For American Muslims the comprehensive victory of political Christianity in the American elections holds many lessons if only they are willing to learn.
For months Muslim leaders and organizations bragged that American Muslims were going to vote for Kerry in large numbers, refusing to acknowledge that there is a constituency for Bush in the Muslim community, thus alienating not only George Bush and his millions of supporters but also those Muslims who support Bush. I had consistently argued against any endorsement, but our wise leaders chose to issue a strangely worded "qualified" endorsement of John Kerry which was welcomed by neither camp and much pilloried by moderate Muslims.
American Muslims, who have less than 2 million votes [six million Muslims are not all adults and citizens], seem to be under the illusion that they are the only people who have understood and discovered the power of bloc voting. The Christian bloc has sent them a message that they can ignore only at their peril.
The analysis of leading Muslim organizations was very weak, party- centered, and focused only on issues that concern American Muslims or Muslims abroad. American Muslims cannot become effective players if they do not immerse themselves in the politics of this country and engage with it as inside players and not as outsiders manipulating it for partisan gain.
American Muslims will likely face a tough future. President Bush has clearly conveyed that he sees his electoral victory as an endorsement of his agenda. He will renew the Patriot Act and may even expand it. He will continue to seek regime change overseas with increased vigor. Some of our homelands may have to contend with the enhanced energy in the White House.
We cannot fight this agenda on all its fronts. We must prioritize and throw all our energies behind the key issues. My recommendations to Muslims is to dump ideology, especially the Islamist ideology which is the mirror image of political Christianity, and adopt a pragmatic approach designed to protect the American Muslim community and work towards integrating it with American mainstream. Forget foreign policy--focus on local issues. Build local bridges, local relationships.
Most importantly, launch joint projects with local churches and synagogues, and I do not mean "dialogues." Engage in civic and social projects. Nothing integrates more than doing things together, fighting battles together.
Teach our children to be proud Americans and proud of Islam, curb the anti-American discourse. Community leaders must learn to be able to distinguish between criticisms of government policies--this is healthy and necessary--and simple anti-Americanism--this is dangerous and will undermine the community.
We must learn about American history and American present. It is important to know and understand what is happening in this country of ours. American Muslims have tried to create a sophisticated and rich Islamic ghetto in America, engaging with America only on our terms. It is time to come out of this ghetto and meet America on its terms.
There is a battle raging for the soul of America; let's partake in it and leave our mark on what America becomes.