July 1, 2016
As I was journeying to and from Salt Lake City for a national speech and debate tournament, I had the privilege of discovering a side of America that I had never seen before. I was overwhelmed by the stoic desert and rugged red canyons of hardiness and valor as I ventured through the enchanting state of New Mexico. I saw the scenic snowcapped mountains of Utah that majestically soared into the free American sky of vigilance and perseverance. At that moment, I truly realized the greatness and uniqueness of this country that gave me refuge from my motherland, Pakistan.
Being an immigrant and hearing of the adversities of religious persecution that my father, a member of the persecuted Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, faced, sparked a love for this country in me very early on. Today, being a Muslim in America has made me into the person I am proud to be. I don't have to hide my religious beliefs to be accepted at my school, nor do I have to underplay my religious practices for fear of punishment under the law. Today, I can be an outspoken young woman who believes in the power of speech and education without getting physically assaulted for it. And very soon, I will be able to participate in the political processes of our nation, something unimaginable in Pakistan where I was a third class citizen because of my religious beliefs.
Being an American Muslim and experiencing the great transition from an intolerant society to a society that recognizes inherent human dignity has enabled me to see my new motherland in a unique way. To me, there is no nation on this earth that gives one more liberty to determine one's life than does this great nation of ours. Although we are not a perfect nation when it comes to domestic matters such as justice or equality, we are in a constant struggle to overcome our weaknesses. We fight and we persevere to protect all under the truths that we hold to be self-evident. We are the nation of great progress that is reliant on our tradition of unity. And, fellow Americans, we can never forget that. United, we are a force of democratic ideals in a world that is constantly terrorized by those who fear the power of individual liberty. If we compromise our unity, we will only be aiding the suppressive forces that we are battling.
We live in a world where terrorists attempt to sell a horrid narrative of Muslims against the western society as a part of their agenda. If we buy into this deception, we will only have a weaker arsenal to fight against terror, both foreign and domestic. Most importantly, Muslim Americans also have a patriotic and religious duty to fight against Islamic extremism and condemn inhumane acts such as those that occurred in San Bernardino and Orlando. In such cases, Muslims must recall Prophet Muhammad’s teaching that, “Love of one’s country is a part of faith.” It must be noted that Muslims are never justified to act as vigilantes as it is noted in the Qur’an that creating disorder can lead to damnation – not salvation (Qur’an 2:12-16). Together, Prophet Muhammad’s teachings about obedience and loyalty to one’s nation and the cornerstone of Islam, the propagation of peace, teach Muslims that if they want to show dissent, it must always be peaceful and within the limits of the law with respect to life as the highest value. In a society where Islamophobia is rising, Muslims must continually remind themselves of what is at the core of their faith: Is it proliferating a false message of intolerance about their faith through senseless killing or is it the very definition of Islam—peace?
This Independence Day, I hope that we continue to address all the issues that face us with unity. That is where the beauty in America lies. Just as the vastly different terrains of America and their contiguous nature make our nation all the more vibrant; our unconditional unity – regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or political ideology - to protect our liberty and prosperity is the charm of America.
Myra Mudassar is a member of the Ahmadi Muslim Women Writer's Association. She is a high school senior at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Temple, TX.
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