Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring 

During our vacation in Paris last summer, there were some things about French life and culture that I found refreshing: the slower pace of life, the insistence on taking time out to enjoy a simple meal, the lack of cell phones when people sat and dined together. I believe we should do more of the same here in America.

One thing about France I found particularly interesting was their concept of laicite. Officially, it is separation of religion from government, in which, of course, I also believe. In practice, however, it is much more than that: it is a seemingly militant form of secularism that has been used by some to persecute some French minorities, especially its Muslims. 

Under the guise of laicite, some Muslim schoolgirls have been harassed for wearing skirts that were deemed “too long,” and some schools stopped offering non-pork meal options for their Muslim and Jewish students because “being French” includes eating pork.

I hope this never comes to our shores. The fact that I do not eat pork or drink alcohol, as a Muslim, does not make me any less American. There is nothing inherent in “Americanness” that forces me or anyone else to compromise our religious belief or moral standards. The French would do well to learn this from us Americans. 

This Fall, in what all indicators point to being a brutal election, what it means to be a “true American” will likely come up as an issue. And there will be some in our country who will point to this person or that, or this faith or that, as not being “sufficiently American.” We must resist this as a people.

The Muslim woman who wears a headscarf as a symbol of her devotion to God; or the immigrant who comes to our country to forge a better life; or the refugee fleeing terror and tyranny to start over in America are all fiercely American stories. And each of those stories adds to the beautiful cacophony that is America and has always made America great, since its very beginnings.

It is this greatness, and all those who died to preserve and protect it, that we come together as a people and celebrate this coming Memorial Day. Those fellow Americans who have chosen to serve sacrifice so much, some even their very lives, to make sure that I can live in this country free and fully American, safe from harassment because of my ancestry, or diet choice, or religious faith. On behalf of my family – and all other families across our country – I cannot thank them enough.

This country is so blessed: it is blessed with wealth; it is blessed with beauty; it is blessed with a wholesome goodness in its people; it is blessed with freedom. And this freedom extends to allow me to be true to my spiritual self and still feel fully American. This is partly why the savages around the world hate us, and it is largely why America has always been great. 

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