As a Muslim American for the last two decades, my belief in my adopted homeland has grown stronger and stronger with each trial that has tested the determination of my fellow citizens. I felt safer in America than any other part of the world on the tragic evening of Sept. 11, 2001 -- but the current rise in anti-Islamic sentiments sometimes makes me uncomfortable.
On the night of the State of the Union Address, I had a barrage of thoughts when I accompanied Congressman John Yarmuth through the power corridors of the U.S. Capitol toward the House of Representatives chamber, where the president would be delivering his speech in the next hour.
I reflected on what the future holds for Muslim Americans as Islamophobia has reached newer heights during this election cycle. I thought about my 8-year-old twin boys who have lived in no other country than theirs and love no other land more than United States of America.
A few of the Presidential candidates have suggested that United States should not elect a Muslim President and have called for barring all Muslims from entering the U.S.
Once I was in the gallery of the House Chamber, I was overwhelmed with the history of this place and space, where our founding fathers debated and outlined the course of an emerging nation. It is here where our Nation's course is still directed to this day.
During this powerful moment, I had an epiphany about the people before us who had gone through the difficulties and hardships in this land of America.
I heard many voices of sanity pleading the cases of citizens at trial at any given time in history of our country.
Among the heart-piercing cries of thousands of Cherokee children and women on the Trail of Tears, I thought of Davy Crockett opposing their removal from their ancestral lands at the push of white settlers. This great frontiersman was routed by his colleagues, but he contemplated in later years:
I believed it was a wicked, unjust measure ... I voted against this Indian bill, and my conscience yet tells me that I gave a good honest vote, and one that I believe will not make me ashamed in the day of judgement.
I thought of the concluding remarks of President Abraham Lincoln during his State of Union Address in 1862, in which he said:
We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.
In 1939, more than 900 Jews left Germany to find safe haven across the Atlantic Ocean. But they were denied refuge both in Cuba and U.S. Eventually their ship SS St Louis had to return to Europe with around 254 people, who later on lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust.
Shortly before that, a bill by Rep. Edith Rogers and Sen. Robert Wagner was not passed in Congress that would have allowed 20,000 German Jewish children to call the U.S. home, away from gas chambers of Adolf Hitler.
Flashbacks also took me back in time to 1942 when, after the Pearl Harbor attack, a public also stirred by politicians and news media took over and Japanese Americans were singled out as a risk to national security. Thousands of innocent people including children and women were forcibly removed from their homes to the wilderness of detention camps with very few dissenting voices to champion their ordeal.
I felt the echo of heartfelt and passionate words of Martin Luther King on the steps of Lincoln Memorial "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
When President Obama took the podium, his compassionate voice brought me back from past to present and consoled "we the people."
Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words that mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union.
While walking back from Capitol with cyclones of thoughts swirling through my mind, the soothing voice of the grandson of Russian immigrants and the first Jewish American congressman from the Commonwealth of Kentucky John Yarmuth whispered:
It shall pass as our nation was founded with the idea that life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights, endowed, not by Congress, but by our creator. These are the values that made us great, and in the face of terror, we cannot turn from them. We must hold them close or risk losing them forever.
History proves that Americans have always preserved the values of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all -- no matter how foreign a group was labeled by opposing forces. Muslim Americans will not be treated any differently.
Muhammad Babar M.D. of Louisville is President of the Pakistani American Alliance for Compassion and Education and a board member of the Center for Interfaith Relations, Fund for the Arts, Louisville Public Media, Louisville Rotary Club and member Board of Governors of Speed Museum. He could be reached at email@example.com