In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
We, as proud Americans, hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In fact, for American Muslims the tenets of this excerpt of the Declaration of Independence are easy for us to profess and uphold, for they are the very principles that our religion of Islam teaches us.
You may have already heard and know that Islam, like other religions of the world, is a religion of peace. We can see a glimpse of what peace means by looking at the stories and messages that have been transmitted over centuries related to our responsibilities to our neighbors.
In the beginning of the 7th Century AD, Prophet Muhammad taught his companions: "By the One in whose Hands is my soul, no slave of God has true faith unless...he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself." This sounds a lot like Matthew 22:39: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is a principle that all Americans can and should strive to achieve.
Other traditions along the same lines include: Prophet Muhammad said, "He who spends the night satiated while knowing that his next door neighbor is hungry does not truly believe in me." One of the Muhammad's companion instructed the distribution of meat. He said, "When you skin it, begin [distributing it] by going to our Jewish neighbor." Prophet Muhammad's wife asked him, "I have two neighbors, to which of them should I offer a gift?" He replied, "To the one whose door is nearer to you."
Unfortunately, there are evil people in the world who claim to be religious but have forgotten these principles. They are bent upon creating a stark, black and white world in which chaos and terrorism replace the norms of life.
As Americans...as Muslim Americans...we denounce their call for chaos. We denounce terrorism in all its form, even if it appears to have an Islamic face, for we know and understand that Muslims overseas have borne the onslaught of the terrorists and have been the first to fight back. We stand in support of their sacrifices and pray for peace.
Now it goes with saying that there are some, although they are a vocal minority, who have jumped upon the bandwagon of hate against immigrants, refugees, Muslims, against many of the people who are coming to or are born in this land of freedom and opportunity to escape violence and hunger. It appears that there are as many bullies in the U.S. as there are overseas.
Fortunately, there are leaders across the political spectrum who have spoken out in support of their less fortunate citizens, including religious minorities, immigrants, and refugees. They have visited with their constituents of all backgrounds to hear their concerns against discrimination and Islamophobia. Some have visited houses of worship, including mosques, and have been witnesses to our hopefulness, patriotism, and civic contributions.
We are here as Americans to say that we can balance compassion with security. We can build a melting pot of the best and brightest the world has to offer.
Our job is to:
1. PARTICIPATE in the political process, to register and vote, to attend our school boards, to meet our local representatives, and to volunteer for committees.
2. ADVOCATE for our case in the electronic, print, and mass media, to write op-ed pieces and work with like-minded advocacy and interfaith groups.
3. DEVELOP more lawyers, journalists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and politicians.
4. DEMAND more of our government representatives so that they stand in support of law-abiding citizens and law-abiding Muslim Americans via their bully pulpits. If they are unable to do so, then we can and will find better options who are able to listen to reason and moderation.
Lastly, our job is to meet with our co-workers and neighbors and our children's parents. Let us be shining examples for our fellow Americans to be proud of, just as we are proud to be Americans.