American Muslims must communicate with other communities

We don’t know how much the world has changed since September 11th, but that change is upon us is indisputable in our everyday lives. Every official, from the President to the employees of every federal and state agency, is working in the post September 11th context. It is their duty to protect American life and property, and we should support them in every way. But these duties must not infringe on the rights of American minorities.

Unfortunately, that is what is happening. Muslims in America face unprecedented discrimination and suspicion. People have come here from many Muslim countries to earn an honest living. Pakistanis, for example, do not figure into any crime statistics, nor were any of those responsible for the September 11th attacks Pakistani. But since September 11th, Pakistanis account for 75 percent of those detained.

Most Pakistanis came to the United States after 1985. Since then, we have been accustomed to moving about freely in this country. People found all kinds of work, legally or illegally. For us, there was no other country in the world that gave us freedom to come and go and work.

A few people took advantage of the openness in this society and wreaked havoc. Now the entire country is hardening its attitude. The mainstream media has been presenting harsh images of Muslims. That Muslims’ rights are evaporating in this country is confirmed in report from Amnesty International. Many organizations are protesting. American Muslim organizations are meeting with officials and presenting the case that Muslims in America are peace-loving; however these organizations’ resources are meager.

I often argue in this column that our voices need not go unheard by officials. A Congressman attending a meeting organized by the American Muslim Council said that we should use email, phone and fax to reach out to the White House, the Senate, and the Congress. He said that if American Muslims think these methods don’t work, then they are wrong. He said that Jewish organizations are adept at these methods and Muslims must learn from them.

The history of Muslim communities is not as long as that of Jewish communities in America. Muslims are also not well-represented in the media and in the government. That does not mean we do nothing. Times are tough. Everyday we hear of new terrorism warnings in the media, new restrictions on immigration, but we must not despair. Muslim organizations are coordinating their efforts as never before, and in all recent conferences they are working to present a positive image of Muslims for Americans.

Members of the American Muslim Council have met with President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, among others. At the end of June, AMC is organizing a three day conference in D.C and has invited Senators and members of Congress. The FBI does not seem friendly to Muslims after September 11th (to say the least!) so it is heartening that FBI Director Robert Mueller III, will attend.

In the first week of July, ICNA has organized a conference called, “The Role of Muslims in America.” Prominent Jewish and Christian leaders have been invited. This is a very good thing.

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