Happy Independence Day
Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans!
Today is the day when the British yoke was lifted off one of The Empire’s colonies and America began its journey to becoming the pre-eminent nation among all nations. Today was when the British Empire approached its zenith (Q: Why did the sun never set on the British Empire? A: because even God did not trust the English in the dark).
American started with great principles, the Declaration of Independence listed a host of grievances that forced the oppressed colonists to break away from their distanced King. In 1787, the new nation put together a constitution to provide the framework within which their ideal state wads to operate. Two years later, The Bill of Rights (originally ten articles) was adopted into the constitution, providing for the rights of everyone in the United States. Over time, more articles were added until the last one so far (Article 22), was added in 1992.
Wonderful as the constitution is, the country is not without its controversies and contradictions. A country built on the finest principles of Freedom, could not have grown and thrived, without enslaving millions of people and wiping out nation after nation of its natives. A country proud of its Democratic foundations, is best known for opposing democracy and for supporting tyrants, despots and dictators all over the world with only two exceptions: Japan and Germany.
Today, as most Americans celebrate Independence Day with parties and fireworks, there is an entire section of citizenry who watch, wondering if the same celebrations are meant to include them as well; us Muslims.
Seldom has America gone after its own with the depth of hostility that appears to be reserved for Muslims. The current excuse is that the tragedy of 9-11 in which 19 Muslims got on planes and flew them into three buildings, killing about 3000 people, is what caused the massive response against Muslims. The truth is that the hostility against Muslims has been in place long before 9-11, many US Presidents have been involved in the strangulation of America’s Muslim populace.
The downhill slide of attitudes against Muslims has existed for a long time, but it gathered special momentum since 1972, when President Nixon authorized law enforcement to investigate Arab citizens and immigrants for “terrorist connections”. Carter gave this extra momentum when he started the targeting of Iranians. Reagan created a network of agencies to watch Muslims, it was under his watch, that plans were laid down to intern (Japanese Concentration Camp style) Muslims from a large number of countries, in case of some major event in America. Bill Clinton presided over the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA).
It was under George W. Bush (43) that America launched itself into a full-fledged “War!” against Muslims, both within and outside, the United States. After 9-11, Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act which allows just about anyone to be defined as a terrorist or a sympathizer of terrorism and then be hounded into prison oblivion. Muslims in the military, the FBI and the Secret Service, were forced out of their jobs, simply because they were Muslim. His regime introduced widespread use of torture of Muslims both, by US agents as well as by foreign countries to which Muslim “detainees” were taken (“Extra-ordinary Rendition”). A special prison was created in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under the false pretense that if it was happening outside of the United States, it was not covered by the US constitution and therefore, we could hold people forever, without charges or trials, torture them or even kill them, with complete impunity. More unrecognized prisons (“Ghost Prisons”) were created in different countries of the world, where only US forces had jurisdiction and where Muslims were kept, tortured and killed, as the mood took the holders (military, CIA, Special Forces, FBI etc.,). Within a year after 9-11, Bushes US Attorney-General John Ashcroft, managed to imprison (“detain”) over 14,000 Muslims, all without trials or charges. Bush launched two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, that have so far resulted in over a million Muslims killed, trillions of dollars literally blown away, thousands of American soldiers killed, tens of thousands seriously maimed and probably hundreds of thousands of American soldiers suffering permanent psychological problems.
America not only said nothing, America voted for this man twice! Even though there are many strong cases to be made against George W. Bush and many of his cabinet members, on charges of Crimes Against Humanity, America has a strong tradition of never taking their Presidents to task on serious crime issues, especially when the victims of the crimes are not seen as Americans.
It did not stop there. President Barack Obama was voted in as a leader of Hope and Change for the country. We Muslims felt this was a chance for them to be taken back into the fold of the country as equals; torture would stop, the imprisonments and the overseas prisons would stop, persecutions of Muslims would stop and the insane “War!”s against Iraq and Afghanistan would stop.
This was not to be.
Not only did none of the expected anti-Muslim things stop, they got worse in many cases. Special training against Islam and Muslims was taken to higher levels and more Military, FBI, Police and other security agencies were given special training that Islam and Muslims posed the greatest threat to the US and to the West. the prisons at Guantanamo Bay were not shut down. Torture was banned, but Special Forces were excluded from the ban; Ghost Prisons remain. The insane war against Iraq is coming to a close, but the war in Afghanistan has taken a desperate, higher pitch and the other three undeclared wars (Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan) have become exponentially bloodier.
The tragic fact is that Muslims have been isolated and disenfranchised in America, so much so, that many in the generations growing into adulthood these days are finding it difficult to feel American. This reaction is nothing new, minorities through history, have felt disengaged from America during the periods when they were persecuted; Blacks refused in great numbers, to fight America’s wars during WWI and WWII, preferring to work in factories rather than place their lives on the line for a country that did not accept them as equals.
America is at a very dangerous threshold today.
More and more of its non-Muslim citizenry are being programmed to not seeing Muslims as equals and as Americans; more and more of America’s security agencies are being programmed into believing in the Muslim Threat. On the other hand, more and more Muslim adults are feeling the persecution and hostility of their country and their children are feeling even more vulnerable and isolated because they have no other national reality except for America and yet, America does not accept them. Our Muslim youth need to feel embraced, not suspected, this is a very radicalizing situation from which the nation cannot emerge without serious scars.
I am told by my friends that I should not lash out at the military because that means, I must hate our soldiers. I must not lash out at the FBI because that will create distrust among Muslims, I must not lash out at America and our Presidents because that has to mean that I hate America and if that is so, then why don’t I go back to where I came from and find the Utopia I seek?
Even if I wanted to, leaving this country because I do not accept its current behavior, is an escapist solution that I refuse to take; I would rather die here, fighting for a better America, than leave, cursing a bad America.
Nothing will ever change for Muslims in America unless our majority, non-Muslim brethren lift their arms in solidarity with us and for our civil rights. These folk will never even lift a finger to help us, unless we Muslims get up and lift our arms to take back our civil rights. Only then, will our political leaders and the security heads pay enough attention to us, to recognize our position as equals in this country.
To get to that point of equality, we Muslims have a lot of work to do.
We must encourage our children to work as interns in every possible public office, from politicians to the media. We must encourage our children to join the Police, the FBI, the military, State Department and every other possible place where their presence can help soften the hard stance of those agencies. Our youth, working in such places, will help the nation become a more accepting America, they will help bring in a better understanding of Islam and of Muslims.
We need to vote and vote collectively on issues of our common interests.
We owe this to our children, to our future generations, to America and to Islam itself; in my view, there is no more sacred duty for Muslims, then to encourage the integration of their children into the fabric of America.
Then we can say we are Americans, with pride, without the shame of the humiliation we are made to suffer through or, the pain we feel over the insanity we are perpetrating in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Then we can feel Free and Brave, as we finish singing our anthem with “…the land of the Free and the home of the Brave!”
We Muslims have a lot of work to do before we can expect to see the change we wish to see, but we CAN do it! That is why we can say with hope, “Happy Independence Day”.