by Hassan Mahmood

“As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.” – Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Letters.

In a time that appears to be a crucial moment in the history of America and her people, these words cannot be more haunting.

We, the American People, are frequently referred to as a nation of immigrants. Our ancestors came here at various points in history, fleeing oppressive governments, seeking a better life for their families, or in hopes of a land of endless opportunity. Since a fateful night in 1776, America has held her doors open for the people of the world with a promise: that all men are created equal and deserve to enjoy the blessings of freedom.

We have not always been perfectly true to this ideal, but with the power of our voices and the passion of our people we have always returned to this self-evident truth. It is devotion for this ideology that drove our founding fathers and it is what makes our love for America as consuming as it is.

Many have tried to draw parallels between the current times we live in and the rise of fascist Germany. But our deep burning sense of patriotism was never at risk of becoming fascism because of our diversity. When we rally together, we rally as a nation of all races, religions, and political views. It is this American unity that we need now.

It is a shame that the greatest country in the world must turn on it’s timeless ideals in fear of a small group of radical extremists. As an American and an Ahmadi Muslim, I strongly support securing our borders and increasing the safety and security of the American people. Marginalizing a large group of people however, most of whom are citizens or are here legally, is not the way to do it.

Have we forgotten the words that lie in the Statue of Liberty, the Mother of Exiles? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The key to defeating those who wish to do us harm is not in shutting our doors, but in embracing the ideals that are at the very heart of America. Let us learn more about each other, and in that learning banish the misinformation that leads to bigotry and hatred. Let us come together as Americans, both current and aspiring, and love one another when our enemy does nothing but hate. In doing so we will strip our enemy of all weapons he can use against us and bring about his assured end.

Let us remember the ideals this country was founded on, and let us return to them in haste. For in an attempt to protect the torch of liberty, I fear we may be blowing it out.

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