Monday, June 16, 2014

If American Muslims Can Change…

If American Muslims can change their selves, they could change the world.

American Muslims are often higher educated and earning more than the national average. The American Muslim community is spread in key swing states and can have a tremendous impact on local and national elections.

More than just about any other so called “Muslim country,” the U.S. offers American Muslims the legal freedom and protection to practice their faith.  Life in the United States also presents the opportunity to grow financially, intellectually and participate in civic affairs, law, politics and the pursuit of justice.  Unlike most countries in the Middle East, Muslims in America have both freedom to be who they want to be and practice their faith, and freedom to engage in meaningful work and civic engagement.

Many academics have explained in detail how the Islamophobia industry spends millions of dollars to demonize Islam and Muslims in America because they fear the impact American Muslims will have if they flourish.  The Islamophobia industry slanders Islam and Muslims in an effort to make Muslims ashamed of their identity and thus turn us away from the source of our strength: our faith, unity and community.

There is never an excuse for Muslims not to practice Islam in America. Allah swt is with us and so is the law. Very few other countries have laws that protect the right to practice our faith in the public, schools, and workplace like the US. This is a blessing we must acknowledge, appreciate and protect.
Granted, the system is not perfect. Mistakes have been made. America has a history of gross civil rights violations from the slave trade to Jim Crow Laws to the internment of Japanese Americans. Today the indefinite detention without trial of humans in Guantanamo Bay Prison, the unjustified spying on Muslims by the NYPD, attempts to outlaw the practice of Islam in several states, and the FBI entrapment program targeting the Muslim community are a few example of how America continues to struggle with forces of tyranny that try to make this nation stray from its great ideals of liberty, equality and justice.

Authors like Trevor Aaronson even detail government programs intended to provoke Muslims to engage society destructively, which can in effect hinder the Muslim community’s ability to effectively engage constructively.

Despite these wrongs, we have the freedom to challenge these injustices and will overcome them just as other minorities have overcome them in the past and continue to struggle to do so today.
Few other nations allow minorities the opportunity to challenge injustice and oppression as America, and while our nation is not perfect, through the dedication of those devoted to striving for justice, civil rights, and human dignity, it will, inshallah, improve.

However, American Muslims are not as effective or active as we should be.

We are the second largest religious minority in America, yet Islamophobic attacks against Islam and Muslims are tolerated in mainstream discourse which would never be tolerated against other minorities. Over 300 Muslims globally are killed in wars started or supported by western nations every day, and the American Muslim community has yet to be effective in lobbying for a more peaceful and just US foreign policy. Actually, we are still struggling to protect civil rights domestically.

The amount of civil rights violations committed and liberty lost in the name of fighting “Muslim extremists” has taken America back many years when it comes to civil rights and justice. Ironically, it has also made American Muslims stand out as leaders of the civil rights movement.

Experience has shown me however that most American Muslims are unaware of the civil rights and Islamophobia challenges our community is facing. As a result, few Muslims are taking action to fulfill our obligation as Americans and as Muslims to defend civil rights and promote understanding of our faith and community.

American Muslims have the immense potential and opportunity to be leaders for change. But we will not realize that potential unless we make the most of the blessings of freedom and wealth God has blessed us with.  We must invest our time, energy, and wealth more constructively than those who embrace hate and are investing their resources to undermine our faith and liberty.

We must first care about our faith, community, and civil rights. Then we must understand the nature of the challenges we are facing.  Only then can we constructively engage the system to create positive change.

By working together with interfaith allies to push back against efforts to promote fear and hatred that undermine liberty, we can ensure America remains a free nation where children of people of all faiths can grow up proud of their identity with the opportunity to learn about the diverse faiths that make up our society.

A free and just society is the best society for our faith and community to flourish.


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