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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Are Muslims a part of the American story?

Are Muslims a part of the American story?
By: Mike Ghouse

Indeed, we are not connected enough with the mainstream society for a vast majority of Americans to stand up for us, empathize with us, or even understand the truth about us that we are no different than them in our endeavors and aspirations of life. We must however express our gratitude to the millions of Americans who have stood up for us, compelled by their sense of justness and fair play.

Professor Sherman Jackson observes, “Thus far, however, Muslims remain outside the American story, which is why, despite their positive contributions to society; they seldom enlist empathy when they are jailed, deported or discriminated against.” And he offers the solution, “Hopefully, however, it will not be long before Muslims come to understand this. Once they do, while guilt by association may continue, Muslims will be able to fight back. For in this they will be joined by others.”

Refreshing our identity

As good citizens it is not only our right but it is our duty to be self critical of our society; the Muslim as well as the American society. I hope that the conservatives among us will get beyond the self righteous criticism and value the freedom that we are endowed with to exercise with pride and care.

We must learn to re-examine our attitudes towards others and push the refresh button to understand the essence of Islam. We must do our inner jihad against the temptations to reduce Islam to rituals, we should not only be identified as Muslims by the ritual aspect of our religion, but also be recognized by the spiritual and social aspect of “being a Muslim”.

Being a Muslim is volunteering one’s time and effort for the general well being of the society, and serving it with blinders. Prophet Muhammad said your responsibility is to yourselves, to your family members, to your relatives, to your neighbors around you and beyond. He did not advocate exclusion; a neighbor is a neighbor is a neighbor.

A Muslim is someone who is engaged in mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill amongst our neighbors and countrymen, to help create a just and more viable society for all.  Indeed, Prophet Muhammad set that example earlier on in his life when he was called on to resolve a dispute between the tribes as to who should have the honor of setting the fallen stone in the walls of the Cube called Kaaba; they came to him because he had earned the reputation for being just and truthful. He could have chosen any one to do the honor to gain favors, he could have given it to his tribe and make himself look good, but he did not.

He believed in peaceful co-existence and wanted to mitigate conflicts between the tribes and nurture goodwill, he wanted to bring about a change. Indeed, he placed the small stone on a sheet of cloth and had all the leaders raise the sheet up in unison. Imagine the men lifting the sheet and looking at each other, they were adversaries a day ago and now they are participants.  What must have gone through their minds? The probably saw the erosion of conflicts and emergence of goodwill. It is a model for Muslims to follow; to be just, fair and truthful and goodwill nurturers. He was called the Amin, the truthful and just.

A Muslim respects the otherness of the other (2) and understands the essence of Islam; Justice and peace. Rituals are not an end in themselves; they are simply markers of being a Muslim. They are the most important aspect of our faith paving way to achieve humility and spirituality. A Just person is one who cares for what surrounds him or her; life and the environment. Isn't that what the will of God is? Isn't submitting to the will of God means working for a Just society, and bringing equilibrium between living beings and the environment?

To be just, one has to shed arrogance, indeed Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said to his associates after returning home from a victorious war; the biggest Jihad begins now, he said, it is the war with one's own seductions. It is to reign in our temptations to avenge, revenge or getting even; it is getting hold of our anger, the anger that leads to injustice.  He said, don’t let your bias towards the other mar your sense of Justice.

He said God's favorite person is the one who forgives others and repents his own short-comings. Islam is about being a just human in treating ourselves, our families and the societies we live in.

A majority of Muslims certainly practice this refreshed identity, but a few loud mouths define Muslims otherwise and sadly they get the most coverage in the media, drowning the good and encouraging the ugly. But vigorous effort to project our real identity has begun and Insha Allah, we will succeed with a realization that what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the mankind and vice versa for it to sustain. We cannot have advantages over the others, such benefits are deleterious and of temporary nature.

Where did we go wrong?

The average Mohammed and Amina have realized that to be a spiritual part of the society, we have to connect, we have to care and be cared for, and we have to be with the society emotionally as they would be with us. To feel a complete sense of feeling “at home" we have to live the essence American life, which is not different from the essence of Islamic life. Please don't jump to conclusions, it does not mean you have to give up an ounce of your identity, it simply means the sense of difference "they" v "us" has to vanish from our thoughts and "us" to be ingrained in our feelings, language and actions. We are Americans.

The traditional religious leadership and the leadership that runs Muslim organizations is yet to grasp this, in the name of identity, they dig in their heels. That has been the hallmark of all insecure religious leaders to keep the flock tethered.

