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“O you who have accepted faith, reverence G-d and speak a word directed to the right.” (Qur’an 33:70)
“We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union,…” (United States Constitution)
“…One nation, under G-d, with liberty and justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance)
For over two hundred years The United States of America has evolved the concept of a democratic, representative, self-government built on the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. Inherent in the progression of our form of government are the principles of unity; co-equal and interdependent branches of governance with a system of checks and balances; individual freedoms and rights; governmental accountability, transparency and openness; justice and equality. While this form of government has proved to be both strong and enduring, it is also dependent upon each generation of Americans cherishing and upholding these principles while maintaining the fabric of this constitutional democracy and progressing toward a “more perfect union.”
America has been a world leader of freedom and democracy over the last two centuries, however we have struggled to overcome a legacy of slavery, social injustice, civil war, racism, discrimination, sexism, divisive politics, and hyper-partisanship. The current struggle facing America also includes the anomalous reality of a new President, elected with a minority of the popular vote, projecting an unprecedented combination of authoritarianism, demagoguery, hate-speech, bigotry, division, misinformation and lies. Additional areas of public concern include this President eroding the critical institutions of democracy by undermining public confidence in the judiciary and constitutionally mandated free press.
Unfortunately, one of the first acts of this new President was to sign and try to enact an Executive Order creating a “travel ban” from seven Muslim majority countries, resulting from a bigoted campaign promise to ban all Muslims from immigrating to the country. While this first attempt was rejected as unconstitutional by the federal courts, it reflects the mindset of the current presidential administration of demonizing Muslims along with other marginalized minorities through policies rooted in “alternative facts”. Now, a second attempt has been made to accomplish the original objective in a more subtle way.
While all Americans, including Muslim Americans, want to live in an environment of safety and peace, it is our expectation that public policy be based on Constitutional principles and be rooted in “actual facts” and reality. This was not the case in the afore-mentioned “travel ban.”
It is important to note that the religion of Al-Islam has been a part of the American experience since its earliest days. Muslims have served and died for this country in our military and further serve our nation, states and communities as police officers, fire fighters, public servants, and elected officials. Muslims have presently and historically made contributions to American culture, sports, government, education, and business. Millions of Muslims in America live, work, serve, and interact with others, and contribute to the collective good of our country on a daily basis.
Since the beginning of this presidency, we are also encouraged by the response of millions of people in America and throughout the world of all backgrounds and faiths, standing up for fairness, justice, and equality before the law. In their exercise of free speech through grass-roots organizing, on-going protests, demonstrations, and civil actions, these brave souls have challenged our elected officials, including the “travel ban,” and other questionable proposals from the new administration.
In his Farewell Speech in Chicago, former President Barack Obama encouraged all Americans to breathe life into the words: “We the People.” President Abraham Lincoln also eloquently noted for history that this is a government “of the People, by the People, and for the People.” As we move forward over the next four years, in a new era of unprecedented challenge to our representative democracy, it will be up to “We the People” to “speak a word directed to the right” and ensure that our government uphold the principles of our Constitution. We must pick up the on-going challenge to every generation of Americans to make our government reflect the goodness and best aspirations of its people.