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.
But what is patriotism, really? Is it simply loving and supporting your country, as expressed in slogans like "America: love it or leave it"? Or is it something broader?
During the reign of former Presidents George Bush and Donald Trump, it was hard to be considered a patriot if you were a critic. And Muslims, along with the millions of others who opposed their policies and attitudes, had plenty to be critical of. This often led to charges of being "unpatriotic" if, for example, we opposed war on Iraq and Afghanistan, discussed its resulting death toll, or made the "mistake" of criticizing the way America handled itself in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the case of Trump, it became even more extreme: for his supporters, any type of negative comment about American misbehavior, current or historic, was unpatriotic.
While some things have gotten better, we are still struggling as a nation.
There is so much to be done. Freedom and liberty, like Iman, do not stand at one level. One must work on it, otherwise we risk it going down.
American Muslims, a small minority, were able to stop genocide in Bosnia by working together in coalitions. Despite the Muslim Ban and the administration’s Islamophobic rhetoric, Burma Task Force was able to persuade the administration to contribute 1.3 billion US dollars of its tax money in aid for Rohingya refugees, although we remain in the very early stages of influencing policies toward freedom of occupied Palestine.
But where American Muslims need to enhance their effort is in the area of domestic policies. America was a bit nicer towards the homeless when the pandemic began. Homeless were moved to hotels. Americans did more charity in 2020 than the year earlier. But now that is withering away. New York has sent the homeless out of hotels and back to the streets. LA is passing laws to outlaw homeless camping. Meanwhile, 3% of Americans are behind their rent, which is bound to increase homelessness.
30 million struggle to survive without adequate health insurance in America. Hunger and homelessness are the painful legacies of a shattered economy trying to regain strength, especially post-pandemic.
As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100 year anniversary by claiming to have lifted their country of 1.4 billion people out of poverty, the richest country in the world, our country, must answer the question of why we cannot take care of our hungry and the homeless.
As the Supreme Court has essentially abandoned voting rights with its 6-3 decision in the Arizona case, what will happen? The historic 1965 Voting Rights Act took America forward. Now states have already enacted more than 20 laws this year that will make it harder for Americans to vote. If our judiciary cannot protect the voting rights, who else will?
America is facing the challenge of its lifetime. Democracy and freedom are at stake as poor are becoming poorer.
While the Muslim Ban has been lifted, the extremist rhetoric from rightwing media is intensifying. Rightwing TV personality Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, on his show on the 24th of June, raged that the US could “become Rwanda.” He knows very well that a genocide took place in Rwanda where Christian Hutu slaughtered almost a million Christian Tutsi. Another hard-right news host suggested tens of thousands of Americans should be executed.
With rightwing extremism raging and citizens buying guns in record numbers, othering is at an all time high.
It is becoming more and more difficult to be a middle path patriot. However, this is where the test of our patriotism lies. Proving to ourselves that we are a part of the ummah of the middle path.
Where do Muslims fit on this issue? Many of us have chosen to remain silent, maybe even complacent. Some feel that with President Joe Biden 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 one 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.
Enjoining good and forbidding wrong is the prime duty of a Muslim. And that is what America needs today.
This is being Muslim. That is being a good neighbor. And this is being a patriotic American.
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?