An open letter to my America and my Islam, my Muslim world.
DEAR AMERICA Dear America I love you, but you're bringing me down. A billion of me look up to you but you turn the other way, with your attention drawn to a few trying to harm you, but who already been killing me.
A quiet fire spreads as Tea Party raves and Fox incite fear; as Palin pleads in her tweets to those of us 'peace loving Muslims' to have a heart ... Park 51 ... Cordoba House...
You fear the majority of me even when the majority of me stand up against the minority you fear. The discussion is no longer on the sensitivity on the location. A dark transformation has occurred from the discomfort of one mosque's location to discomfort of an entire religious community. The fear has set in:
- "Mohammed is a pig," the protesters chant in NY
- A Muslim cab driver is stabbed in the neck
My America, I feel ill. I am scared America.
Dear America, I love you but will you again fall to the virus of FEAR: IRAQ ... Bush's second term. Do not see us as becoming our own fiction, your real life 24. We are your doctors, your lawyers, your cooks, your drivers, your nurses, your social workers, your cops, your merchants, your professors and students, your soldiers .... we are YOU.
I. Am. You.
Those Taliban are killing more of me than you. Those NATO bombs are killing more of me than you. Where are the WMDs the tyrant bought from you? The dictators ruling me are, in fact, friends of you. It's tempting to believe that the enemy is either you or I, but I know I am not them and Bush/Cheney are not you.
This month we fast. Across races and oceans, a spiritual tradition of humility and charity of more than 1,400 years is happening before your eyes. That is my Islam -- not 24, not the cunning Fox, not Samuel Huntington, not Taliban or Al Qaeda or Faisal Shezad.
America, I love you forever for I am you, but I am worried that part of you doesn't want me to be.
DEAR ISLAM Islam I love you, but we letting you down. We are killing ourselves from within, more than the bombs of 'them.' Data on the impact of terrorist attacks in 2008 released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies ,CSIS, revealed that over 50,000 people have been killed by terrorist attacks worldwide in 2008. Over 50 percent of those killed were Muslim. The Near East and South Asia accounted for 75 percent of 'high-casualty attacks'. (High-casualty attacks is defined as an attacks in which ten or more people are killed in a single attack.) Mostly Sunni Islamic extremist groups claimed responsibility for the largest attacks with the highest fatalities. A majority of the fatalities in such attacks occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. 65 percent of those killed are identified as civilians, with children being the most affected by the attacks in 2008. The Prophet once said, 'Heaven lies at the feet of mothers'? Why do Taliban poison our future mothers attending school in Afghanistan ... and bomb markets in Pakistan ... why do attackers bomb mosques in Iraq?
Our political leaders belittle us and some of our spiritual leaders speak through broken microphones and distorted speakers. And so, our communities appear like fragile branches of a single tree rotting from within.
Islam beware: there is a monopoly of a few colonizing my space, using your name. The threat of Western colonialism and imperialism of the past has transformed today into self-colonization by Muslim despots and extremists of the Muslim majority's space for debate, spiritual and political and artistic freedom, and progressive education. Thus, communities are left underdeveloped, illiterate, and economically depressed because our communities are all affected by the same affliction -- we cannot question, cannot challenge, we cannot explore without fear of judgment and reprisal. With America as the closest exception, the biggest source of the problems of our communities today is that the youth of today lack the 'space' from which to explore: what does a Muslim think a Muslim is today? Is a Muslim his or her nationality? His or her politics? Is a Muslim what he or she eats or drinks? Or, is a Muslim his or her faith? In actuality, it is in America that many Muslims, from various sects and ethnicities, freely progress within a space conducive for spiritual and educational exploration.
To those corporations of extremists, (Bin Laden, the Mullahs and Haqanis, to Faisal Shezad...) YOU are not US. Power is not in them but in me ... the everyday Muslim. We are the movers: we students, we artists, we thinkers, we mothers and fathers guiding our young.
Dear Muslim world, the spotlight is on us. Jon Stewart can only defend us for so long. How will you, how will I, deliver? Will we become our own fiction? The spiritual and intellectual and artistic space must be engendered and promoted in our own living rooms and dinner tables and masjids and class rooms. Fathers and mothers and siblings may openly communicate with our children in allowing a space for questioning their faith, developing their spirituality organically and with creative expression. Principally, there must be more promotion in our education apparatuses in Asia and the Middle East consisting of world history, world religions, world politics and philosophies, teachings of Islamic history, good and bad. As our Prophet Muhammad said, ' If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise.' Dear Islam, I am in debt to you. I will never be ashamed or answer to fear. My faith leaves me clinging to hope, for every Ramadan, on every continent, we all fasting to try and come back again ... to letting go and getting back to you leading us instead of them hijacking you.