Over the last few weeks American Muslims have been in the news a lot. It started with controversy over the TV show All American Muslim. Then it continued after Muslims boycotted Lowe’s hardware stores for pulling ads during the show due to outside pressure. Not long after Muslim community leaders in New York boycotted Mayor Bloomberg’s dinner invitation. They said he was allowing the NYPD to harass and spy on Muslims who are good citizens.
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So what does this all mean? Where is all of this headed? Nida Khan wrote a powerful piece for the Huffington Post about how unrealistic many American Muslims have been about racism and xenophobia in the U.S.A.:
In post-9/11 America, many have sadly grown accustomed and tolerant to routine practices of racial profiling, bias and even attacks against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. But in addition to blatant violence, workplace discrimination and subliminal acts of racism, Muslims have also become aware of another nuance that other Americans may not even realize exists — hesitation to give to charity. Because of fear that any charitable Muslim organization or mosque could suddenly be called out for links to a lone extremist faction (whether it’s justified or not), many pulled their money and cut back on donations to the extent that long-established charities found it virtually impossible to survive. Usually without any valid reason, many stopped supporting Muslim aide groups for the simple notion that anyone, anywhere could at any moment single out that organization and in turn put all those who gave money out of goodwill at risk for associating with them. The victims in all this? The impoverished and destitute in many “third world” countries.
Later Khan speaks to the short term memory loss many Americans have when it comes to fear of “outsiders”:
Throughout modern history, we’ve had other instances of outrageous fear mongering, bias and injustice against those whose patriotism we questioned. Though it is rarely covered in classrooms, the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese and those of Japanese ancestry during WWII is a perfect example. Literally rounded up and “excluded” from living in the cities and towns they resided in, these “suspicious” individuals were interned in camps because their allegiance to the country “could not be determined.”
About six months after 9/11 I was harassed at Dulles Airport by TSA for having an African name. There was no other explanation. The guy was trying to make me miss my flight. Things got intense. I had to kindly remind him that Harvard Hip-Hop Archive bought my ticket. I told him that unless he thought Harvard was harboring Al-Qaida he needed to let me go. He did.
But that is just one of many things I have experienced since 9/11. Some of it was within the African American community. Some of it came from within my family (I’m a convert). There are many other Muslims I know with stories far worse than mine. What many American non-Muslims don’t understand is that most Muslims came here for a better life. The came here because the oppressive Muslim regime they were under was failing their aspirations. Just like the Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Hindus, atheists and other faiths- they came here to be at peace. American converts used our freedom of religion to claim a new faith for themselves. They do to hate the country they were born in. The insane act of a minority should not define the rest of the Muslims here in America.
I don’t base my understandings of Christianity on the KKK. If I did, how far would that get me?
What can an American Muslim do today to prove they are not haters of America? What is proof of patriotism for any race or faith? How do we collectively come to accept the differences we have in the American melting pot?
Ultimately, being American means that we agree to let others who live differently- live peacefully. It means we respect the right of “the other” to be different. I used to live on a block where a Hindu family, a White Christian super patriotic rocker family and an Asian family of unknown faith lived peacefully (supportive and respectful of one another). That’s being truly American. We don’t have to pray the same way for me to give you respect. We may not agree, but I will always honor your right to live as you like. That is the American that I am. I’m at peace with myself, with my country and willing to let the next man or woman pray, or not pray as they please. The question is- what kind of American are you?
Read her full article in the Huffington Post.