My last blog post titled, 7 Reasons Why You should Be Glad You Are Not an American Muslim was a good reminder that Muslims are not the only community facing discrimination and bias. I did not imply Muslims are the only group facing prejudice, as other minorities have indeed faced, and still face discrimination and hate. Despite all this, I am still very glad to be an American Muslim and will explain why.
It is not like Muslims are unhappy to be Americans. In fact on my prior post, I had made it clear that I am happy to be an American Muslim.
Let me start by saying I am very proud of being an American Muslim. I am happy to be a Muslim and happy to be an American.
America is a land of opportunity and a melting pot. On this post, I will share 7 reasons as to why I am glad to be an American Muslim. And no, this is not contradictory to what I mentioned on the prior post, and this list puts our difficulties as American Muslims in perspective, and gives a more balanced worldview of life as American Muslims.
The struggles of the American Muslims notwithstanding, here are 7 reasons why I am glad to be an American Muslim. I could expand on all 7, but will keep them short and sweet.
- Land of (equal) opportunity. Yes, Muslims are facing increasing levels of discrimination at work and school but the main criteria for success at work and school still apply-the good old attributes of working hard, dedication and working smart. If you are highly educated, talented and work hard, the odds are you will achieve your dreams. This is why we still see American Muslims hold key positions at some of the top companies in the Silicon Valley such as Google, Facebook and Oracle, as well as in academia and healthcare among other industries. As an American, I am free to pursue higher education, career and other dreams to make it big.
- Ability to get education for free. True, the cost of higher education has been steadily increasing, but the ability to get free high school education is something not very many countries in the world can provide for your children. And by free, I don’t mean cheap as in low quality education. Some of the public schools actually rate higher than their private counterparts in terms of the quality of education.
- Melting Pot or Salad Bowl. America is called melting pot for the diversity and richness of its people representing various religions, languages, race, country of origin and cultures. I actually prefer the term ”salad bowl” over melting pot because melting pot implies everyone is ‘cooked’ to look the same (aka assimilation). ‘Salad Bowl’ reflects integration of the rich individual diversity we bring, though we get all mixed and united as one. We get to keep the ingredients of the salad bowl, and still enjoy the richness of its ingredients. As a result, I get to meet people from various ethnicities, countries, culture and faith traditions and learn from their experiences to enrich my own faith, as well as contribute to its richness.
- Freedom to elect our representatives and the president (or remove them). Though the polling turnouts have remained relatively low, our ability to choose and vote for our president and representatives in congress cannot be taken for granted. Just ask the countries where they don’t have this privilege (which we consider a right). Sure, the candidates fight over the elections and throw dirt over each other like never before, the fact remains we have the power to elect and remove from the office those we don’t like. In many other countries, you wait for the monarchs to die, or a military coup to happen, or something as drastic as that, without the power to chose your leaders.
- Freedom to go to any mosque to pray. It does not matter if it is “Sunni mosque” or a “Shia mosque”. More often than not, I offer my prayers at “Sunni mosques”, mainly due to proximity. I mingle with people from the ‘other’ sect. I don’t worry about being singled out. Frankly speaking, I am not sure if I can do this in a Muslim majority country without facing serious consequences.
- Freedom of speech. I can be critical of the president without the fear of repercussions or being put in jail. I can be part of an anti war rally, or Women’s March, speak against the police brutality, speak against other instances of social injustice, religious discrimination, Muslim travel ban etc, without the fear of retribution from the government, or the law enforcement.
- Freedom of religious expression. Despite some of the struggles with building a mosque, the threat of surveillance etc, I feel free to express my religious views in public. Sure I don’t talk much about it at work, since it does feel kinda out of place, but I can express my views in a Church, Synagogue and other places of worship and secular institutions freely.I also feel there is more openness to an intellectual dialogue on religious issues among the Muslims in America, without fearing being labelled a ‘Kafir’ or committing “blasphemy”. I can also offer my obligatory prayers in a mosque without having to go through security screening, like unfortunately what happens in certain Islamic countries. I don’t fear that I may be blown up if I am at the “wrong mosque”, if you know what I mean.
As I did on my post on gratitude, I want to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to live in the land of opportunity. My ultimate gratitude, as always, is to God Almighty for all His bounties, including my life as an American Muslim.
Indeed God is the possessor of bounty for all people but most people do not give thanks. The Qur’an 2:243