One Nation Under God November 30, 2017 by Tasneem Sultan
It was a cold and windy day, but the Mall was quite busy as holiday season is just beginning. My son and I were in a store browsing books when suddenly a tall man walking behind us came in front of us and started to shout Islamophobic rhetoric: “You Muslims want Sharia Law,” followed by similar accusations. I am visible as a Muslim woman as I wear a headscarf i.e. hijab. I asked him politely: “Sir, if you have any questions, we can talk about it,” but he kept on going and moved behind the book shelves. Before I informed the store employees, another gentleman called the store manager who came immediately to make sure we are okay. Some of the other store customers came to us to make sure we were ok and not shaken. A while later, another employee stopped by and assured us that we are okay. We were overwhelmed by the support of the store employees and the many responsive, kind-hearted shoppers in the store who came forward and reassured us. This is America. 'We The People' of different ethnicities show love and care for each other despite differences. Hate will not win, if we educate ‘others’ that we encounter in our journey toward respect and kindness. We will always have differences, but we must seek understanding of each other; take time to get to know one another; and accept and respect others in the name of diversity appreciation. Holding community conversations provides a path forward to understanding which is the first step towards mutual loving and caring. No one is born to hate. The United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, has been a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds to pursue their dreams. There is no place for bigotry in our country --no matter your country of origin or heritage. Our Constitution grants equal opportunities to all and we all belong to America regardless of our ethnicity, religion, and culture as we are truly “One nation under God, with justice and liberty for ALL”. We must reinstate those core American values in our lives and in our communities to make our nation strong and united. If the man gave me the opportunity, this is what I would have liked to say: American Muslims practice Sharia in their daily life in a private manner for example from daily prayer, charity, and fasting to marriage contracts and other family and social matters. Just like Jews who follow Jewish law- Halakhah, or Catholics who practice Magisterium. It’s an obligation for American Muslims to follow the law of the land. We need to stand TOGETHER more than ever against hatred, bigotry and violence despite our differences and be connected by love. As Dr. Martin Luther Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” It’s time to show love and support for each other to unite our communities for the coming generations. We must celebrate our shared humanity which bonds us together. It is only together that we rise, shine, and hope for a better future! Every day is a new day that provides different experiences and with the right attitude--renewed hope. I serve as Executive Director of La Convivencia --a local community organization which brings diverse people together to bridge their differences through mutual respect, community service, civic engagement, and community dialogue. Join us in our quest to celebrate diversity, to create a more inclusive, peaceful, and pluralistic society at: www.laconvivencia.org
We the People August 27, 2017 by Bilal Sultan
Facing the future sounds scary. We do not know what will happen and for all we know, it could be disaster or utopia. But the future is what we live for. It is the most important thing in our lives, despite how unpredictable it is. Yet, there is one solution to make the future less fearful for all of us: facing it together and working together. We need to start thinking less along the lines of “me”, and more along the lines of “us”. There is a reason why all of us are here together and living this wonderful life in all sorts of emotions. Humans are social animals. Therefore, we should have more face-to-face contact, build new and greater relationships, and strengthen existing ones. It is in each handshake that each of us become more united with each other. With each word we speak, we change the world around us. Our identity is crucial and part of our life. We need to keep the story alive about each of our cultures and faiths. We cannot lose what is important to us. It is what tells what makes each of us unique. It is how we learn new things every day. It changes us to become what we are now. So, what does this mean in terms of what we have to do? We need to do is work together to change the future for the better. We the people will do what we need to change and create our own beautiful future. We the people will face this new future. We the people will fix the problems TOGRTHER!
Religious Freedom and the 4th of July July 6, 2017 by Jay Tyson
221 years ago, the Founders of our nation wrote a document that has echoed across the world and down through the generations since that time. Among the principles it proclaimed was that the main purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When the Constitution was written, about a decade later, it amplified this theme by listing some of those rights in the first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights. One was the right to follow the religion of one's choice. This principle has served our country well. It has prevented the religious strife that has enveloped many other countries at one point or another. It has addressed contentious issues through dialogue and legal reasoning. And it has enabled us to assimilate an ever-widening portion of humanity into this great country. Initially, it found expression by acceptance of a wide variety of Protestants, many of whom were rejected in various countries of Europe. Later, there were large Catholic influxes, which worried some Americans at the time, but the principle of religious liberty was upheld. At another stage, acceptance of Jewish immigrants was an issue. Today, acceptance of people of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu backgrounds is sometimes an issue. These more recent immigrants give us the opportunity to practice anew what our Founding Fathers set down at the beginning: To affirm that all people have the right to believe and to practice their religion without interference from the government or from other people. The affirmation of this liberty is the true expression of American patriotism, worthy of celebration on July 4th and throughout the year.