The challenge and the opportunity to serve humanity that exists before the American Muslims right now is rare in history. American Muslims are at the right place in a critical time in history to do great work that can help lead humanity in a positive direction for generations to come. This is an enormous responsibility.
American Muslims are the common denominator of the two most confrontational parts of the world, and they are conversant with the mindsets and cultures of both the Muslim world and America. They are the citizens of the superpower of our time, and they are also a part of the 1.3 billion Muslim ummah [the Muslim world] that possesses about 76% of the oil reserves of the world.
American Muslims are part of a nation that is the most powerful and influential in the world, yet the people themselves are the most open, pluralistic, self-reflective, self-correcting, and changeable people in the world. This is a rare combination of power and values. The 230 years of history of this nation is a testament to this spirit. The ideals on which the United States of America was founded were not all materialized at the time of the inception. There was slavery, and not all citizens’ rights were upheld and respected.
However, since then this society remained mindful about the ideals and dedicated itself to ideals of liberty, equality, equity, and dignity of all people. Citizens vigorously and incessantly struggled to help establish these values through continuous changes. After struggling through a bloody civil war, the women’s liberation movement, the Civil Rights movement, multiple collective bargaining movements, and multiple immigration movements among other struggles, this nation has managed to emerge on the moral side of the equation many times. This tradition of positive change and this inclination towards self-correction mark the grain of this nation.
Therefore the Muslims — who are rightfully apprehensive and distrustful about the policies of this country towards the Muslim world during the last several decades — still can remain hopeful that this nation will bring about further positive transformation regarding Muslim affairs. This goal may appear distant and difficult considering the present situation, but the potential for this to happen soon, paradoxically enough, is great — only if the Muslim leadership can intensely engage with the due process of this society to help bring about a change in the mindset and the modus operandi on the international front.
Such a change is long overdue, and the American Muslims can be instrumental towards that goal only if the suggestion of change is offered though constructive engagement. The due process of this nation and the civil society offer opportunities of such engagements of change. Therefore, the American Muslims are at a critical place to spearhead a leadership of constructive engagements, increased understanding, mediation, consultation, and peace brokering among conflicting parties outside this nation as well as within this nation. In order to be effective in this undertaking, the nature of this involvement must be both political as well as social, and this work needs to be initiated simultaneously on the domestic and international fronts.
America is seriously engaged and preoccupied with the Muslim world. However, there is no American Muslim leadership voice on the burning issues of our time — America’s role in the world, the nature of its engagements with other nations, the nature of its priorities and goals, and the nature of its approach towards the issues of security and equity. The vacuum of an American Muslim leadership of this caliber is a sign of great failure among Muslims.
America is the best place to spearhead such a leadership and to be most effective. It would need a group of visionary and dedicated Muslim leaders to take this work and to come forward to effect enormous positive change in the world today. It is a tall order indeed but it is within our reach and achievable now, God willing.
The context is calling for such leadership to come forward. In history, whenever there is a deadlock and disarray in the affairs of nations — as it exists now in our time — a way out is often offered by a fresh and unrecognized personality or group of people. It is my conviction and my vision to see that an American Muslim leadership, God willing, could become that visionary group in our time.
How ripe is the context to catapult such leadership? Let us explore. America again is in a state of soul-searching, and it is engaging in national debate as to the nature of its role in the world. The neo-con strategy has failed, the goals in Iraq and other places have not been achieved, staggering costs and sacrifices are mounting, the Middle East is in disarray, and the Muslim world – containing almost 76% of the oil reserves of the world — is in crisis. The leadership of this superpower is in a process of redefinition, and the mandate for change is mounting and manifesting from the society itself. As we can see, this is a fantastic opportunity for an enlightened and visionary Muslim leadership to come forward with the right agenda that makes sense to the American people and to the world. America is ready to listen to a Muslim voice within. I pray and hope that we, Muslim Americans, can prepare ourselves to play this role.
The Muslim world, which could be the most prosperous, progressive and dynamic part of the world, is unfortunately, tragically, and paradoxically in a state of degradation and instability. An ‘umma’ which was commanded to offer a leadership of a better society, as well as hope and aspiration through a better example, has failed disgracefully. The absence of a legitimate due process in governance, a weak and helpless civil society, rampant corruption and incessant violations of human rights and dignity, inequity and sky-rocketing concentration of wealth and power leading to instability and volatility, a huge and fast growing young generation increasingly hopeless and angry with the way their societies are mismanaged, countless people submerged deep insecurity and inhuman sufferings — all these contribute towards a condition of dysfunction and decay that breeds intolerance, sectarian conflicts, extremism, fragmentation and even bloodshed and violence.
This state of volatility and dysfunction is incompatible with sound economic growth and social progress needed in many Muslim counties today. A leadership of vision must come forward to offer a way out of this vicious cycle. A few changes in the attitudes and modus operandi can help change the entire reality of the Muslim world today. The changes that took a long time in the past can be accomplished in a much shorter period of time due to enormous changes that took place in technology, communication, and in the mindset of humanity during the last few decades. These prerequisites all can generate momentum towards positive transformation. An aggressive agenda needs to be triggered by a visionary Muslim leadership. This agenda could be most effective if it is initiated by the Muslim citizens’ group of the superpower of our time.
The extremism and destructive forces feared so much in our contemporary world is a symptom rather than the disease. The disease is the failure to change the things that need to be changed in order to help create this world as a fairer and better place. There could be a way out of this quagmire. The American Muslims are at an important position to pioneer the way and to chart its course in our time.