Assess your patriotism this fourth of July

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?

The definition of patriotism in America is being redefined as we speak. While many Americans still feel that patriotism means serving the country and supporting it through thick and thin, right or wrong, many others differ.

Americans, particularly those on the left of the political spectrum argue that patriotism means caring enough about the country they love to criticize and question its leaders when it is taking the wrong course. This is why many activists have explained their opposition to the war on Iraq and their support for civil liberties at home as patriotic. Other Americans differ and still feel that criticizing US President George W. Bush, his policies or our troops in Iraq is unpatriotic.

Where do Muslims fit in this debate? Many of us have chosen to remain silent. Many others, however, have adopted the first definition of patriotism. This has meant support for the American bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, the war on Iraq and various other actions that have cost the United States its moral high ground as well as its soldiers.

In our zeal to dissociate ourselves from the terrorists behind 9/11, we have become pathetic apologists for injustice at home and abroad. We have not been honest to our fellow Americans or to ourselves. And this is why our patriotism rings hollow.

True patriotism on the part of Muslims in this country will only come when we have the strength, honesty and courage to speak the truth for the sake of America and fellow Muslims. 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.

It is not enough for us to appreciate the honor given to Muslims like Pak-American Salman Hamdani who died rescuing people in the World Trade Center, and who is mentioned in the preamble of the PATRIOT Act. As true patriots, we must also question this Act that was passed by most members of Congress without most of them even reading it.

Let us not shy away from criticizing American foreign policy. Let us join our 80 million compatriots who voiced their opposition to the war on Iraq. Let us also share the good about America with our co-religionists in the Muslim world, many of who see America only through the prism of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

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? Which patriotism can we espouse and be accountable for when we meet our Maker? Which patriotism will heal the wounds of America and the world as we witness torture, beheadings, murder, and worse?

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