Are Muslim and American Identities Mutually Exclusive?

Community News

Brother Saalakhan held this forum in hopes that it may “examine the sometimes volatile mix of identity politics, patriotism and religion, in a post 9/11 world.”
From the beginning, parallels were drawn between Muslim and American identities. Br. Saalakhan established that “in order to be a good American, we must have the capacity and the courage to challenge our government to live up to the better part of itself, to challenge the people of this nation to live up to the better part of themselves.” He also added that,  “the more conscientious we are as Muslims, the more committed and active we are Muslims, the better Americans we are going to be.” Br. Saalakhan expressed how certain Muslims believe that “being American and Muslim is like oil and water, the two just do not mix.” He then replied that “…as someone who is born and raised in this country and whose roots go generations deep in the soil of this land I am here to say: you can. We must understand…that we can be Muslim and be American.”

The need for establishing a Muslim presence was a topic intertwined throughout the lecture and was echoed by audience members in the forum dialog as well. This presence demonstrates Muslims, “will not be cowed into fear and would not abandon their brothers.” Certain audience members reemphasized this by indicating they had run for public office or served in the military as Muslims. This forum and the discussions, which flourished from it, illustrate how both leaders and communities are imploring Muslim Americans to respectfully demonstrate their presence and to actively engage themselves in American society. Audience members also discussed how fields such as Political Science and Journalism lack strong Muslim voices and how the youth should equally be encouraged to pursue careers in these fields as much as Engineering or  Medicine.

The forum later raised the issue of how members of the Muslim community are hesitant to criticize or only slightly criticize injustices committed by Muslim countries. Br. Saalakhan cited the observation of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyyah that, “Allah (swt) aids the just state, even if it is non-Muslim yet, He withholds His help from the oppressive state even if it is Muslim.” One member of the audience found this to be an important point and noted how “We of the Muslim community, whether we live here or in another country, tend to support policies and personalities of Muslims regardless if they meet our moral standards or not.”  Br. Saalakhan added that “We, as Muslims, have to be just as conscientious about holding ourselves accountable, holding our leaders, holding our government accountable as much as we hold non-Muslim governments accountable.”

Additionally, Br. Saalakhan replied to the issue of the exclusion that the Muslim community has encountered, especially in this Presidential election year. “The isolation we have placed ourselves in for so many years and the way we have projected Islam in this country” he said, has led to our exclusion and the misunderstanding of Islam. He gave examples of how Muslim organizations have projected Islam with a foreign voice and a foreign face, which reinforced the stereotypical belief that Muslims are a foreign threat. This perception of Islam as alien is commonplace among Americans whose only exposure to Muslims is from television or movies.

Earlier, Br. Saalakhan said,  “This is Allah’s Earth and if He ordained that you or I be born in this part of the globe or travel to this part of the globe…then this is as much ours as it is anyone else’s.”  In order to improve the state of Muslims in America, efforts are required both within and outside the community. Outside of the community, our presence needs to be demonstrated respectfully whether as conscientious objectors of political prisoners or as journalists. In our communities, though the challenge we face is more personal. We must eliminate the barriers between American and Muslim identities and shift from being simply Muslims in America to American Muslims.