by Ijaz Ahmed
As an American-born Muslim, I wish to extend all Americans a happy and safe 4th of July. As we celebrate this wonderful day with fireworks and barbecues, we reflect on the freedoms and rights this great country affords us all. We should also reflect on the countless service men and women who sacrifice their lives every day so we can enjoy these freedoms. I pray that may God bless them and their families.

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I understand the value of these freedoms. My parents migrated from the country of Pakistan before I was born. They sought a better life for me and my siblings, and thus migrated to this country where we had the freedom to practice our faith.

The country of Pakistan had taken a turn for the worst in 1974, when it was declared in the Pakistani Constitution that Ahmadi Muslims were not Muslim. Nearly a decade later, Ordinance XX was put into effect that punished Ahmadi Muslims for posing as Muslim, opening Pandora’s box for religious clerics to persecute minorities.

The constitutional amendment, followed by the law in 1984, put my life and the lives of every Ahmadi Muslim in jeopardy. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Ahmadi Muslims have been killed in the Muslim world, including but not limited to, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Algeria, and others. Ahmadi Muslims face continuous persecution every day in these countries, all because of their beliefs. My own family members spent time in jail solely because of what they believed.

The freedom of religion that is available here in this country has more value than we can think of. This makes it even more important for every citizen in this country to stand up to injustices against any and all people.

Our elected officials need to be mindful of the actions and laws that they support. Regrettably, the recent “Travel Ban” on majority Muslim nations does a disservice to America’s image as a beacon of hope and only further fuels the islamaphobia and xenophobia that plague the nation. I am a huge supporter of securing our nation from threats and believe that proper vetting of individuals entering our country is vital. How could anyone want to raise a family knowing that a terrorist lives next door?

However, as both a Muslim and an American, I cherish the values of honesty, integrity, and absolute justice. I believe that if we abandon these values to the sake of national security, we abandon everything that truly makes this country great. We need to reflect on the poor decisions of the past, from slavery to concentration camps, and we need to unify together to straighten the path we take forward.

The path I will continue to follow is the path of Love for All, and Hatred for None. This path has enabled me to work with others, understand their struggles, and strive for a better tomorrow. I believe that’s what the founders of this country wanted. That is what makes America great.

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