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What is the most important thing Muslim Americans must do in the next 5 to 10 years?
By Nihad Awad
[Nihad Awad is the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, D.C.-based grassroots membership organization that seeks to empower the North American Muslim community through political and social activism. Awad helped found CAIR in June 1994.]
As American Muslims hope for better civil liberties protections, increased inclusion in society, and improved relations with the Islamic world in the next decade, that hope must be balanced with the reality that Muslims and Islam are often viewed with suspicion in the post-9/11 era. American Muslims should continue to demonstrate to their fellow citizens that Islam is a vital and productive part of our nation’s social and religious fabric.
This can be accomplished by taking our dinner table conversations about healthcare, education, and the economy into the public sphere. Our faith preaches charitable giving. That value can become manifest by joining with like-minded partners to end hunger in America and around the world.
Our community should partner with the new administration to help project the best of our nation’s universal values of freedom and justice to the world. This includes continuing to speak out forcefully against those who falsely claim religious justification for un-Islamic acts.
Our youth should focus on entering the public service sector, whether working on Capitol Hill, in the media, or running free clinics. Islamophobia must be confronted. An anti-Muslim fear industry has flourished in America in recent years. All Americans must repudiate these hatemongers with the same determination that won American women the right to vote, challenged McCarthyism, and ended racial segregation.
The rights enjoyed in our nation are part of what creates long lines of hopeful immigrants around American embassies worldwide. Some post-9/11 laws have eroded these rights. Muslims must not be shy or hesitant about protecting civil liberties. These actions, which are designed to promote common values and prevent conflicts, are certain to help move American Muslims from being a suspect community to one that is celebrated for its positive contributions.