President Obama used the annual Iftar dinner at the White House last night to link Muslim achievement in the United States to the 9/11 attacks as the tenth anniversary of the terrorist strike approaches.
Obama’s choice to make his Iftar speech about Muslim contributions and patriotism in the shadow of 9/11 is to willfully pretend that there are no issues related to Muslim’s role in U.S. society that need to be addressed.
This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation. Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. This has been especially true over the past 10 years.
In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade. And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans.
Much of the speech continues in the same vein.
Linking Muslim achievement to an attack perpetrated in the name of Islam is to assertively say that Muslims have no responsibility for defining their relationship to America in a positive manner.
If we are to solve problems and avoid the separation between Muslims and the rest of society that we see in Europe, we can’t pretend that Muslim integration into U.S. society is a seamless process. And we must integrate Muslims into our society, for their benefit, for the society to benefit from their contributions, and for purposes of national security – to avoid homegrown Islamist terrorism.
Many American, for example, wondered why there weren’t more expressions of outrage among Muslims and their leaders after the attack, or even in the years since.
Why do I not see more of this patriotic face of Islam of which Obama speaks? I’d like to.
Here’s what what perhaps the famous U.S. Muslim leader, Feisal Abdul Rauf, said of the 9/11 tragedy.
I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.
Rauf is a known as a moderate Muslim leader who says he is trying to build bridges. He was the public face of the effort to construct the Ground Zero mosque.
There have been two fatal attacks by Muslim radicals on U.S. soldiers within the United States in the last two years.
Serious debate even within Islam exists on the extent to which observance of Sharia law conflicts with democracy. Muslims have an obligation to ensure, as other religions do, that their religious laws are subservient in both thought and practice to the laws of the United States.
Textbooks at a major Islamic school in Northern Virginia were found to teach students that it is okay for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam and that “The Jews conspired against Islam and its people.”
A Gallup survey on Muslim attitudes released this month raises some concerns about Muslims’ role in society, though it mitigates others.
Sixty nine percent of Mulsims say they very or extremely strongly identify with the United States, compared to 86 percent of Jews, 88 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Protestants, and 92 percent of Mormons.
But Muslims in the United States are hardly wild eyed extremists looking to extend the Caliphate to St. Louis.
Only 65 percent said they at least very strongly identified with their religious group, compared to 70 percent of Protestants and 90 percent of Mormons, and a mere 37 percent said the very or extremely strongly identify with “those worldwide who share your religious identity” – the lowest of any major religion.
So there is tremendous hope that the United States can avoid Europe’s divided fate and the bellicose Muslim extremism there that leads to terrorism.
But there are problems in the United States. And using the Iftar dinner to extol Muslim achievement related to 9/11 is an agressive way of saying “Move along, please, nothing to see here.”