American Muslims are preparing to fight a difficult war against two enemies.
15,000 Muslim soldiers of the US military will participate in hunting down and punishing the criminals who attacked the United States on September 11. As they fight to protect humanity, American Muslims will also be fighting a rising tide of hate crime in the US.
Islamic Centers, various Islamic organizations, Islamic Schools and Islamic websites throughout the country have received an overwhelming response of support and solidarity in fighting bigotry. Still there is a small segment of the population that is rapidly developing a perception that Muslims are crazy terrorists or bear the guilt of this crime through association. As we have seen in the recent tragedy, it only takes one or a just a few to rip the fabric of society.
The irony is not a new one. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans and Latin Americans served the United States in numerous wars. Many of them lost their lives and performed acts of heroism ; but still several of these heroes were outcasts in the very country they loved and fought to defend because of their ethnicity. Will American Muslims, the newest sizeable minority, face a double whammy of being unfairly targeted not only because of their diverse ethnic backgrounds but also because of their faith?
We must face up to the challenge of defeating not just the criminals of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon but also the domestic terrorists who are using September 11 as an opportunity to vilify the Muslim community.
The first problem - defeating international terrorism - will be dealt with by the heroism and bravery of all Americans, including thousands of Muslims who are in the military.
Facing down the unfair backlash against Muslims in America may be complicated. Domestic, racist-powered terror can be a more shadowy enemy than the terrorists who may be hiding in the woods of the heartland or any corner of the world. This form of xenophobic-inspired terrorism is rooted deep in the hearts of people - too many people - whose expressions of hate surface in opportune moments.
What role can we play in this crises? First, we must increase our aid to the victims (click here to donate) of terrorism and their families. It is heartening to see hundreds of Muslim doctors rushing to New York and Washington to help with the relief effort. Their efforts must be complemented by blood donation drives and the reconstruction of downtown Manhattan. The American Muslim community has a large number of highly skilled architects and engineers that can provide a significant contribution. Few people know that the tallest building in the US, Sears Tower in Chicago, was designed by the late Fazal-ur Rahman, a renowned Muslim architect.
Second, we must actively fight against anti-Muslim bigotry using all legal means, including the prosecution of xenophobes and bigots who are fanning the flames of hate - these include supremacist groups, pro-Israel extremists and certain journalists who are using this opportunity to mangle the image of Islam.
We must also push for the introduction of laws that stop the media, specially national television networks, from false reporting and speculation. The media's job is to report facts. Some media organizations have fallen into a web of insensitive subjectivity and amateur speculation that is leading to finger pointing against Muslims.
Airlines must also be sent a clear message: we all understand the need for increased security. However, attempts of unfair treatment toward Muslims or people of Middle Eastern / Asian descent should not be tolerated. On Sep 17, Delta Airlines deplaned a Muslim because the pilot said: "I'm not going to take you...myself and my crew are not safe flying with you. (LA Times, Sep 20)" There is no excuse for such paranoia. Muslims must respond to this and all similar incidents with an immediate boycott and legal action against the carrier and its representatives who sanctioned such reprehensible acts.
Muslims must recognize that fighting for America means fighting for our civil rights: Muslims must not be apologetic for crimes they did not commit. We must stress that should anti-Muslim bigotry spread, terrorism will have triumphed in trampling the founding pillars of America: democracy and the rule of law. Should this happen, God forbid, America will no longer be 'One nation under God with liberty and justice for all.' Through all the death and destruction, a historic moment arises in the realization that the well-being of American Muslims is now symbolic of American righteousness. We will win the war against terrorist violence, but will we be able to win the war of protecting life.
American Muslims, like their country, are at a crossroads. Should Muslims allow fear to paralyze their community, we will drown under a tidal wave of racist hate - and America will never be the country it was meant to be. To defeat international terrorism and domestic anti-Muslim bigotry, Muslims must stand with complete faith in God, stress their pride in Islam and their love to establish justice and peace for all.
Let me explain the reason:
Americans have ONLY negative images of Arabs & their culture. Nightly on our news, we hear of faraway bombings and turmoil brewing in the Middle East -- this vague place near Europe where the fighting never ceases. We look across the ocean and see Arabic people mistreating their women and living in complete squalor while chanting "Death to America, Death to Jews!".
We do not understand Arabic religion, culture, or language. And we have no reason to. Why would we want to hear more of the cruel mistreatment of women or the deplorable conditions in which many live? It is depressing and we cannot save the world. We have enough troubles of our own.
If Arabic people want to avoid future backlashes, they must be understood as a people. This understanding comes when Arabs share their goodness with the world. It's simply PR -- public relations. Americans will want to understand you if they can relate to a personna who brings them laughter and goodness. The world needs to see Arabic people shining...in a good light. We need to see your singers, poets, actors, philosophers, and artists. Bring a smile and a laugh to the world's face and you will also bring understanding.
The perpetrators of the crime must pay full price regardless of whoever they are and wherever they are.
Keep up the good work.