We shall be a Nation to be reckoned with (We, the American Muslims).

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Waheed Ahmed,

Good piece indeed. Insha Allah, I will be sharing this at www.WorldMuslimCongress.comand WorldMuslimcongress@yahoogroups.com

To say it bluntly, we have lost our priorities. In the City of Carrollton, I was holding an election debate between candidates, one was a tea party candidate and all of us had decided to work against him from getting into the system. He even opposed my Pluralism prayers but thank God the Mayor had me do it at inauguration.  I asked the Muslims to take part in the debate– they had other priorities – “Dars-e-Quran” at the Masjid. When our tails are being cut off, that is not a priority. Safety first then other things. They could have done the dars any time. I have been a significant participant with the 9/11 Mosque and other issues – none of this should have happened, if we put our priorities first.  You may like this – Are Muslims a part of the American Story?
We shall be a Nation to be reckoned with:
(We, the American Muslims)
Waheeduddin Ahmed Ph.D.
There are fifty million Muslim ex-patriots living in the West out of a total number of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide; the estimated number living in the U.S.A. is about 2.6 million (2010 Pew Report). Like most minority expatriates, the American Muslims have been strongly religion-oriented and are given to the concept of ummah, identifying themselves with the world community of Muslims, sharing their problems, their trials and tribulations and rendering material help to them at times of crises. In doing so, they have more often than not, ignored their own security concerns and their socio-political needs.

We, the Muslims of America are citizens of a country, which is looked upon by a majority in the Muslim World as a superpower imperialist bully whose foremost enemy since the demise of communism is Islam. Like the early Christians in Emperor Nero’s Rome, the Muslims of America feel as if they have been placed in a lions’ den. Despite this colossal disadvantage, they had been establishing masjids, schools and other institutions and inviting non-Muslims to Islam, achieving a remarkable degree of success. However, come September 11, 2001 everything changed. This date was comparable in the history of America to December 7, 1941, the day on which the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. That day, as Franklin D. Roosevelt described, was to live in infamy in the annals of history. September eleven, on the other hand, was not only infamous but ushered in a new era. “History begins now” declared the Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration: Richard Armitage to the visiting Pakistani general, Mahmud Ahmed. Indeed, the Muslims of America have been living ever since in the new American history as its internal focal point.

Nine-Eleven was a saga of nineteen men and four jet airliners. Fifteen of them came from Saudi Arabia, two from the U.A.E, one from Lebanon and one from Egypt on visitor’s visas. They had their own reasons and their own vendettas and had nothing in common with us. The infamous logic of G.W. Bush and his Neo-Cons made the wrath fall on Iraq and on Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands were killed in misdirected revenge but the biggest casualty of this asymmetric war was the peace and tranquility of the American Muslims. The commonality of religion had rendered us perpetrators rather than victims. Since then we have done a very poor job in severing any perceived association with terror and deadjectivising the phrase “Islamic terrorism”. We have been whispering rather than voicing that terror is neither Islamic, nor Christian nor Jewish but simply political. The media has been harping about jihad and the jihadis but we, our scholars and our leaders have gone mute. The enemy has been defining jihad, a term which, for all practical purposes is anachronistic much like the “holy war” of the Vatican.
Instead of fighting furiously to disown and disavow the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack, we have put our imagination in full gear to compose conspiracy theories.

We have eagerly owned and embraced speculative stories like “controlled demolition”, “finding thermite (demolition explosive) in the debris”; “Jews did it to implicate Muslims”; “the Arabs are too incompetent to conceive and execute such a clever scheme” so on and so forth! Little did it matter that conspiracy theories, even if proven correct, were poor substitutes for rational arguments. Alas! deferring action till eternity is a familiar element in the Muslim psyche.

Terrorism is defined as “violence or the threat of violence especially bombing, kidnapping and assassination, carried out for political purposes” (Miriam Webster’s Dictionary). It has another connotation: the acts of the weak to hit back at the strong who have the military means. In the global political arena, where America has a historically unmatched military capability and acts at will to safeguard what it considers to be its interests, there will always be terrorist acts as a reaction. The Muslim World today is at its historically weakest and the most chaotic. This is where the action is and will remain for quite some time. As the drones buzz overhead and the missiles hit, some terrorists perish and some civilians die with them. To the administrations, the ratio between the two kinds of death justifies the drones, the wonder weapon which has put the nuclear weapons to shame. Nevertheless, more terrorists are born each day, smarter weapons go into production and the essential dynamics of military equilibrium continues.

