July - Sept 2009, USA

Another American Muslim Perspective

The United States has its share of visitors every year. Some men and women are here to work, others come to study, while others are tourists; I am here to stay. Like it or not, I am bound to the land through my work and memories. The constant reminder that my religion is under siege here in the United States has not wavered my loyalties to my country. Islam and the United States had a shotgun wedding on September 11, 2001. Separated by centuries of misunderstanding and neglect, the two are now struggling to understand each other over night. The suspicions and lack of trust between Muslims and the United States government has the ability to escalate into nationwide civil unrest; that is, unless a strong effort to diffuse the existing tension is supported by the American people. Unlike the visitors who are passing through, I am here for the duration of my life. The responsibility of fixing what went wrong between Islam and the United States falls to the Muslims, who are already home.

I do not believe it is impossible to mend the relationship between Islam and the United States government. The task seems epic in complexity, and still it is a challenge waiting to be overcome by those who will champion our cause. The need for accurate recognition of Islam in the West has never been stronger. This is not the time to shy away, hoping everything will turn out all right. As an American Muslim, I have the responsibility of spanning the gap of intolerance that has been left unchecked between my faith and my country. It is time to get involved in shaping the future of the United States policy towards Islam. It is time to take sensible action to improve our public image. We can speak out in our local communities against those who would use Islam as a punch line to hide their malevolent intentions. Educated Muslims in the United States must leave the safety of their own homes, and go out into the world to teach true Islam to those who will listen. Personally I recommend targeting the media machine that fires the negative propaganda war against Islam. Reform the Medias speculative reporting, and positive change will begin to take hold. Show the western media a united Muslim front against intolerance, racism, and religious oppression. Every man and woman in the United States is entitled to their inalienable rights to practice their faith in peace. Are Muslims so different that our own rights can be overlooked, because of public ignorance towards our religion?

All relationships have compromises. It is easy to blame the United Stated government for the Western outlook on Islam. Truth is Muslims are as much at fault for our current plight as anyone else. Too many times I have heard an immigrant Muslim put down the United States because they are upset about something. As an American Muslim, I agree with a person’s right to their views; on the other hand, I will not join them in putting down my country. The parallel to this scenario would be me visiting a foreign country and publicly expressing disgust for their policies and people. That’s not right, in fact it’s disrespectful. It is easy for me to tell people visiting the United States, who dislike the country, to “Get Out!” This one-sided demand would not resolve anything; in fact I would be taking a step in the wrong direction. Instead of asking people to leave, I say, “Please stay and learn more about my culture and my country.” Ostracizing people who don’t agree with me only builds intolerance. To the Muslims who are just visiting, I ask you to remember why you left behind the people and places you knew to begin your life again in the United States? If you are leaving and going back home share your positive memories of the United States with your family, friends, and neighbors. Tell them about the civil liberties you enjoyed, show them pictures of our neighborhoods, and tell them about the people you met here. Encourage those who want to visit to come here and experience our way of life for themselves. To think we are all bad people who wish to control the world is completely inaccurate. Generalization always leads to myths and misguided rumors. Americans are very diverse in our faith, ethnicity, and experiences that the only thing keeping us together is our laws and constitution. Treat us as individuals – each one a possibility to make a new friend or confidant.

There are reasons why people become disillusioned by the United States. Maybe they have lost a family member or their business failed because of an American? Are these reasons to hate an entire country of several million individuals? Sometimes problems arise that seem to have no alternative answer, other than, violent retaliation. It is exactly at this time that Muslims should seek guidance from the Qur’an. Ask yourself is violence your only means of expression, keeping in mind that killing someone else does not resurrect the dead, and taking a life does not produce new capital over night. Islam condemns the wholesale slaughter of innocent lives. A pilot might be guilty of taking an innocent life. That man should be punished, not thousands of lives that had nothing to do with the incident. On the other hand, the Islamophobia Americans carry around is unjustified. Their suspicions and intolerance for a religion they do not understand must be remedied with facts. Speaking for myself, I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I don’t want war. The United States and Islam have reached an impasse. The only way out of this stalemate is to reason with another, to hear each other’s grievances, and to work together to mend our civil and religious misunderstandings.

Men and women, who hate the United States as a whole, do so without moral boundaries. Muhammad Atta believed he would strike a righteous blow for Islam against the United States when he piloted a plane into the World Trade Center. Atta must have shown some concern for the Muslims aboard the same plane he was flying. He must have stopped to think about the Muslim working inside the towers that morning. Even after pondering the outcome of his actions on innocent Muslim lives, he continued with his plans. He was destined to make his point, and no one was going to deter him from completing his political agenda. How many Muslim families lost a loved one during the terrible events on September the 11th? I don’t believe one of those Muslim victims woke up that morning and thought “Today I am going to martyr myself by sitting in my office and having a jetliner end my life.” This is the story we don’t hear about. When extremists take justice into their own hands, they are blinded by their single mindedness and lose sight of their intended target. Here in the United States a Muslim runs the same risk of losing his or her life to an extremist attack, as does a Gentile or a Jew. If you live within the borders of the United States and applaud the actions of extremist cells that call themselves warriors of god, you are inviting death on yourself and your family.

