Rochester's Muslim community appreciates the unanimous congressional resolution of Oct. 2 recognizing the month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal that ends Friday. The resolution commends Muslims in the United States and throughout the world for their faith. It is the first time that Congress has officially recognized Ramadan's significance.
Previously, then-President Clinton initiated an official "iftaar," or symbolic breaking of the daily fast, inviting some Muslim leaders to the White House. The Muslim community appreciated his outreach. President Bush has continued the tradition. These efforts have helped the Muslim community integrate into mainstream America. Today, Muslims are in the forefront, defending the United States by serving in the military and various other government departments.
We in the United States may have different faiths and cultures, but we are all Americans. Some are Native American; others came as slaves or refugees. Some sought asylum; many came seeking a better life for their families. But we are one people as Americans. This is our homeland. We live together and share the good with the bad. As people of diverse backgrounds, cultures and faiths, we may have differences, but our collective goal is a better America.
The U.S. Muslim community likewise is diverse. We do not have a bishop, pope or hierarchy that speaks on behalf of all. Many Muslim organizations, mosques and Islamic centers are structured democratically. Imams are religious leaders and teachers but not necessarily spokespersons. In fact, the Islamic Center of Rochester has a non-clerical spokesperson.
Different problems affect Muslims throughout the world. Most Muslim countries are passing through post-colonial periods and are seeking an identity. Most populations are suppressed politically, economically devastated, uneducated and lack appropriate methods to redress injustice. The educated political elite in many Muslim countries is corrupt. The violence in many of these countries could be seen as a protest against the prevailing situation.
American Muslims are different. Most are college graduates and professionals. They love America and appreciate the civil system. But some question if Muslims are safe in America since 9/11. Some believe that Muslims are illegally profiled by government agencies. Others encounter silent discrimination at work; many others feel they are viewed as suspicious when practicing their faith. (MORE)