To be religious is to bring about a balance within oneself and with others who surround us; through humility religion seeks to dissolve the barriers between the peoples. We need to embrace other flocks, we need to look for permanent solutions of co-existence and honor every one's God given space.

As Muslims, we chase our own tails; we spend all our disposable hours at the Mosques or engaging in big talk about love for Islam and attend lectures on how to be a ritual Muslim. Unquestionably, it is a part of what makes one a Muslim, but that is not all that Muslims should be concerned with. Our focus ought to be, to become a part of that American story. Please remember no one is pushing us out or excluding us, it is us, who are not integrating to become a part of the whole and it is our loss, as many of us do not feel that we are a part to this land; that engenders an undesirable insecurity.

Justice alone cannot carry us far

In case of the Holy Land Trial; justice won the first time around. But justice alone cannot carry us far. There was no sympathy when Professor Arian was on trial, there was no support when Tariq Ramadan's visa was rejected twice to visit and teach in the United States. There was less outrage when Gaza was bombarded, the effects of which will run for generations. There is a long list, and such incidences happen ad nauseam

There are several organizations making the efforts to make that change "to become a part of the American Story" but it is not their priority to grow the feeling of hominess, something that solidly bolts us to the ground. Our priorities must take us from a ritual Muslim to a strong civic Muslim and be a part of the American story. Where the three hundred million of us feel connected with each other and talk and act as one nation. Those of us who have not grown up yet, being American is our identity as much as being a Muslim. Our ability to build relationships with people other than our own kind does not negate or reduce our religiosity, but enhances it.

Guts to speak up

The Islamic society of North America (ISNA) is developing a good outreach program, but then there are some, who are shamelessly derailing their effort. Case in Point: the Islamic society of North America (ISNA) engaged an influential Rabbi to become a part of the Muslim-Jewish dialogue, and indeed the Rabbi spoke at their annual convention. Then a few Muslims proclaiming to be legitimate representatives of Muslims (There is no such thing as legitimate representative, none are elected by public at large) wrote to the Rabbi not to be a part of ISNA, as they are the legitimate ones, instead of supporting the efforts of ISNA, they were denigrating them. Both will lose in the situation. Not enough Muslims have picked up the phone and told these other guys to be wise, and start building their own positive relationships rather than negating what others have built. What does it take? It is the simplest thing that a Muslim can do; to encourage the good efforts of any Muslim or a non-Muslim to build relationships and work for co-existence, peace and prosperity of our nation.

Things to ponder

What are the things Muslims can do to become a part of the American story? What can we do to connect with others on a human level where everyone feels like one large family to speak up from their heart when any one of the 300 Million of us is mis-served? Simply put, we have to become part of that family.

We are rightfully concerned with Halal (Kosher) meat and in our subconscious effort to show off that we are Muslims, i.e., ritual Muslims. We prevent ourselves from sharing a meal with others; one of the most connecting activity of a family. People are rightfully afraid to invite us so they do not offend us. It is human to follow the rules, Jews, Hindus and others follow their dietary requirements as well, we should not eat what is forbidden, but we should not make a big deal out of it and stay out of homes of friends and becoming a part of the American story. Let the difference not put a barrier between us.

The public transport Shuttle Muslim drivers cannot demand time off for their prayers as God has offered them choices to combine prayers or do the makeup prayers.  Serving humanity takes priority over prayers.

To develop a sense of oneness with the society, we have to put in conscious efforts till it becomes a part of our psyche and a part of our culture.

For an immigrant to feel home and feel the connection with the community at large, and to bond, we have to find opportunities to serve. Thank God, America is the land of the blessed, it provides tremendous opportunities to the ones who want to feel safe, secure and feel in tune with others and be a contributor and participant in the overall success of each one of the 300 Million of us.

Setting our priorities

Engaging with the society at large must be our priority now. We should quit making excuses that we do not have the time; we must carve out our time from the social activities. We have to invest our time in the long term goodness and to acquire a sense of being at home; we must take our time from some of the religious activity and lectures that makes us stronger ritual Muslims and invest that time for sustainable goodness to become an overall Muslim.

The Ismaili Muslims are consciously building bridges and creating a society of integration and oneness. As a Muslim I take pride in their work and urge them to work with all Muslims; their plans are worth emulating. What is good for Muslims has got to be good for America and vice-versa, for that good to be sustainable.

When we move away from “me and my interests “ to “us and our interests” we can see a sea change goodness for all the Muslim communities and other communities.  Together, the Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Nation of Islam, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad and other denominations contribute to the well being of America, our pettiness denies the others and reduces our wholesome share of good. We need to take cumulative credit for serving fellow Americans.

