While browsing Twitter for news on Tuesday night, I noticed the phrase “American Muslims” was a trending topic. Curious, I clicked on it.
I was worried that something controversial had happened regarding mosques or the questioning of an American Muslim citizen’s activities, since based on current events, those things wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary.
I didn’t realize this was in reference to something President Obama said during his State of the Union address:
“Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we’re disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.”
The line “American Muslims are a part of our American family” was tweeted and retweeted hundreds and thousands of times with various expressions of joy, pride and satisfaction by Muslim and non-Muslim tweeters. Some were excited Obama noted this, while others were proud but thought it was unfortunate it even needed to be said. It’s well known that a significant part of Obama’s agenda is to bridge the gap between the Muslim world, which also involves the American Muslims as well. This challenge is something the world believes he is relatively capable of being able to do, compared to his predecessor, so Obama has a somewhat enthused audience.
Interestingly as I scrolled down through the positivity, I found a tweet that wondered why just Muslims were mentioned and not Jews and Christians. Now I don’t normally engage in debates with people on Twitter because it doesn’t amount to anything, they are usually just trolling and it’s frustrating to reduce my thoughts in 140 characters. That’s why I love blogging!
I inquired why the user thought Obama was displaying favoritism, thus bringing reason to speculate if he really is Christian or Muslim. My basic argument is that of course Jews and Christians and Hindus and Sikhs and athiests etc. etc. are part of the American community, however ‘American Muslims ‘ especially has to be reiterated since there are many people out there who have been quite vocal about Muslims not being true Americans or being dangers to the future of American democracy, liberty, and security. Considering the war on terror is a huge part of the US foreign policy, what comes into people’s mind next is the Muslim community and its relation to it. So President Obama (as did President George W. Bush) has to remind the country that Muslims are not the same as the terrorists, we are not at war with Islam and American Muslims are citizens of the United States too.
Until those ideas are projected on other religious groups, it doesn’t make much sense to be crying out for their identification in that respect. What group wants to be given a shout out so that people don’t hate them and label them un-American? None, of course.
It takes time for groups to assimilate, adapt, and be tolerated in a multicultural, pluralistic society, but the United States is a shining example of religious tolerance compared to most countries in the world. It doesn’t make sense to me when people who espouse the greatness of the US find that point a weakness, flaw or unfortunate burden to carry. You don’t have to be Christian to treat Christians well. You don’t have to be Muslim to treat Muslims well. Respecting and defending a religion other than one’s own doesn’t make you part of that religion; it makes you a good member of any religion. It doesn’t cause a rise in power of one religion. It doesn’t attack our country’s founding values, no matter how many times people erroneously argue we are a Judeo-Christian nation (as this Twitter user did.) Even if it was, it is a Judeo-Christian principle to respect one’s neighbor and love others as your brother, as it is a Muslim one. But as this is a democracy with freedom of religion, it doesn’t matter how many times a religion is mentioned, it doesn’t give you brownie points, a boost in tax breaks and higher status.
If you look at the context of what Obama was saying, he’s saying that the only way we are going to successfully defeat religious extremists like al-Qaeda is with the help of American Muslims, not with the disdain of them. This is essential for Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to understand and ponder the fact that we all have a stake in this.
So no need to get hysterical here.