In the new world we live in, we are seeing a steady increase of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. Even more troubling, I have seen an increasing number of people justify these crimes by claiming that "Muslims hate America for its values" and that we are simply getting a retribution that is long overdue. This mindset appears to be very much shared by members of the President Elect's inner circle, including incoming National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, who has called Islam "a cancer."
As a Muslim who loves the United States, who has been an American since I was three years old, and who believes the US remains the best place to live on Earth, let me say a few things.
First, most Muslims love America and Americans. We find the United States to be a place that provides freedom and opportunities that are remarkable, and sadly often lacking in much of the so-called Muslim world today. And Americans are generally seen by Muslims worldwide as kindhearted people who have strong faith, work hard and accept newcomers into their communities with welcoming arms. It is American values that make Muslims love Americans.
But American values have rarely been shown by American foreign policy toward the Muslim world. There are indeed some Muslims who are angry at the United States, and not because of its ideals, but because it has historically rejected its own ideals when dealing with Muslim countries through its foreign policy.
For anyone who asks "Yeah right, what has America ever done to you?" I would respond with just a few examples that have made perhaps a few Muslims unhappy:
(1) The overthrow of the democratic government of Iran by the CIA and the imposition of the Shah and his brutal secret police;
(2) Supporting Israel unconditionally while millions of poor and powerless Palestinians have languished in refugee camps and endured military rule for over 68 years;
(3) The overthrow of Iraq, which killed 2 million civilians and destabilized the entire Middle East, leading to the rise of ISIS;
(4) The US support for extremists among rebel groups in Syria who add further misery to the Syrian people by beheading children and murdering religious minorities;
(5) Supporting the overthrow of Libya and leaving the country to devolve into a bleak, Mad Max landscape of chaos;
(6) Supporting the Saudi regime, whose twisted fundamentalist ideology has spread chaos through the Muslim world, corrupting Islam from within and giving birth to groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
In my experience, Americans are good people who are largely unaware of the horrors that have been done to the Muslim community in their name, and if they were aware would not support such actions.
In my novel on the Crusades, "Shadow of the Swords," I show how the Crusaders were shocked when they actually encountered Muslims in the Holy Land and found them to be people that were not barbarians, but a highly advanced, ethical culture. And that their leader, Saladin, was not a tyrant, but a humble and moral man whose sense of honor exceeded the Crusaders own ideals. That even as the Crusaders massacred "infidel" civilians under Richard the Lionheart, Saladin treated Jews and Christians as welcome brothers in the Holy Land. The encounter with the truth of their enemies' values, and the realization that they were being lied to and manipulated by their own leaders, demoralized many Crusaders and helped unravel their military ambitions.
Just as the Crusaders were lied into a clash of civilizations by their leaders, so have many Americans been lied to by their politicians on both the right and the left. The powers that truly control both Republican and Democratic administrations (the military-industrial complex and Wall Street) have worked very hard to keep Americans unaware of the true cost of aggressive military polices in the Middle East. Both parties have destabilized the Muslim world to keep their backers happy, and each presents an excuse for the same actions under the veil of one of two opposing ideologies. Neo-Conservatism for the Republicans ("We must attack and destabilize the Muslim world to promote American hegemony and security") or Neo-Liberalism for the Democrats ("We must attack and destabilize the Muslim world to promote democracy and human rights"). To the millions whose lives have been destroyed by America's aggressive stance toward the Muslim world, neither of these worldviews reflect American values, nor the heart of the American people. Yet they are the ideologies that guide our ruling class into a war of civilizations that nobody wants, except for those who profit from it.
And now, with the most recent election, we are being introduced to a new ideology that is being offered to the American people to further undermine their values -- Neo-Chauvinism. If the Trump Administration implements its rhetoric of banning Muslims from the country or creating a "registry" of innocent people based on their religious faith, Islam will nonetheless survive and continue to grow. But it will be America that will not survive, the America that Muslims and people all over the world love. A day will come when Americans themselves will no longer speak of "American values" without shame and embarrassment. And when the average American loses faith in what makes the United States so great, the experiment that our Founders started will come to a tragic end.
I do not believe that will ultimately happen. Because I love America and have faith in the inherent goodness of the American people. But it is a faith that I know will be tested in the years to come. And I, like my fellow Muslims and all people of goodwill, have no choice but to step forward and trust what the Qur'an promises - that God will guide the faithful from darkness into light.