America is our home, we are going to spend our lives here, it is home to our kids and grand kids and their grand kids; and we are going to be buried here, each cemetery plot is our permanent residence till eternity. And we owe it ourselves to make this land safe, secure, peaceful and prosperous for one and all. No one can have peace for themselves, unless others are in peace. It is the responsibility of each one of the 300 Million of us to do our share.

The big small things we can do;

Be a part of some ones birthday celebration or their anniversary, don’t be hung up with food or other cultural nuances, just be there for your friend and be a part of his or her happiness. When I go to the parties, I don’t drink alcohol nor do I eat Pork, but I don’t make a big deal or show it off that not drinking or eating makes me a Muslim. I should not draw attention in the party; it is the friends’ celebration time. I have had people apologize to me and my response is, no, you should not give up anything for me; you should enjoy what gives you the joy. We have to learn to respect the otherness of others, without you becoming something you are not. Just drink water and eat Salad no one will have a problem with it, but be there for your friends.

The most human thing to do, and by the way it is the most Muslim thing to do is to share the grief when someone passes away and the least thing you can do is attend their funerals. You don’t have to say one single word to any one, just being there for their family gives them comfort and you will feel good about your humanness. Prophet Muhammad stood up when a funeral passed by him regardless of who they were, the one example often cited is a Jewish funeral procession. Next time, when you hear some one has passed away, whether you know them or not, attend their funeral and see the difference it makes to you more than others.

If you are finding it difficult to make friends with people other than your own, consider changing it. Whether it is a wedding, birthday, funeral or any happy or grim occasion, invite people from your work, from where you shop or your neighborhood. Then you have plenty of opportunities year round; Mothers day, Fathers day, Memorial day, Labors day, July 4th and religious holidays of other faiths. Then you are connected and become a part of the American Story.

July 4th Celebrations

Go to the 4th of July parties, invite every possible person other than your own kind to your own backyard or create your own party along with a few friends. It does not take a whole lot of money to grill hot dogs (Of course Halal ones for you), hamburgers and water.

Encourage the Muslim leaders and give them your support to do it in the parking lot of the Mosques. Plan it ahead. Let our Imams focus on these things rather than get bogged down with Haraam and Halal. Making friends for creating peace and goodwill is unquestionably the Halal thing to do. After all, the name of our religion is peace and we have to act it.

Model Events

Take a look at the models we have created here in Dallas, and look at what it does to ground us. If you are hung with Cultural dances, do something else that connects humans; facts and speeches don’t connect people.

I am committed to co-existence and as such, I am willing to spend my time in getting you to set up, provided you have the commitment.

Please go through the following links and grasp their value

Thanksgiving Celebrations:

Unity Day Celebrations -

II Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides :

Quraan Conference Dallas

We have to develop programs, services and activities geared to pull Americans Together in building a cohesive America that is good for every one of the 300 Million Americans, we need to focus on our overall prosperity rather than pitting one against the other.

As a society, it is our responsibility to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate is one of the many sources of disrupting the peace in a society and it is our duty to track down the source of such hate and work on mitigating it and nurturing goodwill.

We owe it ourselves to make this land safe, secure, peaceful and prosperous for one and all. No one can have peace for themselves, unless others are in peace. It is the responsibility of each one of the 300 Million of us to do our share. First, it starts with you and I, we do it because it is the right thing to do and not to keep a score. Let there be purity in our intentions and God will reward every one of us with peace, security and prosperity.

Our Mission is to build a cohesive America, where no American has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other.


# # #

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Politics, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. Over a thousand articles have been published on the topics and two of his books are poised to be released on Pluralism and Islam. Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find all of his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com
America, Foundation-for-Pluralism, Mike Ghouse Pluralist, Muslims beware, World Muslim Congress


  1. Please write your comments in reference to the article, I would appreciate that.

    Thank you

  2. In my view, every known so called muslim is actually a true anti-muslim and is serving Satan and not Allah, if thier actions are considered. The actions speak louder than the words. The actions of a basic muslim since last 1500 years are that of an animal and muslims don't deserve a title of being human being( Homo sapeiens).
    I will propose that world scientist should get together and demote all muslims to an animal category like a dog and allow them to be treated like that only until and unless they have evolved out of their beastic qualities. In their actions, muslims surpass and beat the actiual Satan. If satan is actually watching, he will be very happy that all muslims are his buddies and not of Allaha's.
    If I was the UN chairman, I will order all muslims be exiled to an island, like Antartica, far away from the main society or sent to moon and be allowed to be more evolved humanely and spiritually and come out of their ignorance.

