“Every man created is entitled to what G-d has created. No man is to be discriminated against. Entitlement is not to be based upon anything but justice. Go on and build a great life for yourself, as much as any man in the United States of America.” (Imam W. Deen Mohammed, front cover 2014 Remaking Our World Islamic Calendar)
On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’m very happy to announce the release of the 2014 Remaking Our World Calendar. As the project’s editor-in-chief, I’m proud of the writers, editors, and reviewers who made the project possible. We believe we’ve produced one of the most concise, yet comprehensive publications on Islam in America; it’s written to inform every American about what Islam is and is not and what its presence means.
All my life, people have asked me questions about my faith, my name and where I was born, under the assumption I must not have been born here because of my name. But I believe we’re in a time now as a citizenry where we realize more than ever that “American” is not a single cloth where one size fits all. It never has been.
We are rather a quilt of ethnicities, cultures, and religions and each of us as citizens bear the duty to create the best environment for the human spirit such that we become a standard of excellence for the whole world. Every nation should be seeking to cultivate their best. The President, Congress, nor the Military can take on the burden alone…it’s all of our collective responsibility as the late President Kennedy exhorted, “…Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
Now I want to relate that in early 2001, I was honored to be on Hajj pilgrimage to the sacred precincts of Mecca. While in Madinah, a city about 250 miles from Mecca, I was asked by groups of Muslims from several countries what it was like to be Muslim in America. Specifically, they were curious about whether I was able to practice my faith freely.
My response was perhaps as surprising to them as their question was to me. I said, “yes I can live my religion freely…that there are perhaps as many as 8 million Muslims or more in the U.S., and that there are mosques and schools all over the country; that Muslims were basically in all sectors of American life…that Islam is the fastest growing faith in America and predicted to be the second largest religion early in this century.”
My fellow hajjis were astounded and it’s one example of the misconceptions most Muslims probably have about America, just as many Americans have misconceptions about Islam.
On the one hand, there I was performing Hajj and dispelling false notions among fellow Muslims about what it means to be American, while only a few months later following the tragedy of 9-11, I was addressing fellow Americans about what it means to be Muslim; such a position I believe means that American Muslims may be in the best position to bridge divisions separating East and West.
It’s important to me as an American citizen, as an African American, as a Muslim American and as one who has taken the oath to protect the Constitution of our land as a veteran of our Armed Forces, to fight for the best our Country offers to all its citizens regardless of religion.
Our best includes not allowing extremists to tear us asunder as they sought to do on that fateful September 11. I pray Remaking Our World helps us to know one another better and that it will be a powerful tool in the arsenal against both Islamophobia and extremism. After all, it’s ultimately in the realm of ideas and not on the battlefield that the real victory will be won.
My publisher is distributing the 2014 limited collector’s edition of the Calendar and I invite you to purchase your copy as part of an effort to share 25,000 calendars with our fellow citizens. Your purchase also supports the Words Make People Literary Excellence & Scholarship Award open to students of all faiths…“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools…”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I wish each of you a Safe, Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!
Left open for further thought and research.
Peace until next time…Mukhtar