What it really means to be American…

The other day I read “The Crescent Directive: An essay on improving the image of Islam in America.”  It got my brain stirring a while because of course it’s a topic that’s deeply personal to me as a Muslim-American.  In his Essay, Khurram Dara talked about many things that we “should be doing” to improve the image of Islam in America.  This involved things such as adopting holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July etc.  Now I have been celebrating these holidays since a very young age, I had a very “American” childhood.  I however do not participate in some of these holidays anymore for reasons I do not need to elaborate on in this post.  I disagreed with Dara’s argument in many ways – on Muslims needing to change our culture and be forgiving of racial profiling and other lovely benefits that come with being Muslim in America – and here’s why.  When it comes down to it, I have a very different idea of what American values are.

As an American, I have the right to:

1) Do whatever the hell I want – within reason, of course 😉

There’s nothing more American than this.  We Americans pride ourselves in our freedom to do whatever the hell we want.  If we want to open up a business that sells jellyfish art, we’ll do it!  If we want to believe the sun revolves around the Earth, we’ll believe it!  Stopping a person from doing whatever the hell they want is very anti-American indeed.  We’ll even give you a hard time if you try to stop us from *cough* spreading democracy *cough* in whatever the hell nation we want, especially if it’s an Arab one.

2) Practice whatever religion tickles my fancy

Damn straight.  If I wanna worship a spider-god (audhubillah – I seek refuge in God), I will.  If I wanna take on Jediism as a religion, you better not stop me from that.  In a country where people are free to worship the weirdest religions you can imagine, I sure as hell better be able to practice a religion that 1.5 billion others share in!

3) Stand up and organize when people try to take away the very rights our constitution guarantees

When people “forget” to give us the rights that we are guaranteed as Americans, we have the right to organize and stand up for their wrong actions!  When congress passes a law that is unconstitutional, it is our DUTY to stand up and protest it.  And when a belligerent man harasses you because of your religion, in no way, means or how should you blame this on yourself, other people who claim to be of your religion or excuse him in any way!!

To finish off, I’d like to say that Dara did bring up some very good points in his essay about being welcoming to our neighbors and serving our community.  No one can disagree with these of course as it is our Islamic obligation to do these things.  While his ideas are definitely a new perspective, which it is great to have to get discussion going in our community, I believe that it is much too simple.  The subject matter – of Islam’s image in America – is so complex that a simple formula will not be effective in solving this issue.  It is also important to point out that America’s view of Islam is not unique or original and it did not start with 9/11.  In fact, it is nothing more than centuries old European Orientalism imported and made our own.  Yes, the kind of Orientalism that allowed Europeans to see Muslims and Africans as less than human and justify colonialism.  Nuff said right there.

Now, if we really wanna think about improving Islam’s image in America, we’re gonna have to dig deep into our history and not simply put a bandage on a wound that is much larger than it may seem on the outside.

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