It may be hard for others to accept my views on the United States. Why should I support a government that seems bent on causing strife to Muslim countries? I do not support the killing of innocent people, especially if they are Muslim or my countrymen. What I do support is the removal of tyrants and the introduction of the democratic way of life to countries that have been denied its shelter. Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. Any man, who would sanction the use of cyanide and mustard gas against non-combatants, like he did on the town of Halabaja in 1988, does not deserve to remain in power. Speak with Iraqi citizens and with Kurdish refugees, they will tell you the real story about Saddam controlled Iraq. The first four Muslim Caliphates were all founded as democracies. Is it a fantasy to want a democratic government for the Iraqi? Governments around the world know the level of human suffering in Iraq, and they did nothing to prevent the horrors and atrocities that went on under Hussein’s rule. I do not believe Saddam Hussein was a good Muslim or that he governed Iraq as a Muslim state. With the creation of a new democratic Iraqi government, the people will once again have an opportunity to be led by Muslims with a strong base in Islam. I have to support my country because I have lived under its rule and experienced a life of freedom unheard of in some parts of the world. If United States intervention in the Middle East means that Iraqis will have an opportunity to experience life as I have, then yes, I support my government’s decision to give Iraq back to its people.

Currently, the United States is lashing out against its perceived enemies. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans pleaded with their leadership by demanding action be taken for the destruction of the Twin Towers. The government replied by creating a campaign against well-known extremists. If the government had done nothing, extremists around the world would have seen that as a sign of weakness. This would have encouraged those contemplating terror attacks on the United States to implement their plans. The Taliban were targeted because of their close links to extremist groups. They were defeated, and a new Afghani government was instated to help build the country back to its former self. Under the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction, the United States attacked Iraq. We were wrong to use the treat of biological and nuclear weapons as the reason to instigate a war. What the United States should have said from the very beginning is “We are going to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and give the Iraqi people back their right to rule themselves as they see fit.” The campaign in Iraq will soon be over. A new Iraqi government has since been instated. The Iraqi people have a new constitution, economic embargoes have been lifted, and foreign political sanctions against the country have ended. Iraq has a bright, prosperous future to look forward to – a future in which it is led by qualified Muslim leaders who seek peace with the West and peace within its own borders.

The United States government is not perfect, which is why we have laws to aid us in replacing those who abuse their power. As a Muslim, I feel my rights to practice Islam are being compromised by bigotry and prejudice, but it’s not being taken away. This is a far cry from what is currently happening to people in other countries struggling for religious recognition. Take, for instance, the believers of Falun Gong in China. Whereas I may endure hate crimes in the future, Falun Gong believers have to endure imprisonment, the horrors of torture, brain washing, and the inevitable denouncement of their faith to please their government. I consider myself lucky to live in a country where the government does not force me to give up my religion under treat of death. This is why I support my government and why I must show solidarity with my leaders.

I believe American suffers from imperial hubris. The governing body believes it can fix the world’s problems by simply waving money around, dispatching troops, or sweeping unmentionables out of the way. The global community has bred this overseer mentality into the United States for almost a century. How many times in the past has a foreign sovereignty requested aid from the United States to resolve its domestic problems? Let us not forget WWI, WWII, or Kuwait. I doubt the world would be a safer place if the United States decided to close its borders to outside influences and recall their overseas military forces. Remember the countries of the world have been oppressed by European, Middle Eastern, and Asian powers far longer then they have from the United States. The United States is slowly learning how to cooperate with Muslim countries. Eventually the wars will end, and peace will prevail. The more the United States interacts with the Middle East, the more insight it will gain on Islam. With time new laws will be drafted, and new policies will be created to help the two coexist peacefully, Insha’Allah.

I hope the United States is fighting a war against oppression and political extremists, not a war against Islam. There is a distinction between political extremists and every day Muslims, just like there is a difference between Islam and Middle Eastern culture. The United States momentum generated out of fear and ignorance towards Islam must be curbed through the intervention of its citizens. The responsibility of American Muslims is to focus our resources into educating our leaders, politicians, and children. We have to show them the true face of Islam. The only thing I can do to alleviate the suffering of Muslims and United States personnel overseas is by pressing my government to reevaluate its objectives and to bring the war to an end as soon as possible. Regardless of my personal views on the United States government, I am not at liberty to turn my back on her, not when she needs me the most. I am an American Muslim, and I love my country.