A Message to Arabs and Muslims

By Nidal Sakr On one humid Florida evening in 2002, a group of community leaders in Florida met with FBI officials to discuss infringement on civil rights of Arabs and Muslims. Make-up of the leader delegation resembled that of the Florida community-at-large, and the message resonated very clearly: “an attack on Arabs or Muslims is an attack on all of us.” Not too long afterwards, Arab and Muslim activists were in the forefront of communitywide coalitions to reform elections and repeal US Patriot Act in some of the nation’s largest counties. The highlighted events are among hundreds of incidents where Muslims and Arabs continued to pay their dues to America in distinction, and against all adversities. Although reports by research centers and media outlets all testify that the Arab and Muslim community in America is one of the most highly-educated and qualified communities with the highest rate of net contribution to society, many still fail to embrace it as such. When it comes to Arabs and Muslims in America, skepticism goes both ways. Muslims always strive to make America better and greater, yet always seem to be deprived of being credited for what they long strive for. After all, it was Arabs who rolled the first American cars out of assembly lines in Detroit. It was Arab CEOs who rescued American auto makers out of crises that threatened to shut them down altogether. It is Arab and Muslim researchers who develop computer technology in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. It is Arabs and Muslims who wrote software for the whole world to run computers in Bellevue and elsewhere. It is Arabs and Muslim doctors and researchers who staff medical areas, in Boston, Cambridge, Minnesota, and elsewhere. It was Arabs and Muslims who took America to the moon and outer space. And yes, it was Arabs and Muslims who shared the blame when the country went wrong as evidenced by the likes of Abizaid and Khalilzad. From cab drivers and restaurant workers, to Speaker of the House and Cabinet Chief of Staff, Arabs and Muslims have been there and done that. America danced to the tunes of Shakira, Gloria Stephan, Paula Abdul, and Celine Dion. And it was an Arab Muslim child named Muhammad Al-Durra who made America and the whole world cry witnessing his slaughter unfolding over the longest 20 minutes ever caught on tape. It is election season that brings so much pain and regret when it seems that we are first on the receiving end when things go wrong, yet pushed to the back of the line when things seem to get better. Arab and Muslim contribution need not a candidate or one event to be recognized, for your recognition is made in every minute, day in and day out for being who you are. It is your identity, in striving to perfect all that is who you are and what you do, that is your best recognition. It is when you embrace your identity and reach out to your fellow humans with a touch of kindness, a greeting of mercy, or a show of compassion that you are recognized. Election is not about fairness and all that is written in the constitution. It is about helping our country heal one grief at a time. Muslims and Arabs are not about voting for those who tell us what we like to hear and do what we hate to see. Election is about voting for who is good or at least better for the country, the country which we all cherish and strive so hard to build. I can understand the frustration and pain that comes from prejudice, discrimination, and injustice, but hate weighs down on the shoulder of the hater as well. This election is barely starting, and Muslims and Arabs need to weigh what is at stake and make their choices. Every eligible voter must register to vote, learn about the issues and what each candidate

stands for, network with those in the community and elsewhere, and make their most informed conscientious decision on who to support. It was Arabs and Muslims who helped seal elections in both 1988 and 2000. Muslims did not do the nation much favor in supporting the expiring lame presidency, but need not make the same mistake once again. Muslims and Arabs should not wait on a candidate for validation, for their validation is by continuing to do what is best for their country and showing it. Election is not about choosing your own candidate. It is about supporting who you believe is best for your country, and that is only Islamic.


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