Are you a patriotic American? As a Muslim in America, an American-Muslim or Muslim-American (however you define yourself), your patriotism has probably been suspect for quite a while, particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But what is patriotism, really? Is it simply loving and supporting your country, better expressed in slogans like "America: love it or leave it"? Or is it something broader?
During the reign of President George Bush, it was harder to be considered a patriot if you were a critic. And Muslims, along with millions of others who opposed his policies, had plenty to be critical of. This often led to charges of being "unpatriotic" if, for example, we opposed war on Iraq, discussed its resulting death toll or made the "mistake" of criticizing the way America handled itself in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
While some things have gotten better in the last few years, we are still struggling as a nation.
But there is still much to be done. America is still struggling to deal with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Palestinians continue to suffer, particularly in Gaza, and peace in that part of the world remains elusive. Within the United States, over 40 million struggle to survive without adequate health care; hunger and homelessness are the painful legacies of a shattered economy trying to regain strength.
Where do Muslims fit in this debate? Many of us have chosen to remain silent, maybe we have even become complacent. Some feel that with President Obama at the helm, we can rest easy. But that is not patriotism. If we truly love this country and the American people, and if it is valuable to us not only for its material comforts but also for its great ideals, then we must become true patriots.
That means becoming part of the solution to our nation's struggles. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said "the Muslim who meets with people and endures any harm they may do is better than he who does not mix with them and does not endure any harm they may do" (Tirmidhi). Working on solutions together, for the benefit of all Americans and the world, is our duty as true American Muslim patriots.
This Fourth of July we must assess our patriotism and ask ourselves: what kind of commitment to America will benefit our children, our compatriots, the world, and us? What kind of patriotism will help us pay our dues to the wonderful nation we live in? Finally, and most importantly, what kind of patriotism would make our Maker proud?