The phenomena of “suicide bombing” and “suicide vests” were introduced first by the Tamil Tigers (Eelam) in their guerilla war against the government of Sri Lanka in the Nineteen-Seventies. These attacks were highly motivated and targeted high profile politicians. They assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India in 1991, President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka in 1993 and attempted but failed to assassinate President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The Tamil Tigers were Hindus fighting against the Buddhist rulers of their country. However nobody made a fuss about religion. Subsequently, in Lebanon Hezbollah as well as Amal and even the communists adopted the tactics. Then the Palestinians took up the bombs and the suicide vests targeting the Israeli population as they considered each Israeli civilian to be a potential soldier. The Chechens were not far behind. So far this tactics could be seen in the perspective of secular political struggle but as it arrived in Afghanistan/Pakistan it put on a religious face. The mullas coming out of the madrasas in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan began to wrap explosive belts around the vests of their teenage students, sanctifying suicides with promises of jannah in the Hereafter thus re-enacting the history of Hasan -i-Sabba of Alamut, the Hashasheen and their Firdaus-e-Iblis. Worshippers in masjids and funeral processions began to be bombed in competitive entry exams to the fake jannah of the Iblis. As a result the term “Islamic Terrorism” stuck to the tongue and danced on the lips of all politicians and media personnel.

As long as Islamic Terrorism remains in the limelight, we the Muslims of America will be on the defensive. We find ourselves in the most dangerous spot on earth. What are we to do? We have no influence on either side. America is where we live. Our children have known no other country. Their patriotism is in a unique state of suspension as a result of how we have trained their minds. Should they identify with their peers and colleagues in schools and work places or should they look away from home towards the chaotic slums and suburbs of Aleppo, Cairo and Karachi? We have to think about this seriously. How will the identity of the subsequent generations of Muslims in America be defined?

I suggest that we exercise a controlled dissociation from the politics of the Old World. If we look selectively at two regions: the Arab World and Pakistan, my plea to you will be strengthened. The Arab people in the Old World have been habitually self-destructive since the end of the Ottoman Empire. They are so used to bondage that freedom, when it comes, becomes suffocating to them. The Arab Spring came and went. Egypt discovered that it was more at home with Pharos and Sisis than with democracies. Assad will continue and Qadhafi’s absence will soon be filled with another Qadhafi like creature. Palestine will plod along; Netanyahu and the like are not likely to have a change of heart; hence no freedom. As for Pakistan, it has spun a web of corruption around its existence such that there is no escape in sight. Within its shell there is a macabre dance of death and destruction. It is a country with 185 million people, the sixth most populous in the world, where there is no sense of nationhood, which doesn’t care about its sovereignty, doesn’t carry any respect among nations and has always lived on foreign hand out.

This is not a pretty picture but this should give us an incentive to develop our own identity. We have a duty to our children and our grand children, whose future we cannot leave in a limbo. Their commitments and preferences need to be unambiguous and their future must be secure in the country of their birth. We must not become a source of conflict in their interests. The first thing we must do immediately is to avoid deep sentimentality about the politics of the Old World, which may unintentionally inflict our children’s native loyalties. This does not mean that we become completely detached and silent and tell lies. We speak the truth and criticize our government on its domestic and foreign policies but we always keep our group interests in mind. For this, we need to develop leadership, which is clever, thoughtful and wise.

Most Muslims in America are prosperous and educated in contrast with Muslims in West European countries. Most of our children are college educated. We need to inculcate a sense of civic responsibility in them and at the same time mold their morality according to our traditional values. In turn, the society at large will not remain unaffected.

We are a community in Diaspora. Historically such communities have tremendous potential and outstanding performance. The Jews are a case in point. All their intellectual activities, from the writing of Torah and Talmud to the discoveries in physics and medicine have come in exile in “foreign” lands under conditions of great adversity. Even today, the Jews in the Diaspora are more productive than those in the “promised land”.

 Jews have won 23% of all the Nobel prizes awarded, although they constitute less than 0.2% of the world’s population, whereas Muslims, who constitute 23.4% of the world’s population, have won only two in sciences. What is significant is that both the Nobel Laureates: Abdus Salam in physics and Ahmed Zewail in chemistry were ex-patriots, Abdus Salam, a Pakistani, working in the Imperial College London and Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian working in California Tech. Interestingly, even the Indian Nobel laureates in sciences: C.V. Raman (physics), Hargobind Khorana (chemistry), Subramanyan Chandrasekhar (physics) and Venkataraman Ramakrishnan (chemistry), were all  expatriates working in the U.K. and the U.S.A. except for C.V. Raman This illustrates my point. Our children have great potential and great future provided that we free them from the shackles of the Old World politics. Emulate the Jews and let our children concentrate on creative activities rather than ponder over destructive ideologies and dogmas. Our children should do better than the Jews because their focus would not be on far away Mount Zion and they would not have split patriotism. We shall be a nation in-sha-Allah to be reckoned with.



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