  3. This article is completely missing the reason why Muslims are marginalized in American society. Some of it may be a mild irritation with foreign mannerisms, but most is attributable to professional PR groups linked to Israel Lobbyists, that are creating Islamophobia in the media coordinated with the many efforts to destroy the Constitutional rights of all Americans. As an American, if I saw a Muslim waving an American flag and eating a hot dog I would assume he was homosexual. I would actually appreciate it a lot more if Muslims would organize against the Israel Lobbyists who are destroying our country instead of coddling Zionists with these interfaith events which serve only to give "intelligence" to those who are trying to have you all denaturalized.

  4. Your ideas are very lofty and spiritual. However, I believe it will take several generations or more for your ideas to be implemented.

    Because of the political situation in particular, also cultural differences and religious differences, there is too much mistrust on both sides. We are having our 8th meeting on interfaith - I am amazed that one Muslim woman has been so willing to continue in our group. Friendships between members of different religions will help to break down the barriers. Friendships can only be established when both sides are willing.

    I have to ask: How many Muslims truly want to be friends with those of other cultures and religions? I find it rare. Anonymous

  5. Very nice article Mike. I wish you could convince the Taliban and the Wahabis to your point of view. My concern is that they would consider you a Kafir. This is the problem we are facing. I will email you another piece someone sent me. My feeling is that only Allah can clean up the mess we humans have created. In the meanwhile people like you and I have to become and remain channles of love and goodwill.

  6. Great, Mike. Thanks for forwarding - I couldn’t agree with you more!

    I have forwarded to Rev. karen.


  7. Dear Mike

    Please see my reply in blue: These are nice sweet words you speak here but I have been a follower of the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Lois Farrakhan for about 40 years now, and clearly recall when most immigrant Muslims seemed fear to letting it be known that they were Muslims.

    ACCEPTANCE: When we have tried to reach-out to the immigrants communities with open hands and arms more often than than not the hand of the Immigrant hand would close, and I have been told "To My Face" that I am Not A Real Real Muslims" this is madness............. However `If we are not corrrect or are not (Real Muslims) and are trying to be Muslims then it seems to me that it should be the duity and responsibility of the Immigrant to dialoge (since he is a Real Muslim and Know) and correct our way, however such dialoge require listening on the part of the immigrant as well, which I have not seen any evidence of a willingness to do so........We the Muslims followers of the Most Honorable Elijah & Minister Farrakhan has been and remain your strongest supporters so long as you seeking acceptance with Allah and doing his WILL but in return you bring your business into our communities across the country and sell HOG to my people and take off on our young girls These are not the deeds of right doing and thinking, what kind of Mind is this who knowing better would do this to those who don't know better, I ask you? We could never follow this kind of example, and I don't have to use sweet words. This is not what I think a Muslim should be, praying of the weak??? I see this over and over again.

  8. Where did we go wrong?

    Because ! of misunderstanding, Who ever understands Islam will never
    distinguish one self from another.

    Messenger of Allah (PBUH) communicated to his nation on the occasion
    of the Hajjatul Wadaa' (the Farewell Haj). In his sermon to the large
    congregation, he said, “O people, the Lord of all of you is one; the
    father of all of you is one; all of you belong to the Adam; Adam was
    created from the dust; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor
    does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab — except by piety”
    (1 Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad: 5/411 — through Abu Nadhrah;
    considered authentic by Albani).
    Allah, the Most Exalted and Glorified, says: “O mankind! We created
    you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into
    nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may
    despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of
    God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full
    knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”. (Al-Quran:
    Al-Hujurat: 13)

    Imam Ahmad has narrated through Zaid Bin Arqam that the Messenger of
    Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to invoke Allah after
    every congregational prayer with the following three supplications:
    “Oh our Allah — our Lord and the Lord and Owner of everything —, I
    bear witness that you are the one and only deity who has no
    associate”. “Oh our Allah — our Lord and the Lord and Owner of
    everything —, I bear witness that all humans are brethren”.

    This brotherhood is the broad human brotherhood. And certainly,
    brotherhood embodies three elements of love, equality and

    Where is the understanding........

    Isnt this clear.......


  9. Mike.
    There is no doubt the Muslims are respected everywhere. The problem lies where it is started. The Muslims themselves are not respecting each other. They themselves are not practicing their agenda of what they are. Let there be peace in the Middle East and everywhere where Muslims are and the world will respect them. This is just a thought Mike.

