Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why We as Muslims MUST Get Involved Now!

Now more than ever, American Muslims are struggling to make their presence felt and their voices heard in this great and diverse nation. In order to make a positive impact on society, participation in the political and civic life of American society is essential. Of course, we as a community have made amazing headway as far as getting our foot in the door of American politics (the recent election of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota for instance). But we can definitely do more. I’m not talking about the Muslim community fielding a long-shot candidate for U.S. President or something of that nature. The average, rank-and-file Muslim simply needs to get involved and get out there and vote.

In the 2006 film All the King’s Men, Sean Penn’s character verbally assails an audience with the refrain, “If you don’t vote, you don’t matter.!” The time has come for someone to grab a bullhorn, head down to the local mosque, and do the same. Granted, many Muslims are Green Card holders and are not yet citizens. However, this group is still the minority of American Muslims. Most of us are full-fledged citizens, which gives us the same rights and privileges as anyone else!

Many immigrant Muslims are scared to participate in the political process, scared to “make waves” in their adopted countries. The fact of the matter is, that political participation is essential to our very survival as a community. Like Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something, you may fall for anything.” Muslims as a whole must pull themselves out of the intellectual ghettos that many of us find ourselves existing in. A narrow world-view was never condoned by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or the Koran and benefits no one! As new generations of young Muslims are born and raised here in the US and are attending public schools with their non-Muslim brothers and sisters, it is vital for us to ensure that Islamic values are not wiped off the slate of their hearts and minds. What better way to do this than by getting active in American political life?

As politicians at all levels of government began to see the American Muslim community as a vital and valuable constituency, they will also began to be more sensitive to the needs of that constituency. Politics is a two-way street and the Democratic system of representation puts the power in the hands of the people. Want to have basic lessons on Islam mandated in our public schools? Want the chance to offer young Muslims the possibility of Halal lunches as part of their daily public school routine? In communities that have significant populations of Muslims, these things are not out of the realm of possibility (just look at the Dearborn, Michigan school district, for example).

As the visibility and acceptance of our community grows, so should our participation in politics and civic life. American Muslims come in all colors, speak numerous different languages, and come from every possible socio-economic level imaginable. Our extremely diverse community IS a microcosm of America. It is a sad state of affairs that less than half of the population of the United States chooses to exercise their right to vote. But this should be no excuse for Muslims. We can and should rise above the norm and allow ourselves and our civic activities to serve as examples to the rest of the country. Muslims are already breaking down barriers and opening the lines of communication, establishing dialogue with politicians and other communities to help to foster inter-faith tolerance and understanding. This precedent of success should serve as a morale booster for American Muslims. FDR said that, “The only thing to fear is fear itself!” At this point in history, that has never rung truer.


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