this battle alone.
It may not seem to matter much for a faith community that is barely 1 percent of the population, but American Muslims carry an invaluable ability to influence the ideologies of over 1.5 billion Muslims - over a fifth of the world's population. Until middle America realizes how our national security hangs in the balance of that intellectual war within Islam, our security will never improve.
The last 12 months have seen the most arrests and attacks of radical Islamists on Americans since 9/11. This was confirmed to Congress last month by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who also finally acknowledged the growing homegrown threat of radical Muslims.
Sadly, many of my co-religionists called on by media to speak for American Muslims too often wallow in denial simply deflecting any responsibility by distancing themselves from radicals or myopically equating Muslim radicals to those of other faiths. They willfully ignore the main ideological conveyor belt towards radicalism - political Islam.
Most Americans no longer accept these detached irresponsible dismissals from leading American Muslims. They see so many examples of American Muslim clerics who condemn terror out of one side of their mouth while deceptively amplifying victimology, Islamophobia, anti-Americanism and morally vacant justifications from the other.
Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, for example, condemned 9/11 in the national media and was hailed as a moderate Muslim while at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque of Northern Virginia in 2001. Most, however, refused to look with any critique at his theo-political ideas - a political Islam with high risk of radicalization. Today, he is one of the greatest threats to America creating such violent traitors as Nidal Hasan. His sermons and teachings are a clinic on homegrown radicalization and yet they still fill some Islamic bookstores with no hint of any counter-ideological movement from leading American Muslim organizations. Since so many leading well-financed American Muslim groups are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood's ideas, they are certainly not going to lead a movement against political Islam and for the separation of mosque and state.
In our conversation at Drake University this week, I hope we focus on the fact that at the center of the growing threat to our national security is this battle within the House of Islam. American Muslims need to accept and spread the meme that it is time to get shariah (Islamic law) out of government and bring the ideas of modernity and Enlightenment to the Islamic faith we love.
We need to take the offense in ending the ideas of jihad, the "ummah" as nation, and the "salafi" dream of returning everything to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Until we Muslims take on the responsibility of separating history from religion and mosque from state, the threat will not dissipate.