  10. Yes, there are a lot of fanatics that distort the true picture. I have always felt that like everyone else Muslim mothers want the best for their kids and muslim fathers want their kids better than he had... Sound familiar. We are all, in the big picture the Sons of Abraham.

  11. How about the good, peace loving Muslims kick the loud mouthed, head chopping, baby killing Muslims around the world out into Paradise or where ever these human lice go to after martyrdom? I notice that this wonderful majority of Muslims around the world are mighty quiet when this nun-killing, flag burning, human hating minority of Muslims commit yet another atrocity. The silence is deafening.

    Jack Killough

  12. Becky - Native IndianApril 23, 2009 at 4:43 PM

    awesome. these exerps could be any religious writings. b

  13. Hi Mike,
    I have several friends who have done as you've said. It's funny that it was years before I even realized that they were Muslim, and it took a retrospective review to realize that I had never seen them drink alcohol. While they complied with their dietary rules, no one in our general circle had ever noticed, because they made no big deal of... Read More it. Still, I wish now that I had known, only because I have friends who are vegan and have other dietary needs. It can be fun and challenging to cook for them. The Catholic priest who baptised my son allowed a muslim to be his godfather (a spiritual teacher and by virtue of ceremony and expectation an extension of the immediate Christian religious family of the child). Exclusionism is in many cases a myth which quickly vaporizes when fear as removed and an expectation of acceptance is adopted. I would strongly suggest that desegregating dining areas in traditional Middle Eastern restaurants would be a good start. I wish you all well.

  14. Vanja Bergström KrupaApril 23, 2009 at 4:47 PM

    Thanks Mike !
    I will forward the article to some Peace organisations here in Sweden (outside face book.)
    You are doing a grate work benefiting knowledge and by that spreading PEACE !

    Vanja Bergström Krupa... Read More

  15. Yes, either with them or with us -- no room to manure after that. The parliament has passed a resolution -- stating no killings of our brothers in tribal areas and Baluchistan, only negotiated settlement be resorted, but the rented army and mr. 10% want to break its truce with the sufi Muhammad, who have brought peace to Swat Valley.

    People wanted that US must cancell all its foreign debts in return for the services of the rented army. It looks no relief but death and destruction is in store for Pakistan, while for India, commerce and nuclear ties are strengthened.

    Murad Ali Shaikh

    Murad, what are your practical as well as wishful solutions?

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Dear Mike Salaams- your views are absolutely true and apt; I live in India in my state (AP) where there is a tendency to live in isolated areas where only muslims live without ant familial interaction with Hindus; most muslims do not even know who they are as persons what they stand for. Only interaction that takes place is limited to schooling, workplace.
    However I was lucky to have parents who believed in connecting with non-muslims, we used to visit them at their homes, attend their functions (marriages, festivals etc) and they reciprocated in the same way.
    Infact our home was never as clean and organised as most Hindu homes but they ignored- just to be connected.
    One of them was a Brahmin and a RSS volunteer, but they would visit regularly and when my parents left my fathers place of work and went back to their native place- they asked a friend of mine (who lives in US and they visited US because their son is employed here) for my parents contact details.
    Another neighbour who was also a very religious Brahmin came one day after Babri mosque demolition to our home and said 'You did not come to our home since long, we thought that may be because of mosque demolition you are upset?" we responded 'no why should we be upset with YOU for that, we could not take time out of busy schedule'.
    That happened and happens even today because we were able to connect with them; yes they were not muslims because they were born in to Hindu homes, that does not and should not make me disconnect and isolate myself from them.
    What you have said is absolutely true, my parents were able to connect with them even though my Father was very religious, he never missed his daily prayers, was kind and spent money for poor as and when possible and never spoke disparagingly about any body else's faith.
    He used to recite Quraan every day until his death after his retirement; I cherish and respect his values, I was very fortunate to be born as his son. My younger brother is a dedicated 'Jamaat Tableegh volunteer' and himself leads a religious life (though I have some reservations with Tableegh ideology).

    Dear Mike every word you say is true and we all need to work towards such spirit of a huge family despite differences. As no one can ever live in peace without letting live in peace, live and let live.
    Such efforts are needed even in India which is 4 times bigger in population; we have suffered and are suffering consequences of not being able to connect.
    I advise all the poeple with whom I interact in life physically and on web (FB etc) to imbibe pluralism, I surf the web and share great blogs (such as yours) with friends; this should continue without thinking wether it gets results or not-because even a drop of effrt in an ocean counts and will make a difference.
    Arif Mohiuddin (aaarif2@hotmail.com)
    Bodhan-AP, India