Yesterday, I was invited for a 20 minute segment with Armando Llorens and David Waldman on Daily Kos Radio (SiriusXM Channel 127). I was joined by Faiz Shakir of the Center for American Progress, and the main topics of discussion were the recent Pew poll of American Muslim attitudes and the report on the Islamophobia industry in America, “Fear, Inc”.
For my part, I was asked why Muslim Americans (MuslAms, as I’ve coined us) are still so generally optimistic and positive about America and the future (as the Pew poll clearly illustrates). My answer was that MuslAms are well integrated, that the US is “wired differently” from Europe, which allows and encourages us to be very active and engaged in our civic communities. Basically, the ranting of the JAFIs nationally isn’t as relevant to us as the support and inclusion we have in our home towns, and that matters more.
I also griped when asked about Park 51 – I support the idea of the project, but resented how the timing and the handling of the project’s PR (and aggressive, almost petulant social media response to critique) dragged the entire MuslAm community into the debate. I’ve said my piece on Park 51 before.
It was a fun conversation but limited in time, so I didn’t get to touch on everything I wanted to discuss. So, I’ll just make brief mention of a few things here.
* The MuslAm community suffers from an advocacy vacuum – the various “acronym orgs” (MPAC, ISNA, CAIR, etc) are not representative of the community at large and really are very niche-focused. There is an overwhelming obsession with foreign policy rather than domestic issues by these, which does not serve our interests but rather are more tailored towards “Ummah outrage” issues like Palestine that really do not impact our daily lives.
* The MuslAm community is very modernized, educated, and overwhelmingly entrepreneurial and/or professional. At Eid this year, members of my community (Dawoodi Bohra muslims) had as many iPads and Blackberries as prayer beads. Actually, a lot of folks were using an app on their iPhones in lieu of prayer beads. This is typical of MuslAm communities – we are integrated into our shared American culture, even as we refuse to compromise on the essential aspects of faith. These things are in harmony, not conflict.
* The experience of the Jewish and Catholic communities in particular are resources we should embrace and actively seek out (a theme I’ve returned to time and time again at City of Brass). These communities have endured as much – actually, worse – persecution and fear as we are enduring, and have thrived. They are our natural allies and mentors and we need to reach out to them in humility.
* Despite the strong affinity for liberals and democrats documented in the Pew poll, MuslAms need to avoid explicitly subsuming their political voice to one side of the political aisle. Right now the Republican War on Muslims continues apace, but let’s not forget that some Democrats are capable of exploiting anti-Muslim sentiments for political gain when it suits them. The case of Dubai Ports World comes to mind. (Kudos to Jimmy Carter, though)
(The astute reader will note how point 1 above ties directly into point 3)
Overall I am grateful for the opportunity provided by the Kos team to share my experiences and opinions on DailyKos Radio. It definitely felt like there was so much more we could have said, though. I’d be interested in doing a MuslAm Radio show myself if such a thing could be shown to have any commercial viability at all, which it probably doesn’t 🙂