At the risk of simplification, the American Muslim agenda can be summarized under a few key words: fairness, freedom, justice, and opportunities. Political action is the most cogent way to advance this agenda.
Political action is not what only the politicians do. Any individual or organized action that seeks to influence public policy and public discourse about public policy is political action, be it in the neighborhood, media, education, or politics.
Through political action, American Muslims can influence policy changes and make themselves rightful candidates for significant positions in the government. For example, they can get state funding for private (Islamic) schooling of their children and they can send American Muslim ambassadors to the Muslim countries.
Yet, unfortunately, Muslims are perhaps the most politically inactive minority in America. Very few Muslims have chosen the politically weighty professions in the media and the humanities and social sciences. Very few Muslims register as voters, fewer go to vote, and fewer still seek candidacy in elections--local or national.
As a result, they have almost no representation in the key decision-making positions of the federal agencies or the state governments. As result, fairness is compromised when it comes to issues concerning Muslims and they are caught up in a vicious cycle of disadvantages that combine to deny them fairness, freedom, justice and many other opportunities.
More unfortunately, many Muslims still live in a psychic prison from which they cannot see the stern realities of life in America. Like the dwellers of Plato's cave, they cannot see that trusting Allah doesn't have to be at the price of political action. Ironically, they pay taxes and obey laws. But they cannot see that they can at least try to change the agency or system that makes those rules.
Muslims should enjoin what is good and forbid what is bad. And in this land of democracy and free speech, it is political action that is instrumental in achieving that. It is political action through which Muslims must stop or, in the least, discourage the wrongdoing. In this moment and place in history, there's no alternative to political action.
The reality is that in this country very few people go to vote in elections, be they for university student senate or the U.S. Senate. Years ago at Ohio University, voting by 48 Muslim students helped a Muslim student panel, which included a few non-Muslim students, win the elections in which 5,000 students were supposed to participate. In a recent city council election in Los Angeles, only 17 percent of the registered voters turned out to vote. Imagine how Muslims could have influenced the outcome of the election if they voted as a block.
Even if they cannot put forth their own candidates for now, they should collectively bargain and vote for candidates who will hear their concerns and will be willing to work for them in response to their support. Muslims of Michigan have already set an example in this regard.
Let American Muslims engage in organized political action to advance their agenda: fairness in law enactment and enforcement, freedom, justice and opportunities for themselves and others. Let American Muslims engage in politically meaningful scholarship and professions. And let them rally behind politically active organizations of their choosing, register to vote and play active roles in voting processes.
Mohammad A. Auwal is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and is a regular columnist for iviews.com
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