Muslims in the United States: Truths and Calumnies
By Magdi Khalil *
The recent disturbing articles and news in the Arabic media may very well lead people to believe that the Muslims living in the United States are being subjected to collective persecution or even eradication--a false accusation easily refuted by the fact that millions of Muslims continue to apply for emigration to, and temporary residence in, the United States for study and business purposes. Polls conducted by credible organizations show that even now, and in spite of the unprecedented hostility towards the United States and the West, millions of Muslims around the world still aspire to live in the United States or Europe.
I would like to shed light on the situation of Muslims living in the United States, and to call the readers’ attention to a number of significant facts:
1. Muslims are able to practice their religious rituals and celebrations freely, as well as openly maintaining and asserting their cultural traditions.
2. They are granted total religious freedom including the freedom to proselytize anywhere, even within the American prison system; a CNN report indicated that the ratio of prisoners who convert to Islam each year is 1:6.
3. Muslims have the right to establish Islamic schools, institutes and universities anywhere in the United States with no constrictions; the American government has even provided support to some of these institutions.
4. Muslims have the right to establish their own media, with no restrictions or particular conditions, whether they will operate in their own languages or in the English language. They also have total access to Arab and Islamic media in the form of newspapers, magazines, and satellite channels, and though most of those are openly hostile to the United States, none of them have been banned by the United States.
5. There are numerous registered Islamic institutions and associations that are concerned with the defense of Muslims’ rights, freely operating under the American law. No restrictions are imposed on these associations as long as they are not associated with international terrorist organizations.
6. Muslims in America have the full right to wear the Islamic outfit, and to worship during working hours in most governmental agencies, schools, and institutes.
7. At the inauguration of the American Congress cycle, verses from the Holy “Quran” and Islamic prayers are recited among other prayers, underlining the fact that Islam is part of the mainstream religious landscape of the United States.
8. Muslims have the right to build mosques anywhere in the United States with no restrictions other than the ones that apply to buildings in general and to other houses of worship.
9. Muslim feasts are considered official holidays in schools where there is a significant Muslim presence, as well as for Muslim employees.
10. Following the events of September 11, 2001, a strong warning was issued against targeting the Muslims or subjecting them to abusive or vengeful measures, clearly stating that offenders would be subjected to serious penalties.
11. Complaints of abuse or discrimination are examined and handled with honesty and earnestness.
12. The Bush administration has offered its apology to Muslims, and openly rejected the insulting approach used by a few individuals in the media.
13. Members of the American administration speak respectfully about the Islamic religion in all occasions, making a clear distinction between Islam and terrorism.
14. President Bush organized an “Iftar celebration” at the White House that was attended by several members from the American administration, prominent members of the Arab and Islamic community, and guests from the Islamic World. Colin Powell, the then secretary of state, held a similar celebration in the State Department.
15. President George Bush visited several Islamic institutes in the wake of the events of September 11, in support of the American Muslims. During these visits he explicitly warned against any violation of Muslims’ rights.
16. The United States issued an Islamic postage stamp to celebrate the Islamic feasts. The stamp bearing the words “Blessed Feast” was reissued this year on the occasion of the Holy month of “Ramadan.”
17. The American president acknowledges the Islamic feasts and makes sure to pass on his good wishes to American Muslims and Muslims around the world.
18. The recent statistics of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program indicate that the number of visas allotted to Islamic countries has not decreased. Muslims who are currently residing in the United States and who have completed the legal requirements were granted American citizenship; there was no recorded violation of the Muslims’ rights in that respect.
19. Income statistics indicate that the per capita personal income of the Muslims in the United States exceeds that of the Americans themselves.
20. Muslims who suffer from discriminatory practices have the right to legally sue the organization or party that violated their legal rights; there are several American institutions which are dedicated to helping Muslims obtain their legal rights.
While a few unfortunate incidents took place following the events of September 11, they can only be described as isolated incidents that were effectively handled by the American authorities. Mostly, these incidents consisted of minor harassments, except in one case when a Muslim was killed.
Hopefully, these facts can help to clarify the truth about the Muslims’ situation in the United States.
* Magdi Khalil is a political analyst, researcher, author and executive editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International. He is also a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London, a free-lance writer for several Arabic language newspapers, and a frequent contributor to Middle East broadcast news TV. Mr. Khalil has also published three books and written numerous research papers on citizenship rights, civil society, and the situation of minorities in the Middle East. Magdi receives e-mail at Magdikh@hotmail.com.