Muslims and American Politics: Creating Unity from the Inside Out 3

We should form our politics by looking inside our community and bringing our values outward. Instead, we form our political goals and values by looking to the outside to develop our inside, core values. There are a few matters that are very important that I can hardly imagine any American Muslim, even the conserva¬tive element, being against.
American Muslims’ primary issue should be a push for greater understanding of Islam and Muslims among Americans. American Muslims should concentrate practically all their efforts on educating their fellow Americans. We should see our Congressional representatives and tell them how many Muslims live in the country and in their state. We should give presenta¬tions on Islam in our children’s schools. We should be active in community organizations and make ourselves available to speak as Muslims. We need to hold open houses at our mosques. We need to show Americans that we are here, and that we are not terrorists but good Americans. Specifically, the two Muslim holi¬days, Eid al-Udha and Eid al-Fitr should be recognized as holi-days, at least at the local government level. Since 1997, the New York City Board of Education has recognized the right of Muslim students to celebrate the two holidays as legal holidays in the public schools.
The second objective is similar: U.S. adoption of friendlier, more understanding and tolerant diplomacy with Islamic coun¬tries and a real effort by policymakers to learn more about Islam. We know that a tremendous information gap regarding Islam exists among U.S. policymakers. Dr. Gasser Hathout, chairman of MPAC and prominent American Muslim, writes, “[F]ormer Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has stated that more under¬standing and engagement took place with the Soviet Union during the Cold War than with leaders of Islamic movements today.”
More American Muslims are frustrated by the suffering of Kashmiri Muslims at the hands of the Indian government, despotically occupying Kashmir’s land in violation of U.N. guide¬lines, than by anything else. It would be rare to find an Islamic center that has not posted information on how to help Muslims who are victimized in Kashmir and other areas of conflict like Kosovo and Chechnya.
Accurately, Muslims see a double standard in American for¬eign policy. The United States vigorously defeats Iraq in Desert Storm as mandated by U.N. resolutions and, at the same time, ignores equally important U.N. resolutions on Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmir. The United States finally assists Muslims (the Kuwaitis), but only when a Muslim was the aggres¬sor. In the other cases where Muslims are victims, American Muslims have concluded that the United States does not act strongly. Muslims believe the inaction is based on a belief in what is called the Islamic Threat, perceived to be, after the fall of Communism, the largest threat to democracy. Muslims see themselves as victimized and misunderstood in the world. The world strains itself to empathize with the Israelis, the Indians, nearly everyone except Muslims.
Muslims tend to look to U.S.-Israel politics as a barometer or yardstick of their own political virility. Naturally, Muslims are often frustrated. While the majority of American Muslims readily accept Israel’s existence and sovereighty as a nation, many wish for a prominence in society similar to that of American Jews. Muslims have a desire for parity. American Muslims also want some empathy for the situation of some world Muslims, espe¬cially Palestinians. For example, American Muslims would love it if some important politician would say, “It hasn’t been easy for the Palestinians either, after all.” Hillary Clinton once, before she changed her views, tried to express support for an eventual Palestinian homeland. As if to scare off Palestinian supporters from speaking their mind, Hillary was instantly pummeled by media and political analysts, saying that she should keep her opinions to herself. Would we have had the same reaction if she had said the opposite? I don’t think American Muslims want to take anything away from Israel, but they would like to see Muslims treated better in the world and they would like to be proud that the United States led the way.
Third, American Muslims should stand for open immigra¬tion policies. A sizable number of American Muslims are here because of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s immigration reform, ending country quotas favoring European emigres and beginning a great wave of immigration from Islamic countries.
Fourth, American Muslims should condemn discrimination against Muslims in any form: vandalism of Islamic centers or a Muslim family’s home to job discrimination directed against a Muslim woman based on her wearing hijab.
I know that practically all American Muslims would agree to at least these objectives. Other Muslims may have more sugges¬tions, but this is a framework for us to build upon. I believe inter¬nal analysis is the key for us to succeed politically. When we take these four objectives to the Republican or Democratic convention and tell each group, “We will join whoever agrees with us,” we can safely deliver a large number of Muslim votes, based on what we as a community feel is important, not what American culture has deemed worthy of debate.

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