One Nation, Under God, Indivisible

This week, the New York City public school system established Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, a holiday honoring the Abrahamic legacy -- together marking the two most important Muslim celebrations of the year -- as official school holidays beginning in September. To the 10 percent strong of New York City's public school children that are Muslim, and to the others who will celebrate with the American Muslim community by henceforth taking a day off with their families, congratulations on a victory for the fabric of NYC, and ultimately for the United States of America.

This is a move that should inspire us all to take even stronger pride in an exceptional nation, and there are many for whom this was indeed the case. Nonetheless, the Internet was again marred by an alarming level of hateful commentary in the aftermath of the decision, targeting New York City government, and the American Muslim community at large while evoking the memory of 9/11. Tragic as this commentary can be, I recognize the heightened state of global conflict that can lead to such views, and I find no constructive impact in victimizing myself into a dark corner. It seems necessary, however, to reiterate a few realities. I speak as only one American Muslim, but I know that my words are in tandem with the voices of many Americans of all backgrounds.

As an American Muslim, I am not and never will be personally responsible for the crimes of 9/11, nor for other despicable crimes that are committed by Muslims, or otherwise, around the world. Neither will my children be held responsible for them in this one nation, under God, indivisible. Nearly 14 years later, 9/11 remains equally my tragedy as it was that of my neighbors, and today's state of world affairs is equally tragic to me as it is to so many others. This is why we are one nation, under God, indivisible.

This is, nonetheless, my country. It always has been, and it always will be, and it has been so for generations of Muslims. I am not asking, and I will never ask, for the permission of my neighbors for it to remain so. Like millions of Americans, this is the country to which my grandparents emigrated for a more promising future -- and a nobler Constitution -- after suffering from the impact of two wars in their homeland. And to which my grandfather proudly committed his brilliance to NASA, and to the Apollo 11 mission, immediately following his arrival in this one nation, under God, indivisible.

It is thus not from personal responsibility but because I believe in the quest for human justice -- no matter who it is for or against -- and because I believe that American Muslims have a vital role to play in helping to find transformational solutions to today's deepening global challenges, that I will continue to speak up and to fight back with unapologetic vigor against the depraved ideologies that we see manifesting themselves in too many places worldwide. I will continue to counter those who justify oppression and subjugation via Islam, and those who commit the most vile acts in its name.

This stranglehold of literalism, this call to destroy rather than to build, this murderous lack of compassion, and this incessant quest for intolerance upon Man, this is not how I have understood the faith in which I was raised. And to those who call our youth to such destruction of the soul, you are not welcome. To those who justify the maltreatment of women and harm journalists and aid workers; to those who oppress or kill Christians, Jews, Shiite Muslims, Atheists, or otherwise because they are Christians, Jews, Shiite Muslims, Atheists, or otherwise, you are not my ally. To those who say damn the American people, I say bless them. And I will continue to despise those both here and abroad whose intent it is to harm or to kill the citizens of my one nation, under God, indivisible.

But in the interim to a necessary global change, during this trying time for my faith and for our world at large, there is no individual nor organization that will take the country that is home to me, away from me -- nor away from my children. There is no entity that will succeed in "otherizing" me, nor my children. No group will succeed in rendering my children any less "American." As this is the land that I will teach them to love, no force will succeed in casting them out of this one nation, under God, indivisible.

Because just as we will rise higher against this depravity that has been justified in the name of faith, we will hold on to and defend the Constitution, the golden rock of our nation, with our every might -- and no individuals will find victory in their un-American goal to separate us from it. Neither they, nor those who seek to do harm to this nation's people, will crush the very reason for which we were founded: a mutual coexistence -- amid liberty and justice for all.

Let us therefore dispel the myth of backward ideologues worldwide that this cannot work, by making it work. Let us celebrate what took place in New York City this week as a defeat for everything that they stand for. As a victory for who we are. My neighbor in country, my hand is extended to you, to empower what we all cherish. My hand will remain extended, to protect you, even if you have turned away.

As I wrote in 2011, "I challenge the naysayers to recognize that we are still one nation, and that no troublesome force can separate us from each other's shared destiny. So we will move forward together -- we will have to."

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