This week, a new Muslim group, the American Muslim Institution, or AMI, announced its existence and said it is going to be different than the other groups that are currently in existence, as this group will focus on America. AMI invited journalists, human-rights activists and other Muslims to the opening event at the National Press Club.
This was against the backdrop of American Muslim student, Ahmed Mohamed bringing a homemade clock to his engineering teacher in his Texas school. The talk media wires and websites were burning up this week with this question: Would the teacher have reacted the same way if this were a white student, or if this happened in New Hampshire or New York instead of Texas?
Although many on the far right think President Obama is a Muslim, most Americans believe he is a Christian and that he was taking a very Christian view of Ahmed Mohamed by inviting him and his homemade clock to the White House. President Obama wants to make America strong again, and he is doing this by encouraging young people to be part of an America that invents and values STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math.) Along with first lady Michelle Obama, he has encouraged women and ethnic and racial minorities to study STEM subjects while still in school and before college.
Ahmed Mohamed is a young American doing exactly what this White House has encouraged young Americans to do.
There certainly are other groups that focus on Muslim rights and concerns. The AMI leadership stated on Thursday that all the other groups do a great job, but AMI wants to focus on American issues. Mike Ghouse, AMI executive director, said, “The responses reflect the deep desire of the Muslim Majority for an inclusive Muslim organization that represents their ideals; i.e., to get along with everyone, minding their own business and to live and let others live. An organization that can make an effort to work towards fulfilling the promise of our immortal Declaration of Independence, that all humans are equal.”
The leadership said, to achieve that goal, “we are committed to be engaged with all Americans, regardless of their affiliations, liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat or independent, religious or not. We are all in this together, and we must have the patience to get to a point where you and I are a part of society with similar aspirations to life, liberty and freedom. When we see each other’s patriotism with an open heart, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.”
AMI leadership said some of challenges concern different Muslim factions, but ultimately there is great patriotism among American Muslims. When addressing what many people think is violence committed by Muslims, AMI said:
“We can and should be doing more to speak out” and that they should reach out to media when these crimes are being committed in the name of Islam. AMI also said there has to be an end to the “appalling silence of good people” (quote from Martin Luther King).
Two Muslim members of Congress also spoke at the launch of AMI, Keith Ellison, D- Minn., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind. Rep. Ellison addressed issues of concern to many minorities. He said only 12 percent initially voted for local officers in a Ferguson election, and that when voter when participation is low, services will also be low. He said, when the riots took place, African-American churchgoers were serviced by a Muslim physicians clinic and that this led to “trust, friendships, relationships and durable bonds of friendships.” He also said the Muslim community is part and parcel of the American scene, and that “we pay taxes.”
Rep. Carson said, “AMI adds to the diversity we share and that keeping our republic means that we have to push back against Islamophobia and terrorism.”
He added that there are many issues we’re facing, and individuals must speak up on problems such as climate change, protecting the homeland and making America safe for all. “We are monotheistic, but not monolithic,” he concluded.
This is not the first time we have seen such marginalizing of a religious, racial or ethnic group. Catholics at the turn of the 19th century were discriminated against, Jews later and certainly African-Americans. Now we add Muslims. We saw misery and hope this week. It would be good for America if hope wins out.
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