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To be American and Muslim (it’s about time)
To be American and Muslim (it’s about time)
There was one part of Colin Powell’s interview that stood out for me (I now see that Ilan was similarly impressed in his post below). Powell, yesterday, was the first politician of his stature to speak publicly, with eloquence and passion, about the tragic turn of this election – that “Muslim” has become a smear. In the process, a whole faith has been denigrated. It is
Monday, October 20,2008 13:26
by Shadi Hamid Democracy Arsenal

 

 There was one part of Colin Powell’s interview that stood out for me (I now see that Ilan was similarly impressed in his post below). Powell, yesterday, was the first politician of his stature to speak publicly, with eloquence and passion, about the tragic turn of this election – that “Muslim” has become a smear. In the process, a whole faith has been denigrated. It is has been a source of confusion and frustration for me that Democrats have failed, for the most part, to speak out on what I think is one of the defining moral questions raised by this campaign season – what it means to be “American.” It is ironic, but perhaps expected, that we had to wait for someone else to make us feel comfortable about doing what we should have been willing to do 12 or 16 months ago.

And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.  Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Over the past two years, we have witnessed a discourse which has consistently demeaned Muslims as less than American. In turn, American Muslims have been in hiding, resorting to our usual mix of self-pity and helplessness. The joke in Muslim circles is that if we really want Obama to win, then we would best off endorsing McCain. No one wants our endorsement. No one wants to meet with our leaders. No politician wants to be seen as Muslim-friendly. We have brought this upon ourselves. If nothing else, this episode has shown us that we have to get more involved politically, that until we speak up, organize, and get our act together, and rid ourselves of our obsessions with our own victimization, not to mention our fixation with Palestine (at the expense of more pertinent issues for America like health care and education), we will be a political joke.

Anyway, Powell did us the service of telling us about a brave, courageous man – Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. I hadn’t heard of him before yesterday. When I heard Powell’s words, I was moved in a way I haven’t been since Obama’s speech on race in March. Powell’s statement was one of those rare acts of moral courage that we so rarely see from our politicians. In March, Obama spoke to what makes America a truly exceptional country. And, yesterday, Powell did the same.

So I read into Karim’s story. I saw this picture. And I had to hold back tears. This picture captures everything America is and everything I hope it still can be.

Yes, there are civil liberties abuses, the Patriot Act, and other infringements on the rights of American Muslims. But I can say without hesitation that there is no better place to be Muslim today than the United States, and that only becomes more clear, the more you spend in supposedly “Muslim” countries where if five Muslim men gather outside a mosque, they can get arrested. This is why when people who I care about tell me they’re happy 9/11 happened to us, I can hold my head up high and say that I love this country, and I see no conflict between my being American and my being Muslim. This is why my parents came to America. This is why my parents just contributed money to a political campaign for the first time in their lives. And this is why I will devote my life to helping America fulfill its promise – to, finally, live up to its lofty ideals, not just with rhetoric but with real policy changes that will give hope for a better life to hundreds of millions around the world who are looking to us for leadership.

 

 


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